Mauricio Pochettino believes team spirit inspired battling Tottenham win

The Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino, claimed their last-gasp 1-0 win away to West Ham was down to the team spirit he has instilled among his players

Fans of banter were disappointed when Tim Sherwood was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur at the end of last season – Sherwood famously said that he was “up for the banter” on being given the job and spent six glorious months proving it – but perhaps his replacement, Mauricio Pochettino, is going to fill the void.

Pochettino was in a bubbly mood after Eric Dier’s stoppage-time winner had secured him an unlikely victory in his first match as Tottenham’s manager and when he was asked if he had expected to see the young defender pop up in such an advanced position on his debut, his response was deadpan. “No, I am not surprised,” Pochettino said. And then, unable to maintain the pretence, he laughed and made a Pinocchio gesture.

Everyone in the room laughed. Pochettino is not about to win any comedy awards but it showed that while he is a serious guy who likes to keep standards high at all times, he does not take himself too seriously. He is amused by his broken but improving English and it is not hard to see why players like him and are willing to embrace his demanding methods. He makes an effort with people and perhaps that is the kind of attitude a manager requires to succeed at Tottenham, who are not exactly famed for their togetherness or patience.

They showed plenty of the former to end a run of three successive defeats to West Ham, surviving Kyle Naughton’s controversial red card in the first half, enjoying a slice of luck when Mark Noble missed the subsequent penalty and then snatching the points when Harry Kane sent Dier clear to round Adrián and tap the ball into the empty net. “This action, the team, not only him, showed that we are ambitious and we believe every time that we can win and this is important to build in the squad, this mentality, this spirit,” Pochettino said. “It’s important to grow this.”

Tottenham were not always convincing in attack and it will clearly take time for Pochettino’s intense pressing game to take shape, even though his players looked fit and strong, but they will take huge encouragement from this battling win. Whereas last season Tottenham crumbled at Upton Park after losing Younès Kaboul to an early red card, this time no one could question their character. They rode their luck at times, relying on profligate finishing from West Ham and Hugo Lloris’s excellent late save from Stewart Downing, but a rejigged defence mostly stood firm.

“The past is the past but we need to fix some things, yes that is true,” Pochettino said. “But the more important thing is today and the present and our future. Today the team showed the character and personality and 10 v 11 we kept our offensive line, we send the signal to the opponent and for us too and we wanted to win and this was our signal after Kyle Naughton was sent off. Belief, belief and show the character. We need to keep building a healthy spirit and attitude, and be positive always.”

Pochettino kept talking about belief, about the need for Tottenham never to give up and always stay positive, even when events conspire against them. The team took their cue from him. He did not panic when Naughton went off for handling Kevin Nolan’s volley. He moved Étienne Capoue from midfield into defence, Dier to the right, kept his attacking players on the pitch and Tottenham’s threat on the break led to an increasingly jittery West Ham losing James Collins to a red card for two bookings in the second half.

Of course, Tottenham probably would have lost if Noble had not missed a penalty for the first time since 2009. West Ham’s finishing was as shoddy as ever, so much so that they were upstaged by the supporter who ran the entire length of the pitch, eluded the stewards and took a Tottenham free-kick, forcing Adrián to save.

With Andy Carroll injured, Enner Valencia on the bench and Diafra Sakho absent, Carlton Cole toiled up front, Ricardo Vaz Tê missed chances and West Ham paid for their lack of craft and Sam Allardyce’s failure to try a different approach other than incessant crossing. Teddy Sheringham, the new attacking coach, has some work to do, although Allardyce said they both work with the strikers.

“We both do,” Allardyce said. “Teddy takes them along but it is not going to be a magic potion overnight or wave a magic wand. It is about time and telling them about the areas of calm that you might need and positions you can get into to improve what you can already do.” Allardyce was under no illusions. He knows that the pressure is already on.

Man of the match Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur)


Jacob Steinberg at Upton Park

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