NEWPORT, United Kingdom, Jan 28 – Mauricio Pochettino questioned his Tottenham Hotspur players’ appetite for the fight after were nearly knocked out of the FA Cup by fourth-tier Newport County.
The Spurs manager was angered by his side’s attitude during their fourth-round tie at Rodney Parade on Saturday where they were indebted to an 82nd-minute goal from Harry Kane that salvaged a 1-1 draw.
Pochettino was unimpressed that Spurs took so long to rouse themselves against their fired-up Welsh opponents who deservedly led this match through a 38th-minute goal from Irish striker Padraig Amond.
It almost led to Spurs losing their first match since December 16, until England striker Kane’s 30th goal of the season ensured a Wembley replay.
“The team didn’t show they wanted to get into the next round, which was disappointing,” said Pochettino.
Spurs have won plaudits for the attacking football they have played under their Argentinian manager in recent seasons but the hard fact is that it is 10 years since the north London club, eight-times FA Cup winners, last lifted a major piece of silverware — the League Cup.
“It’s easy to say we want win trophies, but we missed a massive opportunity today to show we wanted it,” said Spurs manager Pochettino. “I hope we have learned today that we have to fight to win things.
“I heard the FA Cup was magic and today you didn’t see any difference between a team in the Premier League and League Two.”
– ‘Missed opportunity’ –
The former Southampton boss added: “We need to realise if we want to do something special we can’t miss the opportunity. Why did we have to wait until the end of the game to fight?
“If you fight from the beginning of the game you can show your quality.”
A year ago, Pochettino was kept in the FA Cup by a 97th-minute goal from Son Heung-Min as Spurs overcame Wycombe Wanderers 4-3 at White Hart Lane.
This time he had to introduce the South Korean from the bench, as well as bring on England midfielder Dele Alli, in order to turn the tide.
“I am relieved to be going away with a draw, they were superb, full credit to them (Newport),” said Pochettino.
“We started to play and grow in the second half, but we are happy we have a replay and to stay in the competition. We cannot use the pitch as an excuse, we need to look at us.”
He added: “We were aware about how Newport play, they are very athletic with quality. We couldn’t match this level.
“The key was to match them in motivation, style and fight and we lost every challenge in the first half.”
– ‘Proud’ –
Newport manager Mike Flynn paid tribute to his team, who are a full 72 places behind a Tottenham side that are fifth in the Premier League.
“They are a fantastic group of players and they gave me their all,” said Flynn. “I’m gutted for them that Spurs scored so late, but they’ve made me the proudest manager in the country right now.
“I could have been selfish and tried to be the hero and gone for it (a win) but I would never jeopardise the finances. We had to get focussed, it was the only mistake we made all day and we got punished for it.
“It’s incredible, I’m proud of everything we’ve achieved. I don’t get carried away, but speaking to Mauricio Pochettino was an eye opener, he’s a class act.
“If the replay is anything like the second half then I’m not relishing it. But I’ve got every confidence in my players because they’ve been magnificent from day one.
“Days like this are huge for clubs like us and keep you ticking over. We turnover £2.2 million a year as a football club, but this (FA Cup) run will give us an excess of £700,000.”