Mauricio Pochettino believes Oliver Skipp will become a better player than he was himself after being impressed by the 18-year-old’s calmness in his first Tottenham start.
Skipp, the 13th academy product to play for the club under Pochettino, had made two brief substitute appearances prior to Saturday’s 1-0 win over Burnley, but was included in the initial lineup for the first time against the Clarets and impressed in his 75-minute outing.
“I think he played like a 30-year-old man — so relaxed, trying to play forward and trying to give the team what the team needs, with plenty of energy, full energy,” said Pochettino.
“I’m so proud of him. He’s only 18 years old and it was fantastic. Now I think it’s going to be easy for him because always in your debut you’re nervous.
“I said to him, ‘You look so relaxed. When I was 17, going to play, I was so nervous.’ I said, ‘That’s the difference between a player [who’s] going to be a top player and a player who was going to be normal player, like me.’
“In the last few months, he played in the USA in preseason and he showed he can cope with the pressure to play in the first team, and it was only about time and the possibility to give him the opportunity. We’re so happy.”
Spurs left it late to beat Burnley, with substitute Christian Eriksen hitting a 91st-minute winner, but they are now just three points behind second-placed Liverpool in the table and cannot be ignored in the title race.
“We’re in a very good position,” said Pochettino. “We’re there. That’s the reality after 17 games. With 39 points we’re third in the table. That’s a massive achievement for us.
“In football all is possible. Look what happened in the Champions League after three games. [We had] only one point and nobody believed. We believed it was possible and in the end we believed and now we’re in the next stage of the competition.
“There are a lot of things you need to put into consideration but the most important thing in football is belief and faith in the way you play and work, and if you give 100 percent all can happen.”
Asked if he believes his team can win the title, Pochettino replied: “I don’t want to say that because afterwards people will twist my words and ‘yes’. I can tell you that all is possible in football and all can happen.
“We’re going to try, like previous seasons. Maybe this season it can happen but the most important thing is to try and give your best.”
Saturday’s victory was Pochettino’s 100th in the Premier League with Tottenham — a target he had been unaware of before the match.
“Just before [this news conference], a few minutes before, I knew about that,” said the Argentinian. “Jesus [Perez] said to me, ‘Before the game we didn’t want to tell you because it’s like a superstition.’
“It’s many games we played and many games we won, and I think it’s a fantastic achievement for us collectively.”