Time is running out for Mauricio Pochettino’s underachieving Tottenham

Mauricio Pochettino and his Tottenham side were left to rue yet another defeat and early exit in the Champions League. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Time is running out for Mauricio Pochettino’s underachieving Tottenham

LONDON: When Juventus’ triumphant defender Giorgio Chiellini made a throwaway comment in the aftermath of his side’s Champions League victory over Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, it was used by the press as little more than an easy soundbite for the next day’s newspapers.
“It was very difficult, and we knew that before the match and also before the first game, but we believed in the win, because Tottenham always create chances to score — but they always miss something at the end,” the Italian said. “It’s the history of Tottenham.”
And looking at that history, not to mention how much is in the club’s coffers, it is hard to disagree with him. “Missing something at the end” seems a more fitting adage than Tottenham’s current motto “To dare is to do.” For all the wealth the club has accrued in the Premier League era and the plethora of talented players who have pulled on the famous white jersey over the years, it is nearly six decades since the north London club last won a league title. They have won just one League Cup since the turn of the century.
It is true that Tottenham have always played the game “the right way” — N17’s finest have always been proponents of a slick, incisive brand of football — but all too often the end result has been missing. For decades, Spurs sides have shown brief flashes of style, but not enough substance. They have promised so much, and delivered far too little.
Yet, when manager Mauricio Pochettino arrived in 2014, there was a distinct sense that Tottenham Hotspur could, at last, fulfil their potential. There was palpable hope that they could muscle in on the big boys of Europe and warrant their place at the top table of English football.
The affable Argentine very quickly created something magical at White Hart Lane, and bar a few teething problems, has continued to create it at Spurs’ current temporary home of Wembley. At the dawn of each season, Spurs are tipped as potential champions of England. This season, they were a lot of people’s “dark horses” for a run at European glory (this writer included). And then, on Wednesday evening, that burning flame of hope in the hearts of Tottenham fans everywhere was unceremoniously extinguished in three crazy second-half minutes. Juventus showed all their experience and nous to win the tie, their “will to win” was there for all to see at Wembley.
And it prompted the question: How long can this Spurs side show promise before we have to deem them — given the talent they have — as one of the biggest crop of underachievers in the history of English football? After every near miss, after every heartbreaking knockout defeat, Pochettino says his side are “getting closer” or that they are “still growing into something great.”
Even on Wednesday, the Argentine said that he was very disappointed, that the defeat was “part of growing” and that his side “will keep going.” He has been saying that since Leicester City inexplicably pipped them to the title two years ago.
And almost weekly, football experts say that with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Pochettino at the club, a trophy is “just around the corner” for this Tottenham side — that they are within touching distance of becoming a great side.
Unfortunately, nobody remembers sides that almost won trophies or nearly became a great side.
The truth is, time is running out for Pochettino. The likes of Kane and Alli, or Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier, will not hang around forever. The nucleus of this almost-great team will disappear without any tangible evidence of success.
And while Pochettino is undoubtedly a very talented manager, without titles or trophies, he could end up going down in history as the man who blew it with one of the most promising and exciting teams the English game has ever seen.


UAE-based T10 League to help national side find future stars

Updated 21 September 2018
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UAE-based T10 League to help national side find future stars

  • Emirate Cricket Board backs plan to help UAE national side find more talent.
  • Second T10 League to increase to eight teams with star-name players returning.

DUBAI: The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has backed the UAE-based T10 league’s Talent Hunt program designed to unearth stars for the national side.
ECB board member Zayed Abbas welcomed the league’s announcement that is hoped will only enhance the ECB’s own initiatives aimed at finding and developing both Emirati and expatriate players who can go on to represent the country.
Any talented players that emerge from the T10 programme will feed into the UAE’s four cricketing councils.
Abbas told Arab News: “Any talent hunt that takes place here that can feed into the national team is welcome. Once it takes place then our national development programme management and team will be involved with them to set the criteria and the activities and plans going forward.
“At the end of the day, the T10 League is an approved league in the UAE. Their activities and the league are approved by the ECB and ICC so any talent hunt programme of theirs is definitely part of the UAE cricket board’s agenda.”
Casting the net farther for fresh faces in the UAE national team has been an ongoing pursuit for the ECB and is even more necessary following the disappointment of Dougie Brown’s men failing to qualify for this year’s Asia Cup, taking place on home soil, which offered the potential to showcase the UAE team to the country’s enormous cricketing community.
Hong Kong qualified at their expense, and considering the similarities between Hong Kong and the UAE as expatriate dominated countries with a local population waiting to be engaged, it is a case of what might have been. The impact could have been significant had the packed crowds of Dubai been able to witness captain Rohan Mustafa and Co. go up against the likes of MS Dhoni.
The ECB’s support — sought well in advance of the announcement and following discussions that have been ongoing since the culmination of the inaugural edition last year — will come as a major boost to the chairman and founder of the T10 league, Shaji Ul-Mulk.
It is also the latest in a series of expansions to the second edition of the T10 League, due to take place from Nov. 23-2 Dec. Two new teams have already been added, taking the number of franchises to eight and the tournament will be played across 10 days rather than the four of last year in Sharjah.
England’s one-day captain Eoin Morgan will return to lead the Kerala Kings in the defence of their title and he will be joined by a star-studded cast in Rashid Khan, Shahid Afridi, Sunil Narine, Shoaib Malik, Brendon McCullum, Daren Sammy and Shane Watson.
They will be joined once again by two UAE players in each squad — and one in each matchday XI, a further reminder of the T10 League’s investment in UAE cricket.
“The global talent hunt is designed to unearth the unsung heroes from the cricketing world, especially India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh,” Ul-Mulk said.
“This programme will help the talent not only to get a job in the UAE and be able to display their cricketing skills at international level. The ECB is part of this programme and the good top-class cricketers will have a chance to play for the UAE national team.”
Mohammad Azharuddin and Wasim Akram have been announced as Talent Hunt directors and will oversee the searches in India and Pakistan respectively.
Abbas hopes that these ex-players-turned-scouts will add even greater gravitas to the T10’s plans to enrich the sport in the UAE and that the ECB’s own aim to grow the game among Emiratis is supported in everything T10 does.
“These players are considered legends of cricket so the more names you have at this level the better your product can get and the more successful you can get,” said Abbas of Azharuddin and Akram.
“These programmes are open for all, but the more effort (T10 organizers) put into the Emiratis (the) better for us because that will make a huge difference in the country’s national agenda and the sport’s agenda. 
“If you develop your own players there is nothing like it.”