Sheffield United: Pochettino unfazed over Blades challenge

Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.

Having run the gantlet of the frenzied Copa Libertadores crowds in South America, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino will not be worried by whatever hot South Yorkshire reception may await his team at Sheffield United on Wednesday night.

Spurs head to Bramall Lane for the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final looking to defend a slender 1-0 lead and secure a place at Wembley.

Pochettino is fully expecting the home supporters to stoke up the atmosphere in a bid to unsettle the Barclays Premier League side.

However, the 42-year-old former Argentina international believes whatever is served up from the terraces by the League One supporters will not be on the scale he regularly witnessed while playing for Newell’s Old Boys.

“It was crazy. In Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Peru or Ecuador, people are very aggressive. It is nothing like that here,” said Pochettino, who recalled the semi-final of the 1992 Copa Libertadores against America de Cali in Colombia. He had scored in the 1-1 draw, which, despite his subsequent miss from the spot, was eventually won 11-10 on penalties before all Hell broke lose.

Eduardo Berizzo, now Celta Vigo manager, was cut on the head by a battery thrown from the supporters.

“I remember going up the tunnel to the pitch and they started to throw batteries, my team-mate got hit and cut on the head. He had to get stitches from the doctor, it was very tough,” Pochettino said.

“When you go to these countries to play Copa Libertadores or World Cup qualifiers with the national team, I remember every time we drove from the airport, all the glass on the bus was smashed and we fell to the floor.

“It was always crazy with the army, military people and police (for protection).

“In Argentina, when you play at the Bombonera, at Boca Juniors, if you survive on the journey to the stadium, you are lucky.

“Sometimes you are scared, in different countries, like in Paraguay, you are worried for your life.

“In Argentina it is impossible to have the supporters in behind you (in the dugout like in England), because (they spit) saliva, they throw things, radios and mobile phones, it is dangerous.

“So if I can cope with that, we can cope with anything.”

Pochettino continued: “When I came over to France, to England or Spain, people told me it was difficult to play in, but when we arrived, it was nothing.

“They (fans) shout when something goes wrong, but nothing else, so this is easy.

“It is normal the people shout at you, but in England the respect is massive.

“Your life here is better, more comfortable, than in other countries. I think football is to be enjoyed, for families, no violence.

“My family was very worried about it (for me in the past), and now they are happy.”

Pochettino sees no reason to drop goalkeeper Michel Vorm despite the Dutchman’s handling error which gifted Leicester a dramatic 2-1 victory in stoppage-time at White Hart Lane on Saturday to end Spurs’ interest in the FA Cup, as a scuffed shot from Jeffrey Schlupp squirmed over the line.

“He is a great goalkeeper, has experience and is brave, nothing has changed,” the Spurs boss said.

“We are only disappointed and upset after the game because in the last action we conceded a goal, but this is football.”

“It is a very special position, and I have full confidence in all of our goalkeepers.”

Pochettino added: “Maybe yes (Vorm would also play in the final). It is important for a goalkeeper to keep working hard and playing, as it is difficult physically and mentally for just one keeper to play three games every week.”

Pochettino knows he could take his place in Spurs folklore with a Wembley triumph.

“Always when you get success, it is a special thing for the fans and the club, and maybe if you win the final, then you go into the club’s history,” he said.