Micky Hazard will applaud former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino when he returns with Chelsea and hopes “class and dignity” will be shown by the club’s supporters.
Pochettino will come back to Spurs for the first time since his 2019 dismissal on Monday night, but could be greeted with boos due to a fanbase split over his decision to join bitter rivals Chelsea despite a memorable five years in N17.
The climax of Pochettino’s tenure was a remarkable run to the Champions League final, while he also masterminded two ultimately unsuccessful title challenges.
Ex-midfielder Hazard has walked in Pochettino’s shoes after he left boyhood club Spurs in 1985 to move to Stamford Bridge, but remembers his return 12 months later where he scored twice in a 3-1 win for Chelsea.
“When I went back, I would like to think I got applause and cheers because the fans respected the job I did for them,” 1984 UEFA Cup winner Hazard told the PA news agency.
“They also respected I had a job to do because I was at another club and it was no slur on Spurs that I scored two goals. And it almost felt like it was two own goals because Spurs is my team.
“When Pochettino comes back and while the rivalry is that much greater nowadays, I think it is important as a fanbase we rise above it.
“We can show dignity and class by welcoming him back – not giving him a guard of honour as Ange (Postecoglou) says but when his name is read out, to give him a round of applause as acknowledgement and recognition of what he achieved.
“Then we go out and try to win the game and Poch is the enemy then, but ultimately we have to respect the job he did. I for one will certainly give him a round of applause when his name is read out.”
Pundits had expected Pochettino to hit the ground running at Chelsea and Tottenham to struggle without record scorer Harry Kane.
The opposite has occurred, with Postecoglou embarking on a superb 10-game unbeaten start to the Premier League season, and Hazard lauded the impact of summer signing James Maddison.
He added: “Look, anyone that loses a player of the stature and quality of Harry Kane is not going to be a better side because of it, but what Ange has managed to do is introduce a style where the players enjoy playing to that style.
“Of course James Maddison has come in and been the hub of the team with the creativity. That’s something we haven’t had for a while, that instinctive, creative, flair player that can unlock tight defences, play telling passes and score the odd goal, so he has been a revelation.
“It has been a real pleasure for me to see and he has ignited quality elsewhere in the team as well, which is brilliant.
“It feels like the players have all been given the freedom of expression within the framework of what Ange wants. There are smiley, happy faces on the pitch and we’re playing smiley, happy football, so they both go hand-in-hand and for me it is a joy to watch.”
While Hazard acknowledged there are “bigger tests” to come for Spurs, they pale into insignificance compared to the challenge his family has faced in recent times.
Hazard’s nephew Jay took his own life in 2019 but through the darkest of periods Hazard’s sister Michelle joined forces with her brother to set up Legend on the Bench charity.
It aims to raise funds to put benches in parks across the UK with telephone numbers on to help with suicide prevention and the first bench in memory of Jay, which will have the numbers of mental health helplines lit up, will be installed on February 28 in Sawbridgeworth.
The next fundraising event will occur at Fishers Green Car Park on November 18 with a 10-kilometre trek.
“We set the charity up in memory of Jay and we decided to go down the path of fundraising to help people in similar situations because we had no idea Jay was about to do it. He never spoke to anybody,” Hazard reflected.
“We named it Legend on the Bench and people sometimes think we mean like former players, but no, it is the name of the telephone numbers because they are the people who are the legends, the people that people will ring and who will save them.
“And the message is talk. There is always someone there to listen or to talk to, so if you are sitting there in your moment of need, just give those numbers a call and someone will be ready to talk to and possibly we save a life.”