Tottenham’s experience of coming up against Leicester in the 2015-16 title race means they will remain humble this time around, says boss Mauricio Pochettino.
Spurs have made themselves potential Premier League champions this season after a sparkling run of form and sit above Manchester City in second, six points off leaders Liverpool, ahead of Saturday’s visit of Wolves.
Many people still consider them outsiders and plenty of neutrals might prefer to see them finish top come May.
That is in stark contrast to three years ago when they were going head-to-head with the people’s champions Leicester, with the general public all getting behind the Foxes as they embarked on a fairy-tale story.
But Spurs found that opposition teams were also rooting for Leicester, notably Chelsea, whose players went public with their opinion before they hosted Pochettino’s men at Stamford Bridge in a decisive game in the title race.
The 2-2 draw handed Leicester the title, but the game will be best remembered for the bad feeling between the two sides, where 12 players were booked.
That left Pochettino and Spurs with a bitter taste in their mouths, ensuring they will do things the right way this time.
“When you are professional you are professional, and some opinions you cannot make public,” he said.
Spurs’ visit to Stamford Bridge was an ill-tempered affair in 2016 after Chelsea players said they wanted Leicester to win the title (John Walton/PA)
“Because after you create a big problem like what happened at Chelsea, remember? That was more like a battle than a football game. Why did that happen? You know very well.
“That’s why it’s compulsory to behave professionally. We translate a lot of emotion to the people.
“When you make public some emotions or opinions when you are professionals, yes (it was annoying).
“Because if you are going to play after against this team you cannot say, ‘I prefer Leicester to win the league’.
“You have to play against Tottenham and Leicester and you are a professional. I accept it may be your feeling that you prefer Leicester to Tottenham but to make it public is different.
“That is what annoyed me and my players and our fans, for sure. But in the end, it’s normal.
“You have your opinion and think maybe it will be Leicester, with less budget and everything, it would be nice for them to win. And it will be a massive history and for the Premier League, it says that all is possible in the Premier League.
“It was an amazing history. But when you are involved and you give your opinion and after you have to play against Tottenham and Leicester, I think it’s not right.”
Despite the possibility of having the neutrals in their corner, Pochettino knows they will not get an easy ride.
“We are not going to receive a favour and nor will another club,” he added.
“But it’s true the season when Leicester were there, and only us were fighting to compete on the same level, of course the sympathy for Leicester was bigger than for Tottenham.
“That was the reality. But they won and they deserved to be the champions of the Premier League. But the sympathy of the neutral people was more for Leicester than for us. This is normal.”
Meanwhile, Harry Kane’s brilliant 2018, which saw him win the Golden Boot at the World Cup, has been rewarded with an MBE in the New Year’s honours list.
“Harry Kane is one of the best strikers in the world – his personality, his character,” his boss beamed.
“He is special. He is a special man not only a special player. All that he can get in his career he fully deserves.”