Mauricio Pochettino has spelt out a key aspect of his managerial approach – that he would rather keep young players and work with them in training than loan them out to play at other clubs.
Preparing for Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final at home to Millwall, the Tottenham Hotspur manager was reminded Harry Kane was sent to The Den as an 18-year-old in 2011-12. It came when Harry Redknapp was in charge at White Hart Lane and it proved a success. Kane credits the five-month spell at Millwall, during which he helped them avoid relegation from the Championship, as having turned him into a man.
The same sort of thing would not happen under Pochettino. He identifies the academy players he believes have the chance of making it and concentrates on drumming his ideas into them. In the early years it does not matter so much to him whether they play for the first team.
Pochettino prizes continuity and having a clear philosophy running through the club and he also sees it as advantageous that his chosen prospects are able to work on a daily basis with the first-team.
Since he took over in 2014, Pochettino has refused to let Harry Winks, Josh Onomah and Cameron Carter-Vickers go on loan and he will do the same with the 18-year-olds Marcus Edwards and Kazaiah Sterling. It has reached the stage where the temporary departure of a young player has a slightly ominous feel.
“In different periods something like loaning Harry to Millwall can work,” Pochettino said. “When there was a different profile of coaching staff, for example. In that moment it was good for young players to go. Nowadays it is not so important, although you need to respect every single opinion.
“I prefer to have our young players here and offer them the potential to be first‑team players. If you don’t get the opportunities – like Harry and some other players – to be involved with the first team it is best to move. But when you give those players the opportunity to train with the senior squad that is an even better experience.”
Pochettino mentioned Sterling and said the striker would remain at the club next season and work with the first-team squad. “It means every day there is an under-18 striker training with Harry Kane. There is no better teacher to learn from.
“Where would we send him? It would be a completely different philosophy. If you don’t have the opportunity to train every day with the first team, it is true it is good to grow up in another place and come back. But here we try to provide the facility to train with the first team for any player who can cope with the pressure.”
One of the themes of Pochettino’s briefing was contending with pressure and maintaining focus for every minute of a match. He stressed how important it would be against a Millwall team unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions and pushing for promotion from League One.
Pochettino was angry at himself last Sunday for losing his cool in the celebrations after Dele Alli’s stoppage-time goal against Everton put Tottenham 3-1 up. His players also switched off and Everton immediately pulled a goal back through Enner Valencia. Although it was too late to make a difference to the result, Pochettino brought up the incident to illustrate his wider point.
“I shout and I think the game was over when Dele scores and look what happens in the next action,” Pochettino said. “I went mad after Dele’s goal and I saw a message on my phone from my wife after the game. ‘Oh, what did you do?’ she said. ‘You lost your head when Dele scored? Never again!’ I was upset with myself. Why did I shout one minute before like this?”
Pochettino joked he had told his wife, Karina, who has not been to the club’s recent home matches, that it was “better you stay at home because we keep winning”. He added: “She always has good ideas for the team. When I arrive home, because she has been watching on TV, she says: ‘Why this or why that?’ She always gives the opinion but always after – never before.”
Pochettino said Erik Lamela, who has not played since 25 October, was still feeling pain at times in a hip and did not know when the winger may return. “I can’t say one, two weeks; three weeks; one month or maybe next season,” Pochettino said. “Sometimes, he is involved from the beginning in the warmup with the team; sometimes, he feels pain and we change the plan. We go day by day.”