Mauricio Pochettino has described returning to Tottenham on Monday as “really special” and said he will “respect” any supporter who boos him given he is now manager of Chelsea.
Pochettino spent five years at Spurs, a period in which the club finished second in the Premier League and reached the final of the Champions League. The Argentinian’s time also involved a successful move to a hugely impressive new stadium and, as such, it was no surprise to hear him speak so effusively about his first trip to the venue since he was sacked by Daniel Levy in November 2019. Pochettino is, however, braced for a crowd that once adored him to be less than warm in their welcome given he arrives aiming to guide one of their biggest rivals to victory.
No guard of honour for Pochettino’s Tottenham return, warns PostecoglouRead more
“Coming back after four years to a place we created amazing memories together, it is really special,” said Pochettino. “In the moment I left the club, it was a difficult situation. Now we have the opportunity to come back and see people who are still working there. It’s going to be exciting.
“I’m not going to say anything [about the reception he may get from Spurs fans] because until Monday we cannot guess. The most important thing is people know we cannot forget what we lived together. Amazing memories and I’m going to respect the people, how they’re going to express. It won’t change my emotions, my view, my feelings, about a club where we spent an unbelievable journey.”
Pochettino was full of praise for Levy despite the chairman bringing that “unbelievable journey” to an end after Spurs’s disappointing start to the 2019-20 season and with the pair’s relationship having become increasingly strained over the club’s direction. “He [Levy] is the most important person because he gave me and my coaching staff the possibility to be in Tottenham,” said Pochettino. “Not only a professional relationship but also a friendly relationship. All I can say is thank you to Daniel.”
After the hugs and hellos, Pochettino’s priority will be getting Chelsea back to winning ways in the Premier League after their loss to Brentford last weekend. He recognises that will not be easy against opponents who lead the way and, in his opinion, are genuine title contenders. “Ange [Postecoglou] and the other coaches are doing a fantastic job,” said Pochettino. “They have very good players, are a very good team. For sure it is early in the season but they are showing the quality to be [title] contenders. It’s going to be really tough [on Monday].”
Chelsea can take heart from winning four of their past six visits to Spurs as well as the possibility of the captain, Reece James, making a second successive start. The defender played 61 minutes of Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Blackburn in the Carabao Cup following a hamstring injury. “It was good for him to start a game after a few months [out],” said Pochettino. “He’s a very important player for the team.”
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Somewhat inevitably, Pochettino was again asked about his emotions regarding returning to Spurs and, given the bonds he formed there, if it was similar to him reconnecting with a former girlfriend. “Oh my goodness,” he replied. “I have been nearly 32 years with my wife and I don’t know if I remember if I had a girlfriend before my wife. So it is difficult to answer that question.”