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 By John Crace
Aug 2, 2014

Spurs show promising signs

Mauricio Pochettino's men claimed a third straight preseason win with a victory versus Celtic.

It's never a good idea to read too much into a team's preseason form, but a 6-1 win is not something to be dismissed.

Celtic may not have been the strongest opposition -- their first team had been thrashed 4-1 by Legia Warsaw on Wednesday in a Champions League qualifier, and they fielded a young side on Saturday -- but Spurs also had fire power in reserve: Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Paulinho, Mousa Dembele, Kyle Walker and Nacer Chadli all sat this one out. Even the most sanguine and long-suffering of Spurs fans can't help but feel more optimistic than a few weeks back.

Poor sides still have to be beaten and, in recent seasons, Tottenham have frequently failed to capitalise on their advantage against inferior opposition. Thus, to win convincingly and in style, this suggests something is clicking, and it's hard not to think that the crucial difference is the new manager, Mauricio Pochettino. Spurs have made few inroads into the transfer market so far this summer -- left-back Ben Davies is the only acquisition almost guaranteed a first team place -- and the squad is almost identical to the one that struggled in finishing sixth last season.

The team, though, looks and feels rather different. There is a detectable confidence and belief that was missing. It could just be that Pochettino's greatest asset is that he isn't Andre Villas Boas or Tim Sherwood -- both of whom, the players knew, did not have the backing of the board; in which case, good luck to him.

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Of course, every new manager needs a bit of good fortune to go his way, but if it is the case that Pochettino has the necessary man-management skills to get the best out of players who had been unmotivated and had underperformed, then so much the better.

What is indisputable is that things are going Pochettino's way so far, and the players he really needs to perform are doing so. Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Lewis Holtby all had seasons they would rather forget last year. Lamela struggled to live up to his billing as the club's most expensive player, then he got injured and was barely seen again after Christmas, Soldado couldn't buy a goal other than from the penalty spot, and Holtby's stock fell so low he was shipped out on loan to Fulham.

Though all are now back in the frame and playing well, they remain potentially fragile, and so that each of them ended up on the scoresheet is far more important to the club than the 6-1 result against Celtic.

These are the goals that are soon forgotten when the season is up and running, but they are, nonetheless, the building blocks of its success. More good news came with Emmanuel Adebayor getting a run out. Malaria can be a debilitating illness, and for him to be fit and ready for the opening league game at West Ham in a fortnight's time is a bonus. The Togolese showed he also hasn't lost his scoring touch, slotting home a late penalty.

There is a sense that this Tottenham team is taking shape and that progress is being made. Pochettino's next test will be how to slot the returning World Cup players back into the team. Or, indeed, to decide how many of them should be in it. If he can get that right, everyone at White Hart Lane might just be in for a pleasant surprise.

John Crace

John Crace is a columnist and feature writer for The Guardian. He is a THFC season-ticket holder and has written the books "Harry's Games: Inside the Mind of Harry Redknapp" and "Vertigo: One Football Fan's Fear of Success." Follow him on Twitter @digestedread.

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