It has been a thrilling six years at Tottenham but it is degrading running so hard to stand still and now might be the time for Mauricio Pochettino to say goodbye
Remember the Nigel Adkins riots? I was there when it all went down. Although to be fair, this is probably stretching the definition of going down. It seems strange now how febrile the atmosphere was around Mauricio Pochettinos first game in English football at Southampton back in January 2013, an evening kick-off against Everton set against an entirely overblown sense of lurking civil disorder.
Pochettinos arrival was just a part of this. The real issue was the defenestration of Adkins, a popular and successful incumbent with an agreeable, slightly careworn manner, less elite level football manager, more browbeaten provincial scoutmaster who keeps terrapins.
Before kick-off St Marys was in a state of high alert. Any traces of Adkins imagery had been expunged, Stalin-style, from the club programme. In the streets club officials shut down radio crews looking for Adkins vox pops, as though simply whispering those incendiary words might spark spasms of rage among the Adkins razor gangs roaming the backstreets, or the highly organised Adkins ultras massing at their motorway meet points.
Except, it didnt quite work out like that. The home crowd was orderly and polite. A chorus of Jason Puncheon hes gone for a piss as Puncheon emerged late for the second half was as close as we got to rabble-rousing. Otherwise there was a general sense of curiosity and respectful applause for the new man, this bear-like, oddly stirring figure on the touchline.
Pochettino would later describe that first night at Southampton as the most difficult moment of my life. You couldnt tell. Instead he looked assured, striding about with that familiar Poch charisma, a kind of chest-pumping gaucho manliness that makes you want to cuff him on the shoulders, clap his cheeks, arm-wrestle him, drink in his bristly eau de homme as he whispers inspiring words in your ear about struggle and suffering, before telling you to get up off your knees, wipe away the tears, get out of his office and in future make an appointment.
Fast forward almost seven years and Pochettino is now in his own state of retrenchment, perhaps even an Adkins-style turnaround. Tottenham have won seven of 26 games since February. That fearless pressing game has retreated. And Pochettino himself seems to have reached the end of something. Hes fretful with his players. He talks a lot about budgetary restrictions and his own yawn-worthy struggle with the media (who adore him). He has, in effect, become just another football manager. And football managers are dispensable.