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Mauricio Pochettino: Reality needs to bite for Spurs youngsters

Published 16/09/2016

Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham host Sunderland on Sunday.
Mauricio Pochettino's Tottenham host Sunderland on Sunday.

Mauricio Pochettino claims he has to be cruel to be kind with Tottenham's young stars after accusing them of lacking passion against Monaco on Wednesday.

Spurs lost their opening Champions League encounter 2-1 at Wembley and afterwards Pochettino criticised his side for their defensive errors and poor attitude.

It was an unusual reaction from Pochettino, who rarely questions the application of his squad and has always been eager to champion the worth of his younger talents.

Tottenham are hardly a club in crisis. They host Sunderland on Sunday, sit fifth in the Premier League table entering the weekend, and are yet to lose in the league this season.

But Pochettino, drawing from his experience as a player at Espanyol, believes it is important for managers to be honest in spite of results or reputations.

"I was a person that liked the reality, that they never lied to me," Pochettino said.

"If I was s***, I was s***. But I need to know sometimes because when you are young, you need to know the reality. When you are in your bubble you believe that always all you do is right.

"And sometimes you need people to say, 'Hey, come on, what happened with you?'.

"I remember always (manager) Marcelo Bielsa when he arrived at Espanyol in pre-season and I was in (Spanish newspaper) Mundo Deportivo as the best centre-back in La Liga.

"He arrived and said to me, 'Oh, how do you assess your last season?'. I thought, 'The manager asked me about my season and Mundo Deportivo say I am the best centre-back', so okay, from 0 to 10, maybe seven, eight? I was very humble. In my head it was nine or 10.

"'You were s***', he said to me. And my face was like this (shocked). He said, 'Because of this, this, this and this'. He showed me why.

"He said, 'If you perform like last season then you cannot play for me and you cannot play in the national team'.

"It was tough for me. I drive to my house crying but you know, after time, I recognised it was true. I was s***."

Pochettino went on to join Paris St Germain in 2001 and played for Argentina at the 2002 World Cup, both of which he credits to those stern words from Bielsa.

"This is an example that sometimes, yes they are young, but it is for that we are here to be tough but to be right," Pochettino said.

"Not to be tough to be horrible and aggressive. We try to give good advice - that is the most important thing."

Mousa Dembele cannot be accused of lacking aggression after missing the first four matches of the season, suspended for eye-gouging Diego Costa in May.

Dembele came off the bench against Monaco in midweek as his ban does not apply to European fixtures but Sunderland will be the Belgian's first domestic appearance of the campaign.

"He knows he cannot do that again," Pochettino said. "He knows that one thing is to play aggressive and to tackle and to go always to the ball and be honest on the pitch. Another thing is to do what he did.

"He paid for that and it was difficult for us because he was an important player and then you miss the talent of him on the last few games last season."

Dembele has received only one red card since moving to England in 2010 but Pochettino says any player can go too far in the heat of the moment.

"Many things like this have happened in the history of football," Pochettino said.

"Remember Diego Maradona in 1982 in Spain there was a big, big kick to a Brazilian player (Joao Batista da Silva). He was sent off in the World Cup. Maradona. One of the best players in the history.

"At Paris St Germain I was playing and I remember the striker was big and was bad. He was naughty.

"My team-mate was Gabby Heinze who played for Manchester United. I said to Gabby, 'The next time the ball comes in the air, please, move aside. Let me challenge'.

"I jump and put the feet here (indicated the back of his neck). When I put the studs here, I close my eyes, I say, 'What have I done?'. Sent off.

"I said sorry, okay. I was 27 years old and captain of Paris St Germain."

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