Tottenham World Cup stars deserve 'massive credit' for Newcastle win - Pochettino
NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, England -- Mauricio Pochettino has hailed the professionalism and commitment of his World Cup semifinalists after Tottenham Hotspur kicked off their campaign with a victory at Newcastle United.
Nine of Spurs' players reached the final four in Russia and only returned to training on Monday -- just five days before the opening fixture at St James' Park.
But five of them started the match, while Mousa Dembele came off the bench, and first-half goals from Jan Vertonghen and Dele Alli secured a 2-1 triumph on Tyneside.
"I told you [the other day] that many of the players returned in a good condition," Pochettino said. "I was so happy about that. There were many good performances from players that were very professional during their holidays.
"I think all the squad showed their commitment with the club, with the team. We feel so proud about that.
"If you put all the circumstances together, our players deserve massive, massive credit for the victory because it wasn't easy. They started to work on Monday and tried to prepare and start to work in the same way as the previous season."
Harry Kane struggled to get into the game and continues to wait for his first ever Premier League goal in August. The England captain has now gone 14 August games in the competition without scoring.
But Pochettino said: "Score or not score, I don't have doubts about this. He's in his best form. He worked a lot for the team. Be sure that he is going to score. But what happens with Harry is that he cannot score three goals in every game."
England duo Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose were absent from the squad, while Eric Dier limped off and Lucas Moura was spotted with an ice pack on his groin after being replaced.
Pochettino has allayed injury concerns but says he will be sharing minutes around to keep everyone as fresh as possible and give all of his squad members opportunities to fight for places.
"Nobody is injured. Only it is about taking the best decision," he said. "All the squad and all the players will have the possibility to play. I think the most important thing is that we are 25, 26, 28 players.
"Eric Dier was so tired. He felt in the end cramp, but Lucas, nothing. They are ok. I hope that Monday they will start to train with the team.
"I think it was very good competition today, with a big squad. There's massive competition between them and I'm going to rotate in the next few weeks, trying to give the possibility to all the players to play and be important."
Pochettino continued: "I told them yesterday, for me, it's like we start from zero. All the players who want to stay in Tottenham, they need to show their commitment, and their commitment until the end is not one week, two weeks, one month.
"If they choose to stay in Tottenham the rules are so clear. The manager decides who plays, names or no names. Who deserves is going to be on the pitch.
"Of course the players are going to have a process to improve their fitness. But we are in the competition, and if the young ones like Luke Amos deserve to be on the bench and maybe play, they are going to play. You know me. It's not because they were at the World Cup that they are going to play in the team.
"If we want to win and challenge for big things we need to all put our minds and energy into the collective and understand that the collective is the most important.
"If some individuals' goals or targets are the priority for them then, sure, they are not going to help the team and, sure, that is why they are going to be out of the pitch and the squad."
Amos appeared for his first-team debut at St James' Park after getting a pep talk from Pochettino on the touchline.
"He was so relaxed and calm and I said 'Come on, you need to show energy,'" Pochettino said. "No, he was so calm and relaxed and I said to him 'you just play how you know how to play -- easy -- and enjoy. Football is about enjoyment."