LONDON (Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur’s success in claiming a top-four Premier League finish on Wednesday to guarantee Champions League football next season has been a “massive achievement”, manager Mauricio Pochettino said.
Spurs will have played “38 away games” by the end of the campaign, the Argentine told reporters, after a 1-0 win over Newcastle United at their temporary Wembley Stadium home which has been used while a new White Hart Lane ground is built.
“It was a real quality season for the group to achieve the top four — a massive achievement,” he said after England striker Harry Kane’s second-half goal secured the three points that took Spurs up to third and clear of Chelsea in fifth.
The win also means Tottenham, who have again missed out on a trophy, will finish the season as the top London club for the first time since the 1994-95 campaign, a statistic Pochettino was happy to highlight at the post-match news conference.
The critics will argue that winning silverware is what the game is all about but Spurs are making progress under Pochettino and finishing above Chelsea and Arsenal is no mean feat given the tight wage structure at the north London club.
Next season Spurs will again cross swords with the elite of European football having been unfortunate to exit the Champions League in the last 16 to Juventus after finishing above Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the group stage.
The importance of Champions League football and the money it brings cannot be overstated given the rising costs of their 62,000 seat stadium which, according to British media reports, could rise to as much as one billion pounds ($1.35 billion).
Financing the stadium and developing a team that can compete for major honours is a tricky balancing act with their London rivals Arsenal under departing manager Arsene Wenger being a prime example of a club that has struggled to achieve it.
“For the club it’s a massive thing to move into the new stadium and play in the Champions League,” said Pochettino, who has yet to win a trophy in his four years at Tottenham.
“It will be another massive challenge (at the new stadium) — the same as playing at Wembley. (But) this group of players now have the experience to make the new stadium feel like home.
“Thirty eight games away for home. Maybe people didn’t realise it was so tough for the players and for the staff and for the fans... to move from White Hart Lane to Wembley.
“To achieve the top four in that condition despite many things that happened during the season — if you’re not strong — mentally and physically — and you don’t show passion, it’s difficult to achieve what we have achieved today.”
Reporting by Ken Ferris, Editing by Ed Osmond