Sun, Oct 05, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Pochettino braces for emotional Southampton reunion

AFP, LONDON

Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino insists he is not jealous of Southampton’s impressive start to the season as he braces for an emotional reunion with his former club today.

When Pochettino quit St Mary’s to take charge of Tottenham during the close-season, it seemed the Argentine had made a wise decision as a host of star players were then sold during a traumatic period for the south-coast team.

Given Tottenham’s financial strength and storied history in comparison to Southampton, it could still prove to be the right move in the long-term.

However, it is his Saints successor Ronald Koeman who has enjoyed the better start to the Premier League campaign, with the Dutch coach and his team heading into the weekend riding high in second place in the table, while spluttering Tottenham are five points behind in eighth spot.

Former Barcelona star Koeman has ignored the chaos that threatened to engulf St Mary’s when key players Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Calum Chambers moved on and Southampton are the top flight’s surprise package with six successive wins in all competitions.

In contrast, Pochettino’s team have been a little too inconsistent for their new manager’s liking, with one win in their past seven matches in all competitions bringing a few awkward questions for the Argentine, who will be well aware that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has a well-earned reputation for quickly dispensing with coaches he judges to be underachieving.

Against that background, Pochettino could be forgiven for feeling a little raw when asked how he felt about Southampton’s storming start and the prospect of facing his old team for the first time.

However, in a bid to avoid providing any extra motivation for Southampton’s players, Pochettino — who led the club to their best ever Premier League finish last term — said: “This is football. When they start with a new project and new players and staff, why not?

“In football, the most important thing is belief and Southampton like a club have a great force, power and they believe and this is important. I am happy,” he said. “We have a lot of friends a lot of people I love in Southampton. I’m happy for their start in the league for the players, the people from the club. I have a very good memories.”

Pochettino, who had never coached in England before joining Southampton, says he feels emotional when he thinks back to his successful reign at St Mary’s.

However, he acknowledges his former club’s fans may not be so forgiving of his decision to leave.

“I don’t know if the fans love me. I love Southampton. I love a lot of people,” Pochettino said.

“That year-and-a-half in my life was an amazing period and I left, but this is another thing. I have amazing memories from Southampton,” he said. “I’m happy Southampton have a great season and it’s a game that we need to win the three points. We need to fight with Southampton on Sunday, but it’s emotional. Football is emotional and Sunday is emotional for us too.”

Tottenham are looking to bounce back from the frustration of conceding a last-gasp equalizer to Besiktas in a 1-1 Europa League draw on Thursday.

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