In football there’s a significant difference between fighting for your place, and fighting a losing battle. Andros Townsend has to recognise that the former has turned into the latter, and find himself a new club.
The 24-year-old England international isn’t a troublemaker, but he finds himself ostracized from Tottenham Hotspur’s first team squad. This morning he was banished; cast aside in that age old, always dreaded position, of being told to train with the kids. I’ve been there. It’s not a whole lot of fun.
First things first, the winger had to be punished by Mauricio Pochettino for embroiling himself in a row with fitness coach Nathan Gardiner on Monday night. No matter how annoyed they feel, a player can’t shove a staff member in the chest, and expect to get away with it scot-free.
Although the usually mild-mannered midfielder has apologized, it’s been made clear he’s ‘not available to be selected’ until further notice.
That’s strong, but fair enough providing the Spurs boss would treat Harry Kane in exactly the same way had it been his star striker doing the shoving. Would his main man have been axed so suddenly at an indiscretion though? I have my doubts. When a manager needs someone, they’ll pick and choose the sanctions carefully.
That’s why I feel great sympathy for Townsend’s predicament. When your face doesn’t fit at a football club, it can easily drive you crazy with pent-up frustration.
We also need to put his exasperation into context. It wasn’t just an over-eager fitness coach that pushed him over the edge…
It began to go wrong at Old Trafford last March, when Pochettino brutally took the winger off after just 31 minutes against Manchester United. Unapologetically his Argentine boss later explained that, “it was a tactical decision to help us keep the ball better”. It was a damning assessment.
Being substituted in the first half is a very bad sign. It happened to me once away at Bournemouth on a Tuesday night, and my relationship with the manager was never quite the same again. I was embarrassed, and I knew the gaffer’s tactical trust in me was damaged, almost beyond repair.
Perhaps then, it’s no surprise that since Townsend’s humiliation at the Theatre of Dreams, he’s started just two Premier League games.
This season the Spurs man has made three substitute appearances, totaling a grand total of 64 minutes, including an impressive late cameo at the Stadium of Light; a performance that went unrewarded.
Pochettino’s faith in Townsend is fading away - and the player knows it.
People will be quick to slaughter the wide man for ‘losing it’ but being told to do a running session after a game is one of football’s horrible, hidden experiences.
I know they’re paid a fortune, but at a time when you’re thoroughly fed up at being unused on the bench, the prospect of being flogged for 30 minutes of mind-numbing runs inside an empty stadium is the last thing you need.
When it happened to me I always felt like a kid that had been made to do detention.
While I understand the concept of maintaining fitness, the post-match physical was more of a punishment. Why not come in when the others had a day off and take part in a football-specific session instead? It would be more beneficial too.
The truth is managers don’t care too much about the feelings of out-of-favour players. Sometimes, heaven forbid, they’ll even deliberately push buttons designed at forcing them to walk away.
Pochettino says he’s not written Townsend off as a Spurs player, and that it’s down to the player to fight for his place. I’m not convinced that’s true. His race at White Hart Lane looks like it’s been run.
Townsend must leave Tottenham in January, and start again elsewhere.
He’s an excellent player. All he needs to do is find a manager who trusts him again.
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