This is England; Tottenham’s England; Pochettino’s England

Date published: Thursday 2nd November 2017 12:00

The tenacity of Harry Kane. The vision of Harry Winks. The precision of Kieran Trippier. The anticipation of Dele Alli. Tottenham lead 1-0 against Real Madrid at Wembley.

The simplicity of Eric Dier. The trickery, balance and, admittedly, good fortune of Alli. Tottenham lead 2-0 against Real Madrid at Wembley.

The poise of Winks. The drive of Alli. The wherewithal of Kane. Tottenham, little old Tottenham, beat Real Madrid, the European champions, at Wembley.

The curse, it is safe to say, is no more. This was a Real Madrid side nowhere near their best, horribly out of form, missing one or two important players, struggling to find consistency. But this was Real Madrid, European and Spanish champions, unbeaten in the Champions League group stages since October 2012, boasting Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, Isco, Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema in their ranks.

If a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu a fortnight ago was a Mauricio Pochettino masterclass, this 90-minute lesson was put on by the Tottenham players. Four days on from a disjointed, disappointing performance against Manchester United, seven days on from an embarrassing defeat to West Ham, Spurs were ruthless, professional and, at times, wonderful.

With Roy Hodgson and Gareth Southgate both watching from the stands, this was England’s past and present revelling in an accomplished performance from its future. Of the two starting XIs, there were more English players (5) than any other nationality, and aside from the sort of Christian Eriksen performance that will see him linked with Barcelona in Thursday morning’s Spanish press, Tottenham’s Five Lions were the stars.

Alli scored two and could have had a hat-trick. Trippier assisted one goal and created more scoring opportunities than any other player. Dier started the game as an untroubled, unruffled central midfielder and finished it as a fine centre-half, repelling almost any attack the opposition could muster. Kane was selfless and almost faultless in leading the line on his first game back after injury. Winks was seemingly substituted only to spare Modric, Kroos and Isco of any further embarrassment.

For a man who attracted ire for not speaking the language when appointed Southampton manager in January 2013, Pochettino is doing more than most to further the hopes of the national team. Others would perhaps have relied on the pace of Serge Aurier or experience of Moussa Sissoko on such a grand occasion, but this victory at the national stadium was secured with the help of stars of the national team.

“If I were to move into international management one day, I’d relish the opportunity to coach England,” was one of the soundbites from Pochettino’s new book. The Argentine may never follow the same path as Hodgson and Southgate before him, but he has already had arguably the biggest impact of any manager on England’s current development.

“After five years in England I feel it is the way to say thank you to everyone and give the possibility to English talent to play in the national side,” the manager would add, and the gratitude is most certainly reciprocated.

This was a phenomenal victory for both Pochettino and Tottenham, but one achieved with a delightful homegrown touch. All the more impressive is that this was the response to two consecutive defeats. The manager made a mistake in overlooking the effects of publicly dismissing the Carabao Cup, and the loss of momentum was clear to see against United. Vital ground was lost in the Premier League, and an eight-point gap to Manchester City cannot be ignored.

But at Wembley on Wednesday came a potential watershed moment for Tottenham. This was the sort of display that proved they have a backbone, and it was achieved with an English spine.

 

Matt Stead

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