By Tottenham correspondent Tony Hughes
Gary Neville has revealed that Mauricio Pochettino is his favourite manager in the Premier League.
The England coach and TV pundit has been hugely impressed with the turnaround engineered by Pochettino at White Hart Lane since he took over the club in the summer of 2014.
Spurs host Chelsea in Sunday’s eagerly anticipated derby with many observers regarding the north Londoners as slight favourites on the back of an impressive 12-match Premier League unbeaten run.
“Ask me who is the best coach in the English league and I would say Jose Mourinho,” wrote Neville in his Telegraph column on Friday. “But ask me who I would model myself on as an aspiring coach right now and in a flash I would give you the name of Mauricio Pochettino.
“This Spurs-Chelsea game brings together the best coach in the league against my favourite one. In fact Mourinho is probably the best in the world. Three or four bad months would not change my view on that.
“Spurs are not the finished article, and could be weary from their Europa League travels. But make no mistake: there is a transformation under way at Spurs under Pochettino.”
Neville revealed how he spent a day at Spurs’ Enfield training headquarters last season and was hugely impressed by the work going on behind the scenes.
“Pochettino has had to rebuild large parts of the Tottenham house,” explained Roy Hodgson’s assistant coach. “He displayed great skill in manoeuvring and massaging some of the players he inherited out of the way, while imposing his will on the board, and taking charge of the recruitment.
“While proving he can coach a football team he has also shown he can handle a football club.”
Neville believes the values Pochettino is instilling values at White Hart Lane that are not only benefitting Spurs, but also the England team.
“In my role as an England coach I have noticed the difference in psychology and application when Tottenham players come into the camp,” he said. “They now arrive prepared for the battle, ready to play, ready to work. They look like they want to partake in the meetings.
“All the things you would want from responsible players are there. It seems to me that Pochettino has given the younger players the confidence to express themselves, off the pitch as well.
“When you talk to him he speaks about adopting the culture of the league he is in. He speaks warmly about English players. I always have the feeling that some foreign coaches pay lip service to what they believe English players can do. But Pochettino really does believe it.”
Neville name-checked the Spurs players who have improved beyond recognition in a short time under their Argentine manager.
“Eric Dier has progressed from third-choice centre-back to first choice central midfielder. And if you had said to me at the start of the season that a player out of League One (Dele Alli), and a converted centre-back (Dier) who was in and out of the England U-21s, would become the English mainstays in the Spurs midfield, I would have called you deluded.
“Pochettino is not taking ready-baked cakes. He is moulding people. He can change their positions. He can take an Erik Lamela, whose confidence was maybe shot, and turn him into a threatening wide man. Moussa Dembele, who was always talented, now looks the weight he should be. Jan Vertonghen is now able to harness and control his ego.”