When Mauricio Pochettino exiled Andros Townsend for shoving Tottenham’s fitness coach in the chest, Daniel Levy remarked that the ruthless measure reminded him of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Although Pochettino, 44, publicly insisted that there was a route back into the first team, Townsend’s demotion to the development squad sent a message to everyone at the club.
No matter how well Townsend played for the Under 21s in the months that followed — and he was outstanding — his card was marked. Cross Pochettino and you are out.
He was sold to Newcastle for £12million last month without making another first-team appearance, ensuring Tottenham turned a profit for the four transfer windows overseen by Pochettino since he became the club’s head coach in 2014.
After Spurs’ impressive 2-1 victory at Manchester City on Sunday, Sportsmail’s Jamie Carragher said of the Argentine: ‘It would be the best managerial performance in Premier League history if Tottenham go on and win the league.’
Inside Lilywhite House, the towering new building that has sprung up in anticipation of the club’s new stadium, the workspaces are awash with talk of Tottenham’s first league title in 55 years.
They have recovered fully from their 1-0 home defeat by Leicester on January 13. That reverse was only their third in the league all season but they have since won every game in league and FA Cup and find themselves two points off the top with 12 games to go.
Pochettino has formed a strong bond with Levy, possibly the best manager-chairman relationship since the billionaire Joe Lewis bought the club in 2001.
Pochettino has a far more appealing disposition than many of his predecessors, shaking hands with first-team players and staff when he arrives at their magnificent training centre each morning.
Jesus Perez, the engaging assistant head coach who accompanies Pochettino to every media engagement, and Miguel D’Agostino, who has recently spent time at St George’s Park on the UEFA Pro Licence course, are loyal men.
Pochettino still misses his old life in Spain, where he formed a close relationship with Barcelona’s legendary defender Carles Puyol. They still speak regularly.
The manager operates an open-door policy in his office for young players such as Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Kieran Trippier.
Training sessions often finish with a competitive game of head tennis, with Pochettino still eager to teach the young bucks a thing or two after a playing career that included an appearance in the 2002 World Cup finals with Argentina.
After lunch he has taken to spending an hour in the gym, pounding the treadmill after his wife told her husband that he was putting on a bit of timber. His Tottenham team are one of the fittest in the league, pushed hard by him and the club’s fitness coach, Nathan Gardiner.
The message is that they will run further and faster than any of their opponents. Only Bournemouth have covered more ground this season and on Sunday Spurs ran six miles further than City.
Beyond the league, they are chasing further honours in the Europa League and FA Cup. A Champions League spot at least looks secure with a 10-point gap to Manchester United in fifth.
Pochettino has established the team’s principles, with their excellent keeper Hugo Lloris working the ball out to Tottenham’s full backs at every opportunity. Every day they work on his distribution with each foot, the one area he needs to improve on when he plays short passes. Spurs’ full backs are interchangeable from game to game, with Danny Rose and Ben Davies on the left, and Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier trading places on the right.
Pochettino also has the ability to identify a problem and solve it. Last season, only four teams conceded more goals than Tottenham’s 53. Ths season, Spurs boast the best defensive record in the Premier League with just 20 goals against.
He has a progressive outlook, with the sunny side of his personality underlined by his decision on Sunday to replace a tiring Alli with Erik Lamela.
It proved decisive, with his fellow countryman providing the assist for Christian Eriksen’s late winner. The Dane is now discussing a contract extension at the club.
Coaching a team with Spurs’ ambitions is new territory for Pochettino and recently he allowed his guard to slip when quizzed about their title chances.
At first he suggested title talk had been banned, before accepting that his players are daring to dream.
The reality is that they finally have a manager who can make it happen.