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Gruelling domestic and European campaigns for Spurs will test Pochettino credentials

SoccerBy John Brennan
Gruelling domestic and European campaigns for Spurs will test Pochettino credentials

NOW comes the really hard bit for Tottenham Hotspur and Mauricio Pochettino – backing up one brilliant season in the Premier League with another and sustaining a run in the Cham­pions League.

When it really mattered towards the end of the last campaign, Spurs were the one club to put pressure on Leicester City.

A dreadful home draw against West Brom undermined them, and they let the title slip away by losing a two-goal lead at half-time in Stamford Bridge, to the glee of the Chelsea fans.

Now they must learn from that crushing disappointment and kick on, pushing for the title and also dealing with midweek trips to the likes of Barcelona, Porto and Ajax, who are among clubs they could be paired with in the Champions League at the end of August.

In theory, it should be easy enough. Let Pochettino bring in a few more players to add to their young English contingent, Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier, and their seasoned overseas crew of Hugo Lloris, Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen.

So far Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen are the only purchases but surely there will be more on the way before August 31 looms and the transfer window closes.

But there is an elephant in the room. Just who will Pochettino be allowed buy as the club prepares to build a new home ground just beside the fabled White Hart Lane?

The world of sport is littered with exam­ples of successful clubs who took their eye off the ball while building a stadium and went from successful to just ordinary.

Tottenham don't have to look far for one. Just across north London in fact to Arse­nal, who went from winning doubles in Arsene Wenger's early years to failing to win anything in an eight-year spell while they covered the cost of constructing the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners have won FA Cups lately but the Premier League and Champions League still elude them, with the club's bosses ad­mitting they are not going to break their pay structure to get the one or two superstars who might make the difference.

Spurs supporters are afraid something similar to that will happen to them, or even worse, that the demand for money to build the stadium will see a massive asset such as Kane or Alli sold to raise capital.

Tottenham will raise extra money this season through playing their three home Champions League matches at 90,000-capacity Wembley, and they may well play ALL of their 2017/18 matches there as the construction work on the new ground will render 'the Lane' unusable for that campaign.

But just when the club needs to kick on and really establish themselves as an English power, the money needed to do that may just not be there.

And, if it's not there, never mind the players, might Pochettino not say enough is enough and take himself off to a club where money to buy the likes of John Stones or Paul Pogba is not an issue?

Tottenham's board passed it off as a long-ar­ranged lunch but the May meeting between Pochetti­no and Alex Ferguson, before Manchester United bagged Jose Mourinho, must have sent a shiver down the spine of every fan of the Cockerels.

Once you have a season like Spurs had last term, your best player and manager become fair game for rivals.

And now Tottenham are down to hoping that loyalty and the promise of future glory, two qualities in short supply in professional football, is enough to keep their group together.

Pochettino was saying the right things, however, on signing a new contract during the summer: "You build a new stadium, you start to build a relationship, an emotional relationship, I think we’re a team," the Argentinian said.

"It's not only important the money, it's important the emotional link you create with the people here and sometimes it's difficult to take some decisions. It happened with me at Southampton, too. It was difficult to take the decision to come to Tot­tenham."

So difficult that he resorted to Hamlet's famous line of 'To be or not to be' when questioning in his own mind whether he should sign the new contract at Tottenham.

It was not bad work for a guy to be quoting Shakespeare when he had refused to give a single interview in English in his first season as a boss in the Premier League because he felt he had no mastery of the language.

Of Wanyama, Tottenham's boss said: "He's a player that can im­prove our squad – a holding mid­fielder that can play free and play very well with the ball. I think he is the perfect player for us."

Every word of that may be true. But Wanyama does not strike many as the kind of player who is going to turn a game for you at Old Trafford or the Camp Nou, just two of the venues where Spurs need him to be a big figure if they are to prosper in the season that starts on Saturday week.

A big-name signing who could make a real impact would settle the nerves of Spurs' loyal supporters, who are still not sure if 2015/16 was the start of something great or just a mirage in a desert.