Mauricio Pochettino is pragmatic ahead of a “special” first return to St Mary’s since leaving Southampton for Tottenham.
The Argentine swapped the south coast for White Hart Lane last summer after guiding Saints to eighth place in the Premier League.
Spurs enter Saturday’s match one point ahead of Southampton in sixth, with it possible Pochettino could receive a less-than-welcome reception at his former home after sparking a mass exodus.
Many of his backroom staff followed him to Spurs, while the likes of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren all departed, leaving Dutchman Ronald Koeman to rebuild the squad.
Pochettino knows he may be jeered, but has no wish to be “popular”.
“This is my first time going back since I left,” Pochettino said.
“We are very emotional people. It is a special return.
“Maybe it (booing) happens. I understand the supporters.
“I don’t want to be popular. I want to be an honest person and do my job.
“I will expect nothing special. We need to accept that if they were upset because we take another way, the club and us.
“This is not easy for them and difficult to understand the decision. I never had an opportunity to explain but this is football.
“(But) the decision is done. We don’t need to explain. The most important thing is that Southampton are having a great season and we are here and I am happy to be here and that is the best thing.”
Pochettino has fond memories of his 18 months at Southampton and says those who know him well at St Mary’s will be happy to see him.
“When people ask me about Southampton, always it is a very good thing for me,” he added.
“A lot of people love us and we love a lot of people in Southampton.
“The people who know us from the club and who were close to us they know how we are and how we were and we were very honest and very professional in one and a half years.
“That is difficult to explain to the normal people as they are not involved every day. This is football.”
Pochettino’s move was perceived to be better, but Spurs could yet finish below his former club in the Premier League table.
“We are in a different process than Southampton,” he added.
“We are in a different moment of our project. I think that Southampton is a very different project than we have here.
“(I) never doubted about Southampton reaching something good. Firstly, because they signed a very good manager.
“With a lot of money from selling players, (they) could invest nearly B#80million. They signed very good players.
“Southampton deserve to stay in the position that they are in now.”
Pochettino has often spoken of his first season at Spurs being one of transition, but now his chosen structures are in place he is optimistic of climbing the Premier League and challenging for Champions League football in future.
“It’s a very exciting project in the next few years,” he added.
“We have the structure that we want. Here, now. This is very important.
“It’s important that we have a plan now, only we need time. You know in football it’s difficult to take time. But, if the chairman, the boss (Daniel Levy) wants to develop this project, we are here and ready to do the job.
“This is a season with a lot of positive things. Maybe it’s difficult to reach the top four because you fight with the big sides.
“We are very happy, me and my staff, to be here and develop a different project and try to move forward the club in the next few seasons to fight for the top four. This is our challenge now.”
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