LONDON, January 22 – Mauricio Pochettino defended his decision to name Emmanuel Adebayor as Tottenham captain after the Togo striker was subjected to more abuse from fans during the League Cup semi-final win over Sheffield United.
Pochettino surprisingly handed Adebayor the skipper’s armband for Wednesday’s 1-0 first leg success at White Hart Lane just days after Tottenham supporters had given him a hostile reception on his return to action after two months on the sidelines.
The former Arsenal and Manchester City star angered sections of the north London club’s fanbase earlier this season by claiming Tottenham’s players preferred away games because they struggled to cope with the unrealistic expectations of supporters at the Lane.
He was booed after coming on as a substitute against Sunderland at the weekend for his first appearance since those controversial comments, yet Pochettino was still willing to give him the captaincy against United.
It was a bold decision by the Tottenham manager which backfired as Adebayor delivered a lacklustre performance before being substituted early in the second half with more jeers from fans ringing in his ears.
Yet Pochettino refused to admit he had made a mistake and insisted Adebayor had been named as one of three potential captains in pre-season, so with the others — Hugo Lloris and Younes Kaboul — not playing on Wednesday, it was the Togo international who led the team.
“He is one of our three captains. I had no doubts (about giving him the captaincy),” Pochettino said.
“At the beginning of the season I nominate three possible captains. He brings a lot of things to the job but I think this is not the moment to explain why.
“I made the decision seven months ago that Kaboul, Lloris and Adebayor could be captain.”
– Adebayor taunts –
Pochettino claimed not to have been aware of the taunts that followed Adebayor back to the bench, but he did concede the towering forward, who missed a good chance to open the scoring in the first half, could do with an infusion of confidence.
“I didn’t hear the crowd’s reaction. For me I am focused on the game. I am happy with his performance. He was good,” Pochettino said.
“In the end we need to give confidence and hope they have the possibility to score.
“In football you never know. Maybe in the next game he will get a goal and then score many more.”
Adebayor’s travails were symptomatic of the malaise that gripped Tottenham for much of an underwhelming performance which saw the Premier League club easily held at bay for long periods by their third-tier opponents.
They were fortunate United’s disciplined display was eventually undermined when defender Jay McEveley’s handball conceded a 74th-minute penalty that Andros Townsend swept home to secure a slender advantage ahead of the second leg at Bramall Lane next Wednesday.
Pochettino acknowledged Spurs had made too many mistakes, but he remains confident his side will seal their place in the Wembley final against Chelsea or Liverpool.
“It was a very tough game. Maybe we were wrong in the way we tried to penetrate. We played a very slow tempo,” he said.
“In the second half we fixed this problem and improved. We created more chances and deserved the victory.”
United manager Nigel Clough has already masterminded five victories over top-flight opposition over the last 18 months and he warned Tottenham to expect a severe test in the return.
“We are still in the tie. You heard the noise 4,000 fans were making and when 25,000 are in our place next week it is going to be special. We are going to give it everything we can,” Clough said.
“We have to make it as uncomfortable as possible for Spurs. The key is not to concede a goal. If they score the tie is over, but if it’s 1-0 we are still in it until the last minute.”