Tag Archives: Southampton

Premier League Files: Ryan Bertrand

Premier League Career: Chelsea (2011-2013), Aston Villa (2014), Southampton (2014-PRESENT)

Ryan Bertrand had to deal with the personal blow of missing out on Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. It was a shattering blow for the left-back who was once again; one of the shining lights in what was a difficult 2017-2018 domestic campaign for Southampton.

Bertrand began his youth career with Gillingham before signing for Chelsea in July 2005. However, he wouldn’t make his first-team debut for six years and became a regular exponent of the club’s policy to send young players out on-loan. He had time on-loan at AFC Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic, Norwich City, Reading and Nottingham Forest.

In April 2011, Carlo Ancelotti handed Bertrand his first-team debut when he replaced Ashley Cole during Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Birmingham City. Bertrand impressed in this cameo role and also claimed an assist for Florent Malouda to head home one of Chelsea’s three goals. That summer, he signed a four-year contract extension and remained at Chelsea as Patrick van Aanholt became the left-back who would go out on-loan.

Chances were few and far between during Andre Villas-Boas’ reign with just one substitute appearance in the Premier League but he made more of an impression when AVB was sacked in March 2012 and replaced by Roberto Di Matteo. He was named Man of the Match in his first Premier League start a month later when Chelsea edged past survival specialists Wigan Athletic 2-1. A month later, Bertrand was a shock starter in the 2012 UEFA Champions League final. Playing on the left side of midfield, he became the first player in the Champions League era to make his European debut in the final. He played for 70 minutes before being replaced by Malouda, having sustained a knock. Chelsea won their first European Cup against Bayern Munich on penalties and Bertrand had made a serious impression. Later that summer, he featured for Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics in the men’s football competition.

Although Chelsea lost the 2012 FA Community Shield to Manchester City at Villa Park, Bertrand scored his first professional goal for the club in stoppage-time. He made 19 Premier League appearances, still as an understudy to Cole but getting more opportunities under both Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez. In total, Ryan made 40 appearances in all competitions as 2012-2013 was his breakthrough season on the English game. However, the season did end in disappointment as he missed out on the place in the squad for the Blues’ UEFA Europa League final triumph over Benfica.

Jose Mourinho’s preference to use more experienced players meant Bertrand became a casualty of his ideologies when he turned up for his second spell as Chelsea manager in the summer of 2013. After just a solitary Premier League appearance in the first half of the campaign, Bertrand moved on-loan to Aston Villa for the second half of the 2013-2014 season. He made 16 appearances and had his confidence once again re-established that had been taken away by Mourinho.

In July 2014, he signed for Southampton on a season-long loan deal, scoring his first goal for the club two months later in a 2-1 victory against Queens Park Rangers. He was in outstanding form all season for the Saints and the loan move became a permanent transfer in February 2015 with Southampton paying Chelsea £10 million. The move went through just one day after the only red card of his Premier League career for a lunging tackle on Modou Barrow during Swansea’s 1-0 victory at St Mary’s. This blemish aside, his performances were so strong, he was voted into the PFA Team of the Year.

He has since made 133 Premier League appearances for Southampton and is one of the first men on the teamsheet. However, he was pipped to a place in the England World Cup squad by Danny Rose and Ashley Young. He has already shown signs of bouncing back from this disappointment by scoring Southampton’s first home goal of the 2018-2019 campaign against Leicester City.


Great Goals: Sofiane Boufal – SOUTHAMPTON vs. West Bromwich Albion (October 2017)

In his two seasons with Southampton, Sofiane Boufal has only shown flashes of the promise he demonstrated whilst playing in France. The Moroccan though did produce this exceptional piece of solo brilliance in a fairly sterile game against West Bromwich Albion.

The game on the south coast looked like it was petering out towards a pretty ordinary 0-0 draw when Boufal took centre stage in the 85th minute. The tricky winger, who had only arrived into the contest as a substitute four minutes earlier, he twisted past Allan Nyom in his own half before using his speed to leave Jake Livermore trailing in his wake. As Boufal continued his surge towards goal, he bamboozled past Craig Dawson. Desperate to keep up having been the first man beaten, Nyom ran into Dawson and both hit the turf. Gareth McAuley was the next defender who backed off and was beaten and lastly, goalkeeper Ben Foster couldn’t stop his neatly-placed effort into the bottom corner.

It was a goal fitting to win a tight match between two sides who would ultimately spend the majority of the campaign at the wrong end of the table. It didn’t sparkle Boufal’s season into life though. He was left out of Morocco’s squad for the 2018 World Cup finals and was recently excluded from the Saints’ pre-season tour of China by new manager Mark Hughes. His future at the club looks bleak.

However, this tremendous solo goal was voted by fans as the Carling Goal of the Season for the 2017-2018 campaign.

Iconic Moments: Le Tissier’s only penalty failure (March 1993)

There are few players who can boast as good a Premier League record from the penalty spot than Southampton’s lynchpin for many years, Matt Le Tissier.

In fact, he took 48 penalties in his whole career and scored 47 of them. A 98% penalty success ratio during his playing days means he is considered as one of the greatest masters from 12-yards.

However, he did have one failure from the spot and it came in the very first Premier League season. Playing for Southampton at home to Nottingham Forest, he had a first half penalty saved by Forest goalkeeper Mark Crossley, who once saved a penalty from Gary Lineker in an FA Cup final.


Le Tissier did score past Crossley later in the match with a long-range effort but the visitors left The Dell with all three points, winning 2-1. It is the only mark on almost near-perfection from Matt Le Tissier in his battles with the penalty spot.

Memorable Matches: Southampton 3-2 Charlton Athletic (December 2003)

Goalscorers: Michael Svensson 14, Brett Ormerod 45, 85, Scott Parker 46, 65


Southampton: Antti Niemi, Jason Dodd, Claus Lundekvam, Danny Higginbotham, Michael Svensson, Rory Delap, David Prutton, Paul Telfer, James Beattie, Brett Ormerod, Marian Pahars (Kevin Phillips 77)

Charlton Athletic: Dean Kiely, Jonathan Fortune, Hermann Hreidarsson, Radostin Kishishev, Chris Perry, Matt Holland, Scott Parker, Graham Stuart, Claus Jensen, Paolo Di Canio (Carlton Cole 76), Jason Euell

Referee: Peter Walton, Attendance: 30,513

Southampton and Charlton Athletic were two of the early season surprises in the 2003-2004 campaign. Both clubs were among the chasing pack fighting for European qualification alongside Fulham and regular challengers, Newcastle United and Liverpool FC. The Saints and the Addicks were about to produce a thrilling Sunday afternoon of entertainment on the south coast.

Before the game, Southampton paid their respects to club president Ted Bates, who passed away on 28th November 2003, aged 85. He was a former player, manager and director and had earned the title of Mr. Southampton.

Despite being winless in their last four matches, Southampton made the sharper start and took the lead after 14 minutes. Centre-back Michael Svensson managed to make enough contact on Rory Delap’s goal-bound shot and it crept over the goal-line, despite the best efforts of Jason Euell to clear. It was Southampton’s first Premier League goal in 371 minutes. Delap nearly made it 2-0 shortly afterwards, firing a low shot which forced Dean Kiely to make a good save at full stretch.

David Prutton and Saints’ top goalscorer, James Beattie also managed to sting the palms of Kiely before the home side got a deserved second goal right on the stroke of half-time. Beattie did brilliantly to square the ball for strike partner Brett Ormerod to turn home and ensured Southampton had a lead going into the interval which their dominance showed.

The game would be turned by some individual brilliance from rising talent Scott Parker. Infront of England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, Parker immediately cut Southampton’s lead in half within a minute of the restart. The midfielder’s beautifully placed shot left Antti Niemi without a chance of saving. Graham Stuart then hit the crossbar as the visitors enjoyed their most prominent attacking spell of the game. With 25 minutes left, the comeback had been completed. Parker found some space and curled in another special effort. This time, it was a 25-yard strike which saw Niemi completely stranded.

Late on though, Southampton snatched the points. From another set-piece, Charlton struggled to clear their lines and Ormerod hooked home from close-range to ensure all three points would be claimed by Gordon Strachan’s side, taking them into eighth place in the table.

Southampton would spend Christmas in the top four but Strachan left in February to take a break from management and they faded to 12th by the season’s end. Charlton finished a brilliant seventh, their best-ever top-flight finish but did sell star asset Parker in the January transfer window to Chelsea for £10 million.

Shock Results: Southampton 3-1 Manchester United (April 1996)

Goalscorers: Ken Monkou 11, Neil Shipperley 23, Matt Le Tissier 43, Ryan Giggs 89


Southampton: Dave Beasant, Francis Benali, Simon Charlton, Jason Dodd, Ken Monkou, Barry Venison, Alan Neilson, Jim Magilton, Neil Heaney, Matt Le Tissier, Neil Shipperley

Manchester United: Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce, Denis Irwin, Gary Neville, Nicky Butt (Paul Scholes 46), Roy Keane, Lee Sharpe (David May 55), David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Eric Cantona, Andy Cole

Referee: Graham Poll, Attendance: 15,262

Manchester United were undefeated in the Premier League since a New Years’ Day hiding from Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. Unbeaten in 19 matches in all competitions since, Alex Ferguson’s side were through to the FA Cup final and had usurped Newcastle United as the league leaders in the title race. After a run of four successive victories by a one-goal margin, they were now expected to claim their third title in four seasons.

They travelled to the south coast to take on a Southampton side that were scrapping again to stay in the division. United recalled Roy Keane after suspension with Brian McClair dropping out of the side from the narrow Easter Monday victory over Coventry City. However, they never got started in the first 45 minutes, producing a subdued display which their opponents took full advantage of.

The first goal came after just 11 minutes. Matt Le Tissier curled a free-kick into the box and the big Dutchman; Ken Monkou got a free header. Peter Schmeichel parried his effort back into the path of Monkou, who reacted quickest to the rebound to fire the relegation strugglers ahead against the league leaders.

The Red Devils didn’t look like a side that were favourites to win the title. Le Tissier curved a shot against the post and they were soon 2-0 behind. Ryan Giggs lost possession to Jim Magilton in the 23rd minute. Magilton fed Alan Neilson on the right-hand side and his cross to the near post was tucked away by the club’s top goalscorer, Neil Shipperley. Southampton had a great platform to pull off one of the most surprising victories of the season.

Two minutes before half-time, it was virtually game over. Shipperley floated a deep cross to the back post. Schmeichel came to collect but dropped the ball into the path of Le Tissier, who simply wasn’t going to pass up the gift presented to him. It was Le Tissier’s first goal from open play in the Premier League during the 1995-1996 season and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Saints’ survival prospects. Southampton were 3-0 ahead going into the changing rooms. Then, Ferguson tried something unique.

Not only did he bring Paul Scholes on for Nicky Butt at the interval, the whole team came out in a completely different away kit, apparently because the players couldn’t see each other in their grey shirts. Ferguson said afterwards: “The players couldn’t pick each other out. They said it was difficult to see their teammates at distance when they lifted their heads.”

It didn’t really change the outcome of the match. Gary Neville set-up Giggs for a consolation two minutes from full-time but that was all the league leaders could muster from an off-colour day at The Dell. They would win their remaining three Premier League matches and the FA Cup final to achieve a second double in three years. Southampton achieved survival on the final day of the season.

Great Goals: Cuco Martina – SOUTHAMPTON vs. Arsenal (December 2015)

Cuco Martina would only score one goal in his Premier League career for Southampton. However, he will never score a better goal than the one he managed on Boxing Day 2015 against Arsenal. The full-back connected with a fierce curling shot that with a searing swerve, completely defeated Petr Cech.

The man from Curacao made the most of a timid headed clearance from Per Mertesacker. It was one of those strikes that was certain to hit the back of the net from the moment it left Martina’s boot.

It started a Boxing Day horror show for Arsenal, who went on to lose this fixture 4-0. Martina now plays for Everton in the top-flight, having joined the club from St Mary’s in the summer of 2017.

Memorable Matches: Southampton 3-3 Blackburn Rovers (April 1999)

Goalscorers: Ashley Ward 14, Chris Marsden 22, Darren Peacock 25, Jason Wilcox 47, Mark Hughes 61, Marian Pahars 85


Southampton: Neil Moss, Jason Dodd, Scott Hiley (Marian Pahars 78), Patrick Colleter (David Hughes 46), Francis Benali, Claus Lundekvam, Chris Marsden, Hassan Kachloul, Matt Le Tissier, Egil Ostenstad (James Beattie 46), Mark Hughes

Blackburn Rovers: John Filan, Callum Davidson, Stephane Henchoz (Marlon Broomes 46), Darren Peacock, Lee Carsley, Jason McAteer, Jason Wilcox, Damien Johnson (Christian Dailly 78), Keith Gillespie, Ashley Ward, Kevin Gallacher (Kevin Davies 69)

Referee: Graham Barber, Attendance: 15,209

As the 1998-1999 season entered its final month of action, both Southampton and Blackburn Rovers were firmly in the relegation scrap. The Saints had been in the drop zone all season, hindered by a dreadful start which saw them collect just two points from their opening nine matches.

Having finished sixth the previous season, Blackburn had been at the wrong end all campaign too. Roy Hodgson had been sacked in November after a defeat in the reverse fixture to the Saints and Brian Kidd had spent plenty of money in a desperate effort for the club to avoid relegation, just four seasons after winning the Premier League. They were ahead in the table and come the full-time whistle, would remain in that position but be more disappointed by the final outcome.

Kidd’s side led after 14 minutes. The two forwards, Kevin Gallacher and Ashley Ward linked up brilliantly and although he was forced wide by a recovering Francis Benali, Ward guided a soft-looking shot across Neil Moss’ bows and into the back of the net. It was his 100th goal in club football. Eight minutes later, Southampton were back on level terms. Captain Jason Dodd delivered a teasing cross into the penalty area and Chris Marsden met it emphatically with a thumping header that left John Filan with little hope of saving it. Marsden had just scored his first goal for Southampton.

Their parity didn’t last long though. Three minutes after drawing level, Dave Jones’ side conceded again from a set-piece. Darren Peacock escaped the attentions of Claus Lundekvam and his shot evaded the grasp of Moss, who probably should have saved the goal-bound strike. It was such a cheap goal to concede and the kind of goal that teams often concede when they are scrapping to survive in the Premier League. Defeat here would be almost terminal for Southampton and that looked more likely less than two minutes into the second half. Jason McAteer found an unmarked Jason Wilcox and the captain produced a fine header to give the visitors some precious daylight. Victory was theirs for the taking.

Southampton gave themselves some hope just past the hour. Veteran Mark Hughes scored his first goal in Southampton colours in his 32nd appearance for the club, sliding in from close-range to divert in a cross by James Beattie. That set Blackburn nerves rocking and with five minutes left, they lost their lead. A downward header from the Latvian Marian Pahars somehow defeated Filan after more great work from Beattie. It meant we had the first-ever Latvian goalscorer in English football.

Having been 3-1 down, this was an important point for Southampton and they would win their final three matches to survive. Blackburn only collected three points from their last five outings and they would end the season in the bottom three. From champions to relegation in four short seasons and it could have been so different for Kidd if his side hadn’t thrown away this lead on the south coast.

Great Goals: Georgi Kinkladze – MANCHESTER CITY vs. Southampton (March 1996)

As Manchester City struggled massively in the 1995-1996 Premier League season, the performances of their Georgian wizard Georgi Kinkladze were being noted by many observers. He saved his best moment for a strike of immense individual quality and composure against relegation rivals Southampton in March 1996.

Starting on the right-hand side of the pitch, Kinkladze spotted some space and decided to run infield, beating Southampton defender Simon Charlton. Despite Charlton’s best efforts to foul him, Kinkladze stayed on his feet and kept running. He evaded a second challenge from Ken Monkou and another sliding challenge from another opponent before waiting for goalkeeper Dave Beasant to commit. As he did, Kinkladze simply dinked the ball over Beasant and into the net.

Manchester City had a cult hero. They might have won this battle 2-1 but ultimately, despite Kinkladze’s best efforts, they would be relegated on the last day and Southampton stayed up.

Premier League Files: Jose Fonte

Premier League Career: Southampton (2012-2017), West Ham United (2017)

Jose Fonte’s 11-year stay in English football has recently come to an end after the 34-year-old agreed to leave West Ham United for a stint in the Chinese Super League with Dalian Yifang. Fonte first played on these shores outside of the top-flight for Crystal Palace in 2007 and had a successful time at Southampton, playing a crucial part in their return to the Premier League.

Fonte has also experienced the ultimate highs of international football, helping Portugal to a shock victory at the 2016 European Championships. The Portuguese didn’t concede a single goal as soon as Fonte came into the starting XI following the group stages of the showpiece tournament in France.

In his youth days, Fonte spent the bulk of his education at Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. However, he only managed to reach their ‘B’ team as a senior player, so moved down the levels in his home country by joining Felgueiras in the second division.

After a brief spell with Vitoria Setubal, Benfica snapped Fonte up in the 2006 January transfer window but never played him. Instead, they shipped him out on-loan to Portuguese rivals Pacos Ferreira and Estrela Amadora before joining Crystal Palace in 2007.

His move to the Londoners was initially another loan spell but the Eagles were quick to make this a permanent deal and Fonte even filled in as a makeshift forward when required at Selhurst Park. In total, he made 82 Football League appearances for them, scoring six times before leaving in January 2010 for Southampton.

At this stage, the Saints had been in decline and were playing in League One. He made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Millwall but would have to wait for his first goal until August 2010 when he struck in a commanding 4-0 success over Bristol Rovers. Six further goals followed and Fonte was inspirational towards Southampton’s promotion to the Championship. Rightly, he was voted into the League One Team of the Year and achieved 64% of the vote to be crowned as the club’s Player of the Year too.

Fonte’s momentum continued in 2011-2012, missing just four league matches as Southampton achieved back-to-back promotions. All of a sudden, they were back in the top-flight after an eight-year absence. On the day when their promotion was confirmed, Fonte was among the goalscorers in the 4-0 win over Coventry City as St. Mary’s was engulfed in a pitch invasion full of celebrating supporters.

He made his Premier League debut on the opening weekend of the 2012-2013 campaign as Southampton were narrowly beaten 3-2 by champions Manchester City. His only two goals of the campaign were enough to earn them their first Premier League draw since May 2005 – achieved in a 2-2 result with Fulham. The second goal came in the 90th minute. Fonte also skippered the side occasionally for Nigel Adkins but a knee injury meant he lost his automatic place initially in the side when Mauricio Pochettino arrived.

He regained his regular starting berth in 2013-2014, scoring the club’s first home goal of the season to rescue a draw with Sunderland. In January 2014, he was attacked by his teammate Dani Osvaldo during a fight at the club’s Stapelwood training ground. Osvaldo was suspended by the club and loaned out to Juventus following the incident.

After interest from Aston Villa in the close-season, Fonte signed a three-year contract extension in August 2014 and was named as the new captain of the club by Pochettino’s successor, Ronald Koeman. On signing the new deal, he said: “What made us sign was first that we signed a very good manager and second that the fans have been very good with me. They love me and I have a very good relationship with them.”

He made his 250th appearance for the club in a 3-1 home win over Burnley in October 2016 but wouldn’t make many more starts. His swansong for the club came on New Years’ Day 2017 and with the ominous threat of departing on a free transfer in the summer; Southampton sold him to West Ham United for approximately £8 million.

His spell with the Irons was less successful, conceding a penalty on his home debut against Manchester City. He also received criticism from West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, who told The Guardian: “The manager (Slaven Bilic) said he wanted Fonte from Southampton and Snodgrass from Hull. My kids begged me not to sign them.”

A foot injury sustained in late October against Crystal Palace put him on the sidelines for three months and in February 2018, David Moyes confirmed an agreement had been reached for Fonte to leave after just 24 appearances for the club to try and salvage his dream of representing Portugal at this summer’s World Cup finals.

Premier League Rewind: 5th-6th February 2000

Results: Aston Villa 4-0 Watford, Bradford City 2-1 Arsenal, Derby County 3-3 Sheffield Wednesday, Leicester City 2-1 Middlesbrough, Liverpool FC 3-1 Leeds United, Manchester United 3-2 Coventry City, Southampton 2-1 West Ham United, Sunderland 2-2 Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Chelsea, Wimbledon 0-3 Everton

The 1999-2000 Premier League season turned into a processional victory for Manchester United. In the first 25 years of Premier League football, no side has ever won the league title by a greater margin. Their final tally was 18 points above that achieved by second-placed Arsenal.

However at the start of February 2000, their advantage at the top of the table was only three points. David O’Leary’s Leeds United were having an excellent season and keeping the men from Old Trafford honest in their quest to win a sixth Premier League title. However, this particular weekend saw the first signs that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were about to disappear from the chasing pack.

Leeds lost their third match in four games, going down 3-1 to Liverpool FC at Anfield. Liverpool tried their luck with long-range shots and it paid off. Both Danny Murphy and Patrik Berger scored spectacular efforts which left Nigel Martyn without any chance of saving. The win ensured another league double for Liverpool over their opponents – their third in four years over the Yorkshire side. It also meant they closed the gap on O’Leary’s side to three points.

Whilst Leeds always had a tricky fixture, everyone expected Arsenal to overwhelm struggling Bradford City at Valley Parade. Since October, Bradford had only beaten bottom-placed Watford and Newcastle, so weren’t given too much hope of defeating Arsene Wenger’s side. However, Bradford had other ideas. Experience counted in their forward ranks, as Dean Windass and Dean Saunders both got on the scoresheet to help Bradford to a famous 2-1 victory. After the match, Wenger conceded the title challenge from Arsenal was over for another season, whilst Paul Jewell revelled in the victory, admitting: “Our performance was outstanding, as was the players’ work-rate.”

So, Manchester United could extend their lead at the top of the table to six points and they did so, although in slightly unconvincing fashion. They beat a much-improved Coventry City side 3-2 at Old Trafford. Two goals from Andy Cole proved to be the decisive contribution from United, who had now taken seven points from three games since their return from a disastrous FIFA World Club Championship competition in Brazil a month earlier.

Chelsea climbed into fifth place with their traditional victory over Tottenham Hotspur. The only goal at White Hart Lane came from the unfamiliar source of Bernard Lambourde. Gianluca Vialli’s side were now unbeaten in six matches and had beaten Spurs twice during that period. They swapped places with Sunderland who drew 2-2 in the Tyne & Wear Derby with Newcastle United. The Black Cats recovered from two-goals down to salvage a point, thanks to another double from the Premier League’s top goalscorer, Kevin Phillips.

Down at The Dell, the Southampton supporters greeted Glenn Hoddle as their new manager. The ex-England boss had succeeded Dave Jones, who was relieved of his duties to clear his name against child abuse allegations on Merseyside. Hoddle started with a victory too, as they defeated West Ham United 2-1. Gary Charles’ own goal four minutes from time settled the contest.

Elsewhere, relegation candidates Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday played out a thrilling 3-3 draw at Pride Park, whilst a 4-0 loss to Aston Villa left Watford 10 points adrift of safety. It was an unhappy return to Villa Park for Graham Taylor. He left that afternoon with any hopes of Premier League survival looking slim to nil.

What else happened in February 2000?

  • Tarja Halonen is elected the first Finnish female president.
  • “The Wizard of the Dribble” Sir Stanley Matthews dies aged 85 after falling ill while on holiday in Tenerife.
  • The chief of British Nuclear Fuels resigns over a safety scandal at Sellafield.
  • Greg Dyke takes over as Director General of the BBC.
  • Italian motorcycle manufacturing company Aprilia wins a lawsuit filed against The Spice Girls over a sponsorship deal that fell apart when Geri Halliwell left the group.

The Managers: Mauricio Pochettino

Premier League Clubs Managed: Southampton (2013-2014), Tottenham Hotspur (2014-PRESENT)

Mauricio Pochettino is one of the brightest talents in management. His Tottenham Hotspur sides have been a joy to watch over the past two and a half years. He has transformed Tottenham from a team that used to be frustratingly inconsistent into regular title challengers.

So far, Pochettino hasn’t quite managed to win any silverware as a manager but his time is coming and so is that of a rising Tottenham side that even in 2017-2018, seem to have been the most consistent side beyond the dominance at Manchester City.

To think that this was a man who when he was controversially appointed as Southampton manager in January 2013 was best-known for ‘fouling’ Michael Owen in Sapporo during the 2002 World Cup finals.

Tough and uncompromising

Football was engrossed into Pochettino’s life at a very early age. He watched on closely at the 1978 World Cup, as host nation Argentina won the trophy for the first time. He was just six years old when the likes of Ardiles, Kempes and Villa proved too good for the rest of the world.

Just over a decade later, he was playing professional football in his home country, winning the national championship in 1991 with Newell’s Old Boys. Even at this age, he was learning methods and tactics from his manager at the time, Marcelo Bielsa, who would go on to manage both Argentina and Chile at World Cup final competitions.

Aged 22, Pochettino made the move into mainland Europe, joining Espanyol in 1994. The Catalans had just been promoted back to La Liga and moulded Pochettino into a tough but uncompromising defender. His first spell with the club lasted nearly seven years, winning the Copa del Rey in the year 2000.

He joined French heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain in January 2001, spending two years with the Parisians. After one further campaign in France with Bordeaux, he returned to Espanyol to close down his playing career in 2006, winning a second Copa del Rey in the process.

Did he trip Owen?

Mauricio won 20 caps for Argentina between 1999 and 2002. He started every game at the 2002 World Cup, where Argentina came into the tournament in Asia as co-favourites with many of the pundits and bookmakers.

They faced old foes in England in their second match. A minute before half-time, Italian referee Pierluigi Collina penalised Pochettino for fouling Michael Owen in the penalty area. David Beckham duly converted the spot-kick to set England up for a 1-0 victory and their first in the World Cup against Argentina since 1966.

To this day, Pochettino is adamant that contact wasn’t made between him and Owen and when you look at replays, the forward certainly threw himself to the ground to win the penalty. If you were an Englishman though, you probably didn’t care about this element.

Argentina crashed out in the group stages after drawing their final match with Sweden and Pochettino would never play for the international side again.

His coaching career began with the club where he wound down his playing time, Espanyol. He took over in January 2009 with the club in the bottom three and saw him managing nine players who were his teammates just three years earlier. Immediately, Pochettino began to influence his high-pressing system, which has become a trait throughout his management career. He guided Espanyol to a mid-table finish in 2008-2009 and a first derby victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp in 27 years, who were managed by Guardiola and on their way to a league and European treble.

He remained manager of the club until November 2012, leaving after a poor start to the 2012-2013 season that left Espanyol bottom of La Liga with just nine points from 13 games. He won 53 of his 161 matches in-charge of them and financial restrictions also played a part in his departure.

His next job would see him head for the Premier League in unexpected fashion.

Building on solid foundations

In January 2013, newly-promoted Southampton had just produced an excellent comeback at Stamford Bridge to hold Chelsea to a 2-2 draw. Yet, they sacked manager Nigel Adkins just 48 hours later. It seemed like a harsh decision, especially when Pochettino was announced as his immediate replacement.

He didn’t speak any English – at least in media conferences and despite receiving high praise for his work with Espanyol, there was a lot of caution at this appointment that had been made by the Southampton hierarchy. They needn’t have worried.

A goalless draw with Everton was followed by a narrow loss at Old Trafford, then a wonderful 3-1 victory at home to champions Manchester City. Liverpool FC and Chelsea were also vanquished on the south coast by the end of the season. Southampton survived pretty comfortably.

Pochettino was able to get the maximum out of all his players and improved many too. The likes of Luke Shaw, Jay Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert especially flourished underneath his coaching methods. His high-pressing, attacking brand of football worked at St Mary’s as Southampton improved to an outstanding eighth-place finish in the 2013-2014 season, recording their highest points tally in the Premier League too.

A new challenge awaited Mauricio and that was to reawaken the sleeping giant that was Tottenham Hotspur.

Taking Tottenham a major step forward

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy was impressed with Pochettino’s work at Southampton and identified him as the long-term manager for his club after failing to be convinced by both Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood.

Three weeks after the 2013-2014 season finished, he was appointed Tottenham manager on a five-year contract, becoming the second Argentine to manage the club after Ossie Ardiles. It would take time for Mauricio to stamp his authority on the place. The squad was heavily unbalanced with a lot of deadwood that needed to be removed from the books. The likes of Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Etienne Capoue were quickly made surplus to requirements by the new manager.

A run to the League Cup final was the main highlight of the 2014-2015 campaign which ended in defeat to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Tottenham finished fifth in the Premier League, beating Chelsea 5-3 along the way whilst the discovery of Harry Kane was one of the best stories of the entire season.

Tottenham went a major step forward and Pochettino’s desire to use the nucleus of talent on young English talent was noted. Kane, Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Dele Alli were all impressing greatly. Most of the players bought with the Gareth Bale money had now been moved on, with only Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela remaining around the first-team setup.

The 2015-2016 season was Tottenham’s first significant tilt at a title challenge. Spurs were the closest challengers to Leicester City in a gripping contest between two surprise packages. Kane won the Golden Boot and Alli the Goal of the Season for a spectacular individual effort against Crystal Palace. Ultimately, defeats at home to Newcastle and away at West Ham meant Tottenham were always playing catch-up.

It all imploded at Stamford Bridge in May 2016. Needing to win to keep Leicester waiting a little bit longer, Tottenham charged into a 2-0 lead against the outgoing champions but lost their composure and temperament. Nine players were booked, Mousa Dembele was charged with violent conduct and the manager even ran onto the pitch to stop a confrontation between Rose and Willian. Chelsea flickered into life in the second half and earned a 2-2 draw that handed the title to Leicester and Claudio Ranieri.

Spurs collapsed mentally after this and lost their final two games to ensure Arsenal finished above them in the Premier League for the 21st consecutive season. However, massive strides had been made by both club and manager.

The next challenge

Tottenham learned from their 2015-2016 experience and pushed a more motivated Chelsea close in the 2016-2017 title battle. Yet again, Kane clinched the Golden Boot and they went through their final season at White Hart Lane before redevelopment undefeated. Only Liverpool FC and Leicester City managed to leave with points for their efforts. Yet again, their challenge ended in a London Derby, this time to West Ham in May but Tottenham rallied to win their final three games, scoring 15 goals in the process.

They finished second and only seven points shy of the champions from across the capital. Only a disappointing European campaign took the gloss off what was another incredible Tottenham season.

Tottenham are playing at Wembley Stadium in 2017-2018 and despite dropping points at home to the likes of Burnley, West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City, they’ve found their groove of late, defeating Manchester United and Arsenal in recent matches. They are a stronger proposition in the UEFA Champions League too and Kane is arguably now the most deadly finisher in world football.

Mauricio Pochettino has come a long way since his first match as a manager with Espanyol. He has so many admirers within the game and with a bit more luck and experience, he will win silverware. It is a more a question of when it will happen, rather than if.

Iconic Moments: Le Tissier has the final say at The Dell (May 2001)

In May 2001, Southampton were about to bid farewell to The Dell; the ground they had played their football at for over 100 years. Their new state-of-the-art stadium at St Mary’s was ready for use at the start of the 2001-2002 campaign.

Their final match at the historic, tight ground would be against Arsenal and fittingly, the final say had to go to the player Saints fans called ‘Le God.’

Over the years, Matt Le Tissier had scored a glut of sensational goals. A series of special free-kicks, a long-distance stunning away strike at Blackburn Rovers and a fabulous individual solo effort at home to Newcastle United in October 1993 were among some of the best. By the time the 2001 season ended, injuries meant his role was now restricted to limited substitute appearances. He came on in the 74th minute to a rapturous reception and he wasn’t going to leave it at that.

With the scoreline at 2-2 in the closing stages, James Beattie won the ball in the air and when Martin Keown failed to clear, the ball sat up perfectly for Le Tissier. He struck a beautiful left-foot shot on the half-volley and it flew past Alex Manninger.

The ground erupted in noise and ecstasy as he was mobbed by his teammates. Afterwards, he said: “It’s very special to score the last goal and I couldn’t have imagined a better ending. But I don’t see why I can’t score the first goal at the new stadium as well,”

Unfortunately, he would never score another goal in professional football and retired in 2002 but what a way to finish football at The Dell for Southampton’s greatest player.