Mauricio Pochettino empathises with supporters angry about the Premier League’s decision to move Chelsea’s trip to Wolves to Christmas Eve, admitting it has thrown his festive plans and anniversary celebrations with his wife into chaos.
The league confirmed on Thursday that the fixture, which has been pushed back 24 hours to accommodate TV coverage, will be the first played on December 24 since Manchester United played Leeds in 1995, a move that has drawn a backlash from fans.
Scheduled for a 1pm kick-off, it could leave supporters struggling to make travel arrangements with train timetables typically amended or curtailed the day before Christmas, while there are also concerns it will impact time supporters traditionally spend with family.
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Pochettino is set to be doubly affected by the move, as not only is it Argentinian custom to begin Christmas celebrations late on December 24, the previous day also marks his and his wife’s 31st wedding anniversary – which he will now spend travelling to Wolverhampton.
Despite not being consulted by the league he conceded that the club has little choice but to go along, but backed objections by supporters who have spoken out.
“It’s a little bit strange but we need to accept the rules of the Premier League, that we need to go there and to play,” said Pochettino.
“(In Argentina) we celebrate on the night of the 24th. At 12 o’clock on the night we start to celebrate Christmas. More than the 25th because you’re asleep nearly all day. Here it’s different because you celebrate on the 25th with the family.
“I need to see things in a different way. For sure our fans are not happy but we need to accept this new era in football.
“(The Premier League) didn’t ask us. They wanted some meeting with me and all the coaches one week before the season. I said I’m more than happy to share time with you, but it’s better if you prepare the meeting before the end of the season to prepare the next season.
“If they ask me I will give my opinion, but at the moment we are not involved in the decisions.”
He added: “I don’t know what to do (with my wife). I need to find some ideas to compensate. (Search online for) ‘unhappy wife’.”
The Wolves game is the first of three in seven days for Chelsea over the Christmas period, with Crystal Palace due at Stamford Bridge on the evening of December 27 before visiting Luton on December 30.
The Palace game has been moved from Boxing Day in order to accommodate the controversial Christmas Eve fixture.
Pochettino reiterated that supporters’ concerns must be paramount in scheduling decisions.
“We play and we work and all that we are doing is for our fans,” he said. “Without fans, football (is nothing). We need to protect, and to care, and to look after our fans.
“Of course I agree with them, that I am not happy if they are not happy. It’s common sense. I can understand.
“I don’t know what is behind it. I don’t know why. No one explained. I cannot tell. I hope it’s one time and never again, but we’ll see what happens.
“People love football in England and they are going to be there. Our fans are going to be there supporting the team. But I don’t know if it’s going to be a regular situation.”
Asked whether the club would offer a new contract to Conor Gallagher – who has captained the side in the absence of injured pair Reece James and Ben Chilwell – Pochettino likened the situation to the balancing act he now faces on the home front.
“It’s like how we were talking about my wife,” he said. “It’s about to match and to feel good being together. It’s like a marriage with the club. They both need to feel good, then you can drive at a good deal.
“He is a player that is doing fantastic. He’s an amazing player and we’re so happy with the way he is doing things.”