EPL

Mauricio Pochettino wants to build ‘genuine relationship’ with Chelsea fans

By Sports Desk April 05, 2024

Mauricio Pochettino admits it was a risk to join Chelsea given his Tottenham connections but remains determined to build a “genuine relationship” with supporters following the stunning 4-3 win over Manchester United.

Cole Palmer’s strike in the 11th minute of stoppage time was the latest winning goal on record in the Premier League and sparked an eruption of joy around Stamford Bridge, previously the scene of seething discontent as home fans have watched their side plummet down the table.

Pochettino and his players have been booed off more than once this season, with the worst reaction coming after they were beaten 4-2 by Wolves early in February, though there was also audible disquiet as they struggled to overcome Championship sides Leeds and Leicester in the FA Cup.

However, the team are unbeaten in the league since that loss to Wolves, and on top of progressing to the cup semi-final where they will face Manchester City, on Thursday they gave supporters surely their most memorable moment since Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium bought the club almost two years ago.

Palmer’s winner, his third goal of the night and just seconds after he had levelled the game at 3-3 from the penalty spot, triggered a release of emotion shared by Pochettino and home fans, and was reward for a performance in which Chelsea had shown moments of great attacking promise.

“I arrived to Chelsea in a different project than in the previous 10 years,” said Pochettino, who took over from caretaker boss Frank Lampard in July last year.

“I played with my reputation to come here, in a project to build a team with young players, talented players.

“We knew it was a massive challenge to build a team, win games and to be competitive, to take the risk with the fans.

“I said from the beginning, I want to build a genuine relationship. Not kissing the badge or doing stupid things on the touch line to win the (favour) of the fans.

“I want to prove the team the tools to win games, to make them believe in ourselves and to build a relationship. I’m not here to be a populist and a hypocrite and say ‘I love the fans’, because I know it’s about time to build this relationship.”

Pochettino spent more than five years in charge of rivals Spurs, who he guided to the Champions League final in 2019 before being sacked less than six months later.

One of his most famous games in charge came in May 2016 when his team threw away a 2-0 lead against Chelsea in a bad-tempered game in west London to hand Leicester the title, a match which became known as the Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have looked a long way from hitting such heights under the Argentinian, but by maintaining their unbeaten streak with the late drama against United, victory at Bramall Lane against Sheffield United on Sunday would place them in touching distance of qualifying for next season’s Europa League.

“We have nine games to play still,” said Pochettino. “If we win them all, for sure we will be in Europe.”

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