LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur’s record signing Tanguy Ndombele was booed off the pitch by his own fans after being substituted in his team’s unconvincing 3-1 FA Cup third round win against League One strugglers Morecambe on Sunday.
The midfielder, who has struggled to live up to his 54 million pounds ($73 million) fee after signing from Olympique Lyonnais in 2019, was one of three Tottenham players to be hauled off by manager Antonio Conte in the 69th minute.
Frenchman Ndombele, one of several of Tottenham’s starting line-up to flop in a dismal first half in which they trailed to a goal by Anthony O’Connor, then incurred the fans’ wrath by walking off the pitch at a snail’s pace.
A crescendo of boos rang out as home fans took out their frustration on the midfielder who was often criticised by former Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho for his lack of fitness.
It was only Ndombele’s third start since Conte arrived in November to replace Nuno Espirito Santo, and after this latest below-par display it is hard to see how he can turn things around and a loan move in January could be on the cards.
Asked about the fans’ reaction to Ndombele, who went straight down the tunnel, Conte said: “I was so focused on the game because we were losing 1-0. This type of situation, they are in football. You have to be good to try to change opinions. If someone is disappointed with you. It’s normal.
“I was a player and it happened sometimes to me that someone was unhappy with my performance. This is our life. We have to continue to work and try to be better next time.”
Goals by Harry Winks and substitutes Lucas Moura and Harry Kane spared Tottenham’s blushes to set up a fourth-round home tie against Premier League Brighton and Hove Albion.
The worry for Conte was that his starting eleven, while missing several regulars, was packed with experienced players including Dele Alli, Winks and Giovani Lo Celso.
Yet they failed dismally to impose themselves on a Morecambe side battling to avoid dropping into the fourth tier and whose manager Stephen Robinson was missing after testing positive for COVID-19. Only when Conte sent on the cavalry did Tottenham salvage the situation.
“I think honestly that in this type of game it’s right to give chances, to give opportunities to the players who weren’t playing for a long time,” Conte said.
“I think that we have to do much better and also to know that we have to struggle. At the end, I think we have to be a bit disappointed because I think we can do much better.”
($1 = 0.7361 pounds)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)