Mauricio Pochettino: the 'sheriff' at Southampton with no respect for his elders

Pochettino is banking on his youthful intensity to help him and Southampton outwit the experienced QPR manager he shares a birthday with

Mauricio Pochettino and Harry Redknapp celebrate their birthdays today. Pochettino turns 41, Redknapp will be 66 and once their afternoon engagement at St Mary’s is concluded the two men will exchange greetings, possibly over a glass of wine, by which time Redknapp may be in need of a stiffer drink.

The manager of Queen’s Park Rangers is in for a bumpy ride. He is not a popular figure in Southampton – far from it. Southampton is the blot on the Redknapp copy book; he was in charge when the club’s 27-year stay in the top flight ended in 2005 and then he left them, according to many supporters, in poor shape in the Championship and returned to bitter rivals Portsmouth. In contrast, Pochettino, after little more than a month and having been parachuted into the position in difficult circumstances, has won over the majority who will fill St Mary’s this afternoon.

There are plenty of differences. Indeed, apart from having been born on the same day and both having managed Southampton, the pair have little in common. Redknapp, raised in the urban intensity of London’s East End, was taking his first steps into management, at Bournemouth in 1982, while Pochettino was growing up in the wide open spaces of Argentina’s Santa Fe province, the son of a farm labourer.

“I lived in a country house, a humble house – not a hacienda or anything. The toilet was outside,” says Pochettino. “My days consisted of going to school and playing football, in the street or fields, until it became too dark and we had to go home.”

He liked to pretend to be Pele or Franz Beckenbauer. News from the world of football filtered through slowly to the village of Murphy, where he grew up, 150km south of Rosario. “TV was barely starting so we didn’t see them often,” says Pochettino. “We followed them on the radio – that is how I learnt of players.”

The family had a small black and white television that was allowed on special occasions. Pochettino’s father would take the battery from the farm’s tractor and use it to power the TV. “It was a prize for us to watch TV. When I tell my kids that story they look at me and they say ‘Papa, stop lying. That cannot be true.’ But it is. I grew up in a field, where my dad was working the field. He was a labourer, coming from a very humble home. I was very happy.”

This afternoon will be Pochettino’s sixth match since he was recruited from Spain, where he had lost his job at Espanyol, ending a roller-coaster tenure that had previously seen him touted as a possible replacement for Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid and being praised by Pep Guardiola. “They remind me of us,” Guardiola said of Pochettino’s side, Barcelona’s city neighbours.

The bare results at Southampton have been modest: two defeats, two draws and a solitary win. They sit 16th, three points better off than Aston Villa in 18th. When Nigel Adkins, having lifted them from League One to dining at the top table, was dismissed in January, Southampton were 15th,  unbeaten in six league games, among those draws at Arsenal and Chelsea. But there is cause for the optimistic air on the South Coast, albeit one that needs sustaining with three points today. That sole Pochettino victory was over Manchester City, while defeat at Old Trafford furthered the new man’s habit of attracting high-profile admirers. Sir Alex Ferguson described Southampton’s second-half performance in a 2-1 defeat as the best seen by visitors at Old Trafford this season.

“He can’t just click his fingers – he needs time,” says Morgan Schneiderlin, Southampton’s French midfielder. At Espanyol “the Sheriff” developed a reputation as a tough trainer. “He makes you suffer like dogs,” was how one of his former players put it. He was also liked by players though – the sessions were intense but varied.

“He shows how he wants us to play and it looks exciting,” says Schneiderlin. “Every session is different. Every day he tries to bring us something different. It’s coming. In the next few games you will see a difference when we have the ball.”

The most obvious difference to Adkins’ footballing diet is when they do not have the ball. Pochettino urges his players to press opponents and for that he demands high levels of fitness. Jack Cork, who partners Schneiderlin in midfield, says you need “two hearts” to play for the Argentine.

“He likes a midfielder with a good engine,” says Schneiderlin. Pochettino, who is at the training ground each day at 7am and remains there until 8pm, has been impressed with the engines he has in the garage.

“You have to be fitter here and that is down to the way the game is played,” says Pochettino, whose own playing career took him from his home country to Spain and France as well as the 2002 World Cup. “It’s a lot more tactical in Spain – here it is a lot more direct, physical. Here you see that the players are enjoying running so much and the fans are also enjoying that kind of game too. The game is more fluid, there are a lot less fouls than in Spain, the effective time of the game is a lot higher than in Spain. There is a difference of 10 minutes more in real playing time than in Spain.”

Pochettino speaks via an interpreter in public – but his English is good enough to take training. “Little by little,” he says of learning the language. He is still learning his trade too, especially in the Premier League, but with three years in La Liga this is no managerial novice.

“If it was down to experience or age, managers like Harry would always win,” he says. “Experience is an important factor but so is youth. If you are lacking in age or experience you maybe have more energy, more work ethic to perform better and counter that lack of experience.

“In football every single person has their own values, truths and opinions but what experience did Guardiola have before he was managing Barcelona? After four years he is one of the best managers in the world. I know other managers who have been managing for 30 years and have never won anything, so…” He pauses and shrugs. “Maybe they never had Messi in their team!”

Head to head: how the birthday boys compare

M Pochettino vs H Redknapp

2 Mar 1972 Born 2 Mar 1947

Murphy, Argentina Birthplace Poplar, London

Centre-back Playing position Midfielder

2 League titles, 2 Spanish Cups Playing honours -

20 International caps 0

Espanyol, Southampton Teams managed Bournemouth, West Ham Southampton Portsmouth, Southampton, Spurs, QPR

- Managerial honours 1 FA Cup, 1 Intertoto Cup, 1 First Division title

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?