It's not easy to be a referee - Pochettino responds to Clattenburg comments

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Mauricio Pochettino refused to criticise under-fire referee Mark Clattenburg over controversial comments he made about Tottenham's infamous collapse that handed the Premier League title to Leicester City in May 2016.

Spurs had to beat Chelsea to keep the title race alive but let a two-goal lead slip, with Clattenburg showing 12 yellow cards - nine to Tottenham players - in a bad-tempered affair at Stamford Bridge.

Clattenburg told NBC he went into the match with a "gameplan" to allow Spurs to "self-destruct" and ensure he could not be blamed for the club missing out on the title, claiming he could have sent three of Pochettino's team off.

Midfielder Mousa Dembele was later banned for six matches as a result of a clash with Chelsea striker Diego Costa, while both clubs were fined for failing to control their players.

Clattenburg said his comments had been taken out of context but, when pressed on the subject ahead of Wednesday's Champions League game against APOEL, Pochettino would not be drawn on the official, who is now head of refereeing for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation.

"No comment," Pochettino told reporters. "Two years ago, no comment. Sorry, I'm not going to say anything."

Later in Tuesday's news conference, Pochettino spoke in detail about the challenges faced by referees in the modern game.

"I don't know," Pochettino said when asked if referees should talk publicly about matches they officiated. "It's so difficult to talk about that subject.

"My position now is I want to be away and I don't want to talk about the decision of the referee. I don't want to talk about their behaviour. I don't want to talk about if they were good or no good.

"I understand that it's so difficult. It's not easy to be a referee. We can see in every single training session when I'm in the middle of two groups when they are competing it's so tough to say 'foul, no foul', 'handball, no handball', 'penalty, no penalty' or 'it wasn't a red card, it's a yellow card'.

"We are the first to know their job is so difficult but I think I try to help them. It's better to stay quiet and say nothing because I'm not going to help if I say some comments. I prefer to stay quiet and what happens, happens, describe the situation and never argue again about whether it was or wasn't, or right or wrong.

"I prefer to be quiet and be focused in trying to help my team because if not, then we are going to distract the focus and today my focus is to try to fix the problem that we have in the team which is winning games. We need to be 100 per cent focused on winning, help the players in being better and to improve, and that is what we are going to do."