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Wednesday 16 October 2019

Poch's Spurs stint looks to have run its course

Tottenham Hotspur's Troy Parrott
Tottenham Hotspur's Troy Parrott

The small press room at Colchester's JobServe Stadium suddenly became a place of significance on Tuesday evening.

Irish teen Troy Parrott and some other prized youngsters were given a League Cup chance against fourth-tier opposition, but the Spurs starting XI included several internationals and there was the Plan B of a star-studded bench.

Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-Min and Erik Lamela were called upon for that reason, and yet they couldn't prevent a humiliating exit. In previous seasons, Mauricio Pochettino had never seemed too fussed when his side had exited at an early stage of this competition. But the body language was different here.

Four months after a Champions League final in Madrid, a selection of the same players were losing a penalty shoot-out to a League Two side. The story of the night became the story of the week and it has spilled over into the build-up for today's visit of his former club Southampton.

In Colchester, Pochettino made reference to "different agendas" in the squad, a sentence that has been pulled out to add to fears that all is not quite right at the club. Eriksen, who missed his penalty at Colchester, wanted out in the summer but Daniel Levy played hard ball and he stayed put. The Dane is in the final year of his contract along with Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. Pochettino wanted other players out the door, but those above couldn't make it happen.

It all adds to the feeling of a hang-over from that Champions League defeat. Pochettino's future was the talking point around the semi-final win over Ajax and perhaps he is now regretting sticking around because his stock is being damaged by the lethargy that has enveloped his stint at the club.

Spurs are regressing, and Pochettino acknowledged 48 hours after the Colchester defeat that a negative atmosphere was pervading. He admitted that the late European transfer window was an issue, with Eriksen, Danny Rose and Victor Wanyama all staying put when it was thought they were leaving.

"Nothing is completely broken," he said. "It's just that sometimes, temporarily, the mindset can change and then to get back on track takes time."

Pochettino has shown an ability to turn water into wine by integrating young players. Spurs have punched above their weight. But with no trophy to show for this progression, and the prospect of embarking on a similar rebuild mission with leading lights eyeing the departures lounge, then it's natural that pastures new might seem appealing.

That would be concerning for Ireland, given that the profile of the manager is a primary reason in the excitement around Parrott's position, supposedly second-choice central striker behind Harry Kane.

With Manchester United trundling along under a manager who is showing no coherent signs that he holds the key to a turnaround, there is an air of inevitability about what happens next.

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