John Brewin: Kieran Trippier’s Spurs exit looks a huge mistake from Pochettino

He’s flying in Spain.


He is a member of a truly select club of English footballers.

And for a while Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker, Kieran Trippier, the only Englishmen to score in a World Cup semi-final, was beginning to recall the “Oxford, Cambridge, Hull” trick that Captain Blackadder used to smoke out Nurse Mary as a First World Ward German spy.

For much of last season, the majestic free-kick that Trippier whipped past Croatia’s Danijel Subasic in the Luzhniki Stadium was a bittersweet memory as his form collapsed, and so did Mauricio Pochettino’s faith in a full-back he had previously trusted to replace Kyle Walker.

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The summer’s £20m sale to Atletico Madrid was unlamented by many Spurs fans, or at least until their club made little to no attempt to find a new right-back.

Among a litany of problems for Pochettino this season has been his failure to find a reliable right-back with Kyle Walker-Peters callow and having suffered injuries and Serge Aurier wildly indisciplined. Last weekend, during that harrowing 3-0 loss to Brighton, Moussa Sissoko filled in at the position and proved himself none too adept just as Davinson Sanchez has previously struggled in an unfamiliar position.

Meanwhile, Trippier has quickly assimilated himself into life in the Spanish capital.

Diego Simeone’s team has the stingiest defence in La Liga and Trippier has been recalled to the England squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Montenegro.

“How’s the NFL,” he asked Harry Kane as the two met up at St George’s Park, a nod to his former club now sharing its facilities with a different sport.

His performances for Atletico Madrid have been noticed by Gareth Southgate, a coach who has appreciated the wider spread of talent of England players across the continent in the last couple of years; Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho has become a regular. Assistant-manager Steve Holland’s trip to a goalless Madrid derby late last month appears to have been enough to convince Southgate that Trippier deserved the call-up, and ahead of Walker with Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka out injured.

In Spain, the quality of Trippier’s crossing has been compared to compatriot David Beckham, a predecessor in making the move to Madrid. Trippier’s corner set up Hector Herrera’s late equaliser in last month’s 2-2 draw with Juventus, a game in which Trippier acquitted himself well against Cristiano Ronaldo and company.

Simeone’s rigid defensive structure does seem to have ironed out the positional problems that were a feature of Tripper’s last season in London. He has thrown himself into Castilian life and is doing his best to learn the language quickly, or at least quicker than Gareth Bale has managed.

Trippier has shown himself to be a player capable of responding to setbacks.

He built himself a decent career at Burnley after failing to make the grade at Manchester City. In 2008, just as the club gained the wherewithal from its Abu Dhabi takeover, he turned 18, and his talent fell by the wayside, just like many graduates from what had been an acclaimed youth set-up under Jim Cassell.

Mauricio Pochettino Bayern Munich

Under Sean Dyche, his class was visible even within the hard-work ethic and back-to-basics approach that is asked of Burnley players. And his four years at Tottenham coincided with the club having its best team for 30 years, before his time at the club came to an end in last season’s Champions League final.

The loss of form that he suffered, full of mistakes that bore the hallmarks of fatigue and perhaps a little confusion over his role, would not be such an outlier this season.

Tottenham’s current troubles are personified by a group of players suffering very similar problems.

Dele Alli is not in Southgate’s squad, having done next to nothing to be worthy of an England place or even in Spurs’ first team to head up a group of players who have suffered a severe plunge in previously high standards.

From Danny Rose and Jan Verthongen’s mistakes to Hugo Lloris’ repeated pratfalls, the near-disappearance of Eric Dier, Christian Eriksen’s strange retreat to the periphery to the idea that even Harry Kane is not quite the player he was three years ago, then Trippier’s post-World Cup slide can be viewed as a prelude to what would eventually happen to much of Pochettino’s team.

The last few weeks have suggested the collective slide is terminal and that the manager may not been around much longer.

Pochettino’s declaration last week that he might be around as long as five years now borders on fantasy.

High among Pochettino’s frustrations at Tottenham are said to be an inability to refresh a team for whom the youthful vibrancy of two-three years ago has now faded. That Tripper was allowed to leave for what looks a bargain price, having been able to shop himself around to Manchester United and Juventus before heading to Spain, now looks an error.

Pochettino is a player’s manager but has a propensity to cut dead those he has no further use of.

Being ruthless is the mark of the best managers – where Sir Alex Ferguson often bested Arsene Wenger was in being better at cutting loose previously loyal servants – but Pochettino has been hamstrung by not being able to spend the cash he would like to refresh those who have exceeded their usefulness.

The treatment Trippier received with two years left on his contract is perhaps how the Argentinian would like to deal with a number of his players, but the tight rein of Daniel Levy does not make that possible.

“I didn’t get the impression that they wanted to keep me,” Trippier said last month. “It is football. It happens.”

He took it upon himself to find a different path and, playing for one of the toughest managers and teams in the game, has refreshed himself and won back his England place, to remind his former club what they gave up on.

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