A Few Good Minutes, Tottenham Players Give All on the Pitch

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Tottenham Hotspur's Harvey White and Dane Scarlett with Ben Davies. (Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 26: Tottenham Hotspur's Harvey White and Dane Scarlett with Ben Davies. (Photo by Ashley Western/MB Media/Getty Images) /

For many football teams being substituted on for the last minutes of the match can be insulting, at Tottenham Hotspur coming on to close a game is a badge of honor.

Last season as Tottenham were up and down in the clubs abbreviated first season under José Mourinho, there was a common question about where Mourinho’s trademark defense was. Now just over a full year into José’s tenure, hard nosed defense is what earns players time. That playing time is significant because if just for an hour, five minutes or even 30 seconds, José Mourinho notices.

More Than a Cameo

Playing the last few minutes of a competitive match under José Mourinho is not just a cameo appearance. Even when he sent on three youngsters a couple weeks ago in Europe, it was because the young lads had earned the chance to play. The last few weeks in the Premier League have seen Spurs working to close out matches and take away the points.

When the game is on the line, instead of the youngsters who have earned their chance, it is the senior players who give their all every time who get the call. Those minutes are big, because they come at the point in the game where everyone is watching, and any mistake is tenfold as there is no time to recover.

In these instances where Mourinho wants players to work hard off the ball to keep it away from the Tottenham goal, you start to see who the coach trusts. Further Mourinho makes a point to ensure everyone knows about the contribution.

Recognizing the Smaller Contributions

After each of the last three Premier League matches, José Mourinho has commented about the contributions from his bench. Against Manchester City, Mourinho was talking about how proud of the team he was and how the players all had “a big spirit”. He then said “every player” had that spirit, including, Lucas, Gio, and Rodon who were the three substitutes.

Do not think for a second José Mourinho mentioning his players like that after the match is accidental. It is meant to send a message that he notices the effort, and everyone needs to be ready at a moments notice, there are no excuses, even “it’s my first time”. For Rodon it was his Premier League debut coming on for an injured Toby Alderweireld.

Against Chelsea, Mourinho pointed out the late contributions of Ben Davies and Lucas Moura. Davies came on in the 89th minutes and Moura in injury time. It was not lost on Mourinho that the Brazilian had intercepted a pass and gotten it to fellow substitute Giovani Lo Celso for the one chance that could have taken all three points for Spurs. Moura was ready, so he continues to get the call.

This past week against Arsenal, José Mourinho again noted all three of his substitutes; none of which played more than 20 minutes. Ben Davies, who played 19 minutes plus injury time “did his job”. Lucas Moura who came on at 88 minutes for Son Heung-Min “ran like crazy”. Even Joe Rodon “won a header” in his almost 90 seconds on the pitch.

The point José Mourinho has been reiterating to his team and players is simple, you can control two things, your activity, and your attitude. If you play – even if it is just 1 minute – with the right activity and attitude, the coach will notice, and it will earn you more opportunities to prove yourself in the future. And for those not getting the call today, at least what they need to do when the call comes is clear, even if that call is for the fans!