Only four years ago, barely any Premier League viewers knew of Mauricio Pochettino. Then, his only claim to fame amongst English football fans came after fouling Michael Owen to concede a decisive penalty whilst playing for Argentina at the 2002 World Cup. When he replaced Nigel Adkins in the Southampton dug-out, there was outrage.
Now, Pochettino is considered one of the best that the league has to offer. Rather than leaving Southampton fans unconvinced, he is one of the world’s most in demand football managers. Part of that has been down to his development of players.
During his time at Southampton, he brought players through and made average players look brilliant, with many earning big moves to Anfield and elsewhere as a result of their good form under the Argentinean.
At Tottenham, that has continued, instead turning the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier into players that can count themselves amongst the most exciting of their generation.
One stat that is testament to Pochettino’s superb record is that 12 of England’s last 30 debutants have been coached by the former Espanyol manager at either the Saints or the Lilywhites.
Harry Winks became the latest, joining Rickie Lambert, Jay Rodriguez, Ryan Mason, Fraser Forster, Luke Shaw, Kieran Trippier, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Danny Rose, Adam Lallana and, perhaps most importantly of all, Harry Kane.
“[Tottenham players earning their England debuts] show Mauricio’s one of the best managers in the world, if not the best,” Kane explained to Sky Sports after his 15th goal of the season for club and country to make it five scoring games in a row with a win over Lithuania.
“He brings players through, gives them chances on the big stage and they deliver for him. We can’t thank him enough for that. He deserves all the credit. He helped us get to where we are now, and Harry [Winks] is another player under his management.”
Winks became the sixth name in the current Tottenham squad to be capped by England under Pochettino’s management with his first cap in the narrow World Cup qualifying victory.
“(Mauricio) is a fantastic manager and he has a lot of belief in us. Not only does he give us the opportunity but he gives us advice when we need it,” Winks agreed.
“I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me. I suppose it’s about me paying it back, and fortunately, it went well tonight.”
That leaves Kyle Walker-Peters as the only uncapped English player in Tottenham’s first team squad, though he has made his England under 21 debut this season under Aidy Boothroyd and a senior debut could be just a matter of time.
Keeping such a high profile squad of players happy on wages which could likely be dwarfed by some of their competitors is an equally remarkable achievement.
Their decision to stay at Wembley under Pochettino’s tutelage may well have roots in his terrific record of bringing players through. Whilst young players elsewhere struggle to nail down a regular starting spot, such as Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard at Manchester United, or even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at Liverpool and recently Arsenal, Pochettino offers his players a key role.
With the spine of his side built around homegrown domestic talent, he is not only keeping Daniel Levy happy with a bargain squad, but is building for the future. Alongside the experience of the likes of Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and Moussa Dembele, Pochettino has built a finely tuned squad.
His, and Tottenham’s, success is not only good news for Spurs fans, but for English fans as a whole. As Kyle Walker-Peters, Marcus Edwards and co. come through the ranks, Spurs’ squad is well stocked with talent for the years ahead.
West Ham fans may claim that they were they key to England’s 1966 World Cup victory, and whilst that may still be some way offer for the Three Lions in 2018, any potential success that Gareth Southgate can achieve will give him plenty of reasons to be thanking Mauricio Pochettino.