Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino has showered praises on his star striker, Harry Kane for saving him from being sacked early in the career at the White Hart Lane.
Following the recent dismissal of Frank de Boer at Crystal Palace, Pochettino recalls how side won just three of their opening nine league games in 2014 and then, when they travelled to Aston Villa in early November, they fell behind.
With Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado pluffing their lines in the opening months, Pochettino brought Harry Kane off the bench – and, after Villa were reduced to 10 men and Nacer Chadli hit an 84th-minute equaliser, Kane struck an injury-time winner with a deflected free kick.
“Maybe I can find many other goals that were fantastic, but for me the goals are related to emotion, in the moment, in the period you’re living,” he said. “For me that goal was an amazing goal because it meant for us, for everyone, the possibility to stay here today. It’s true.
“The team were 11th and we were a little bit under pressure. The team were there and played well but were not winning games and we were a bit under pressure. Always in football, when you don’t get good results, the first to be sacked is the manager.”
When the example of De Boer was put to him, Pochettino said: “Exactly. That’s why that goal allowed us to carry on working and try to change the dynamic – and look, now we’re now starting the fourth season at Tottenham.
“I think people, on day one when I signed the contract, said ‘ok, maybe in a few months we have another new face in front of us’.”
If Pochettino was asked to name his second-favourite Kane goal, one of the striker’s latest efforts would seemingly be in the frame.
“Today I showed the team the first goal he scored at 2-1 against Borussia Dortmund – how he fought with two defensive players and then how he scored,” said Spurs’ manager.
“I think only because he’s so fit can he do this, because he’s so hungry to score and help the team. That’s the most important thing today. It’s our responsibility to translate and inspire the players not to lose their hunger.
“There are different types of player. But it’s always about the same thing – the player must show hunger and never lose it. We have a lot of good examples: Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, or players like Harry Kane, who is 24.
“He’s so young still but he’s very mature and it’s a very good example to use for everyone. I think he’s one of the strongest mentally of the players because he’s Harry Kane and he wants to increase everything and improve every day.
“He’s so humble to be a help for us and for everyone. It’s key to be humble. Ok, everyone has their arrogance and their egos in a small percentage as that is important to survive, but when their ego is so big it’s not a good balance and you start to suffer.”
Kane is likely to start against Swansea on Saturday but new signing Fernando Llorente will be keen to get a chance to face his former club at some stage.
The 32-year-old revealed this week that a phone call from Pochettino persuaded him to join Spurs instead of Chelsea on transfer deadline day, explaining that “the Tottenham project is impressive” – and Spurs’ manager is pleased that high-calibre, sought-after players are recognising what is happening at the club and starting to choose the Lilywhites over wealthier rivals.
“Maybe we still don’t win titles, but I think the project and the message we translate to the outside is good, is right, and is exciting for the players and the people,” said Pochettino. “I think we’re doing something good here, because things are starting to happen here that in the past did not happen.”
Spurs are already showing an improvement on the European stage. Last year they began their Champions League adventure with a home defeat against Monaco and ultimately failed to qualify from their group.
One year on, however, they have made a winning start on the continent, beating Germany’s league leaders and showing qualities which Pochettino feels may have been missing last term.
“It’s our second experience in the Champions League and, if you ask me, I think we played better against Monaco than Dortmund – but we lost against Monaco and beat Dortmund,” he said.
“I think we showed more maturity and competed much better than against Monaco, and that talks very well about the team.”