Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino says his faith in British talent is inspired by Manchester United’s ‘Class of 92’ and insists there are more Dele Allis to be unearthed in this country’s lower divisions.
Alli is hot favourite to win the PFA’s Young Player of the Year award for the second year running after another brilliant season that has included 16 goals and five assists with seven games still to play.
The 21-year-old midfielder, along with Harry Kane, has become another ringing endorsement of Pochettino’s trust in youth, which has also seen Eric Dier and Harry Winks break through while Kyle Walker, Danny Rose, Kieran Trippier and Ben Davies have all scaled new heights at White Hart Lane.
Pochettino is a great admirer of Sir Alex Ferguson and admits his own approach is based on the same principles that allowed the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and the Neville brothers to emerge under the Scot at Old Trafford more than 20 years ago.
“It’s a big pressure to win when you are a big club,” Pochettino said.
“But I think for me the best example in football in many years was Manchester United with Sir Alex Ferguson and what he created with young talent from the academy or from England, which created the core of a team that won everything. That is a good example for me.”
Tottenham, sitting second in the Premier League and as the only serious rivals to leaders Chelsea, have shown that throwing large sums at big-name players from abroad is not the only way to success.
Since experiencing mixed returns from their major summer spending spree three years ago, which came as Gareth Bale was sold for a world-record transfer fee, Spurs have returned broadly to their policy of targetting younger players, like Alli, at a lower cost.
“From day one when we arrived at Southampton we always said to you, the fans, the coaches, that the most important thing was to show belief and faith in the young talent in England,” former Saints boss Pochettino said.
“It’s true it is sometimes easier to look outside your country. It is the same in Spain 25 years ago.
“The coaches’ idea for all was that the talent was outside Spain. After a few months I say I think you have the talent here.
“The problem is to show you have faith and believe. In England it is the same. One of our challenges in the last four years was to show the English people that the talent exists here.
“I think Southampton and Tottenham is showing if you believe and work and spend time that they have the same talent as in Argentina, Spain and Brazil. It is all about belief.”
Spurs look set to seal Champions League qualification for a second consecutive season and Pochettino admits the challenge is for even the richest and most glamorous clubs to give young British talent a chance.
Pochettino believes plenty more gems like Alli and Kane will be discovered if only managers would be brave enough to look for them.
“Dele Alli arrived here from League One and had similar talent like a lot of players. I don’t say the same but similar,” Pochettino said.
“It is just so hard to help them develop and work with them and then give them the possibility to play.
“It is true it is easier to go to France or Spain or Germany or Portugal or Argentina or Brazil, where the clubs have different economy. The way they can survive is to sell 17, 18, 19-year-olds after putting them to play.
“Here, to bring young players or your own players through the academy, when you have money to go in different markets, that is only if you are a little bit crazy like we are, that we believe in younger players and discovering the talent.”