LONDON (Reuters) - Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has apologised to FA Cup fifth round opponents Rochdale for comments about the state of the third-tier club’s pitch ahead of Sunday’s tie.
The Argentine had said last week that the heavily-sanded surface, which has since been replaced, posed a “massive risk” for players and was “not in a condition to play football”.
Rochdale, whose manager Keith Hill had dismissed the criticism as a “low blow” and an “easy punch”, have laid down a new pitch for the Premier League club’s visit.
“I want to apologise to some people at Rochdale, the chairman, the people who were taking in a wrong way my comments,” Pochettino told a news conference on Friday.
“It’s a game all England is going to watch on TV. I was concerned about the FA Cup, the football and the image that we are going to send. I care for their players too, not only for my players.”
Pochettino said the new surface looked ‘fantastic’.
“Their effort was massive. I know that they have worked very hard to put it in the best condition and I apologise again if somebody has taken my comments in the wrong way,” he added.
Spurs have not played Rochdale before but will need no reminding the Cup can be a leveller after they needed a Wembley replay to beat League Two side Newport in the fourth round.
They beat Arsenal 1-0 on Saturday in the North London derby before coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Serie A title holders Juventus in their Champions League last 16, first leg in midweek but Pochettino said that was all history now.
“We don’t have time to enjoy that we won the derby, or our draw in Turin and how we played in the Champions League on Tuesday night. This is a different game, a different competition and it will be tough,” he said.
Tottenham’s top scorer and England striker Harry Kane looks doubtful after picking up an injury against Juventus.
“He twisted his ankle and received a knock. We need to assess him tomorrow,” said Pochettino. “If he is fit maybe he has the possibility to play, if he is not 100 percent he could be on the bench or maybe half an hour, or 20 minutes.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Ken Ferris