Mauricio Pochettino coach of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the International Champions Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at the Shanghai Hongkou Stadium on July 25, 2019 in Shanghai, China.
These must be confusing days for sensible Tottenham fans. Mauricio Pochettino has brought most of them the most successful and consistently thrilling team that any of them under the age of 60 have ever seen, took them to the Champions League final and challenged for the league title, all while building a new stadium and operating on a relative shoestring. Or at least with a chairman who insists they operate on a relative shoestring.
But it’s time. It feels like time, results suggest it’s time, performances suggest it’s time. Reports in the press today indicate that Pochettino and Tottenham are essentially discussing the best way to manage his departure, with a few notable hurdles to clear, not least the three years on his very healthy contract.
In retrospect, Pochettino should probably have left after the Champions League final. Things were trending downwards, that group was on the verge of either breaking up or simply crumbling away, and the chances are he was never going to be in that position again. It would’ve been a chance to go out on a bittersweet high, a game nobody thought they would have been in, even though they lost.
But it’s best for him to leave now before things get really bad. The only question mark is what happens next: a few candidates might be available now (Max Allegri?) but others (Julian Nagelsmann, Eddie Howe) probably won’t be. They might have to muddle through until the summer with a caretaker, which essentially means writing this season off. Given they’re 14th and closer in points to the bottom three than the top four, that might not actually make much of a difference.
Playoff No.9 for Ireland after Denmark draw
Let’s look on the bright side from an Irish perspective. At least they can still make it to Euro 2020. They have the playoffs, as they have had eight times before. It wasn’t as bad as the last time they faced Denmark in a must-win game: this time it was a 1-1 draw, rather than a 5-1 humiliation. Matt Doherty’s header was extremely satisfying.
But Mick McCarthy’s side really needed a win in Dublin last night to take them to Euro 2020, and once again they produced a relatively stodgy performance, as they just managed a 1-1 draw that is only good enough for another playoff place.
Is all of this a disappointment? It must be considered such really, but isn’t it broadly what everyone was expecting? Ireland’s continued problem with scoring goals was demonstrated again, as was their issues with creating chances, the two things of course being linked. Then there’s McCarthy’s approach: was he too cautious from the start with only David McGoldrick up top? Could he have made attacking changes earlier? Or did he do all he realistically could with the resources at his disposal? Who knows.
They have reached the last two Euros via playoffs, so there’s that to cling to. But in the new, semis-then-final format, it’s a rather different matter. Eeesh.
Luis Enrique set to return, Spain handle it all very badly
In theory this should have been an easy one for the Spanish federation to manage. It was always understood that Luis Enrique would return to the national team job if he felt able, after leaving his post in March to care for his sick daughter, who subsequently passed away. His replacement, Robert Moreno, even said he would stand aside for his friend.
But it seems they have been telling Moreno one thing and the rest of the world another, because news appeared to leak out during their 5-0 win over Romania that Enrique would be returning, Moreno having previously intimated that he had been told the job was his for Euro 2020.
Understandably Moreno did not speak afterwards, and neither did any of Spain’s players, presumably in solidarity with a man who has done a solid job under incredibly difficult circumstances, who has been treated, it seems, extremely badly.
IN OTHER NEWS
We often get the lecture about whether it’s moral to keep scoring goals when a team is well-beaten, but a youth team in Italy took that a step further over the weekend by sacking the coach that led his side to a 27-0 victory.
Under-18 side Invictasauro ran in the mammoth number against Marina Calcio, who were suffering from a string of injury problems and had to play an outfielder in goal. This was considered disrespectful, and coach Massimiliano Riccini was promptly fired.
“We were stunned and deeply regretful when hearing that our Juniores team had beaten Marina Calcio 27-0,” Invictasauro president Paolo Brogelli said in a statement.
“The values of youth team football are antithetical to such a thing. The opponent must always be respected and that did not happen today. As president, I sincerely apologise to the Marina club. I announce that our directors decided, unanimously, to sack coach Riccini.
“Our coaches have the duty to train young players, but above all to educate them. That did not happen today.”
Howey tells great stories about playing Wimbledon, when Wimbledon were the plague and John Fashanu was up front. “As the game has gone on, he’s come at me from the side leading with his elbow,” he says. “I was on the floor, blood pissing from my head. I thought he was going to ask if I was alright, but he’s dug his finger into my cut, put his finger in his mouth and sucked it. That’s when you think, ‘We need this game done.’”
On this day 50 years ago, Pele scored his ‘1,000th’ goal, a penalty for Santos against Vasco de Gama. Of course, how many of those goals were actually official strikes and not just ones in friendlies, his back garden or playing Actua Soccer we’re not sure, but…you know…print the legend and all that.
Big night for Wales. BIG night for Wales. They face Hungary knowing that a win will take them to Euro 2020 and anything else…well, that’s the playoffs. And nobody wants that.
Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Ben Snowball, who will comfort and stroke the hair of any sad Welsh fans if things don’t quite go your way.