Levy: The King Canute of Football

Thank the deity that doesn’t exist it’s over. The Modric saga and Harry’s inability to pass by a camera without giving an interview meant the last few weeks have been excruciating. Let’s get on with it now and play some football. However, here’s no denying the backdrop of genuine tension on deadline day. I’ve talked of this being the watershed season, the last chance to build on the foundation of a fine group containing four outstanding footballers. Parker and Adebayor will enhance the squad greatly but I can’t escape the lingering sensation that at this crucial moment more should have been invested in the team and that the reasons why stunt our growth in the long run.

No question, this is a fine squad. Adebayor is strong, mobile and dangerous in the box, in short, just what the manager ordered.. It’s hard to work out what motivates him. Tough enough to carry on after lying on the floor of a bullet ridden coach as teammates died around him, a wet January Wednesday in Stoke shouldn’t be too much of a problem but at City and L’arse, his interest waned and form declined. The loan nature of his transfer doesn’t help. However, he knows he’s first choice and that’s significant for him. Bale and Lennon out wide, Luka and VDV through the middle, should give him plenty of chances.

Parker is an excellent buy. The criticism around the boards is based on West Ham’s failure last season but takes little account of what he can bring to our play. He links defence and attack, passes well short and long, makes space for himself and for others and will fit straight in to the side.  What’s not to like. WHam went down through no fault of Parker, who at times tried to carry the entire team and often succeeded. Rumours say he rather than manager Avram Grant gave the half time team talk that led to the Hammers turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 away win, so here’s the on the pitch leadership we crave. He makes the men around him better players.

Above all, we’ve achieved my main target, keeping Modric, Sandro, Bale and Van der Vaart. Credit to Levy, unmoving and true to his word. So far so good.

But. Whereas I had hoped a loan striker plus experienced midfielder would be the basis of our planning for the future, they are the future. It’s who we didn’t sign that’s significant in the longer term, or more accurately, why. No fourth striker, bearing in mind we have only two other first team front men, both of whom are not quite what we want, and no centre half. Of the many players we were interested in, they either stayed with their clubs or went elsewhere. Why?

Taking last January’s window into consideration, I suspect that we have tried but failed to go for a host of players who fit our profile, i.e. talented players under 26 who are on the up and for whom a move to Spurs is a move up the slippery slope. In recent times, Berbatov and Modric are classic examples. Note that neither were cheap: Levy will spend if he feels we can get value. He doesn’t want to spend big on older players whose potential sell on value will plummet as they turn 30.

Unfortunately these men will not come to us, partly because we are not in the Champions League and partly because we don’t match salaries being offered elsewhere. Take Ageuro for instance. I believe the stories that we made a bid of £30m plus for him, maybe Rossi too, in January. City come in and we are nowhere. Same this window for Leandro – they have no incentive to move.

So we fall back on Harry’s old guard. If someone else is in for them, chances are our salary scale will be too low even if Levy will pay the fee. Bellamy for example – I’m assuming Liverpool offered to match or nearly match his giant pay packet. We have no chance. I’m assuming that Harry’s late night comment on Levy not being able to do the deal over Cahill also refers to salary not the fee. If I’m wrong, Levy is more foolish than I think he is.

I’ve said throughout the window that we didn’t have to sell in order to buy. Harry wanted to use 30 or 40 m from Modric to buy other players but we’ve emerged well over 20m up overall, including O’Hara for 4 or 5m. That’s not counting the CL income, so the availability of ready cash isn’t the issue. Levy being reluctant to spend because Redknapp will be gone by the summer, discredited either by his court case or by becoming England manager, doesn’t hold up either. Why not get rid of him now, or why let him have any money at all? Remember Levy was prepared to spend this window. Not perhaps as much as we would have liked but something nevertheless, and we still have a surplus plus Modric as an asset if the new man needs to rebuild.

There’s more weight behind the idea that the driver is the ‘I’ in ENIC. After all, as chairman Levy has a duty to shareholders and the owner Lewis to ensure there’s profit on that investment, for example if the club is sold. The new stadium is getting closer and we need money not only to build it but also to do so without destroying that investment.

In the end, Levy the consummate businessman is ignoring the forces that shape his working life, supply and demand. I admire his fiscal prudence on both a practical level, ensuring we have a sound financial foundation,  and on a moral level, resisting greedy players and adroitly avoiding the insane business practice adopted by other club owners blind to everything but the pursuit of success on the field. And that includes keeping tabs on his manager.

However, Levy is fast becoming the King Canute of football. He cannot singlehandedly hold back the onrushing tide of improving salaries if he wishes to secure the club’s long term interests. His unbending response to the Modric transfer was admirable but the same quality is a potential disaster when applied to budgets. Retain by all means the sound budgetary principles of not paying fees and salaries over the odds for older players but the club’s entire salary structure must be revised upwards. Otherwise we won’t survive the rat race.

Now it’s down to Redknapp, the coaches and the players. Despite my concerns regarding long term planning, it’s worth repeating that this remains by far the best squad we’ve had at Spurs in recent times. Time to realise that potential. Opposing teams have sussed our formation so Harry has to come up with Plan B. Parker and Adebayor will give more options in that respect as we have to switch from an over-reliance on two wide men to a passing game, flexible and interchanging in the middle as well as width. Pienaar will be important here. Frankly he’s done nothing so far but that’s his game.

Luka and Harry aren’t best friends any more – put it to one side. We’ve got one more season, let’s make the most of it. Hud, that ‘stepping up’ phrase I hate, bit more from you and you could be a star. Each individual has their own targets but the team’s the thing. The pressure’s on, time to deliver.

33 thoughts on “Levy: The King Canute of Football

  1. Transfer fee-wise we did not need to sell before we buy, but in terms of squad size, wage bill size, and just plain common sense, we had to sell before we buy. We started the window with Keane, Pav, Defoe and Crouch as strikers on high wages. Unless you have money to burn – which do not – you cannot sign another striker until one is gone first. The same goes for centre midfield and centre of defence. Why is it that we signed Friedel so early? Because Pletikosa’s loan ended, and a space was made available very early. If we had to sell Pletikosa, that would have been done first – and much later. It has been a wierd window – more active than previous ones, but EVERYONE waited until the last minute – especially Stoke, who held back on 2 deals – and this screwed us. Do not blame Levy, because it was out of our control. We could not risk signing players first, having 33 players on the eve of window closing day, and have a frantic rush trying to shove 7 players out of the door last minute. That risks having too many non-playing high earners on our books, or getting ripped off because they know you are desperate. Overall, job well done. Now we have time to identify a couple of targets in January, without the need to sell first. We will all look back at this window as a tricky job well done.


  2. fantastic article.makes a change these days,with the emotions of not buying a world star.im not so sure the talk of aguero and rossi are true.we may well have bid something,but nowehere near the asking price.we havent spent big money for a while now,and i remember when harry came aboard,we spend about 60 million that window,which i think went way over our budget.i believe we are putting money back into the club from that time.to even it out.its amazing the expectations harry has raised at our club.we have come to the level where we want him sacked if we were to finish 5th this year.i dont know wheather thats a good think or not.but i trust harry,although i think he will be gone by end of this season.and maybe levy knows that,and we need money to buy another manager,and to give him the funds to buy 1 maybe two world class players to add to the squad for next season


    • I don’t think it’s a straight forward case of wanting him sacked if we were to finish 5th this year. It’s more to do with last year; even though we didn’t bring in a striker that actually strikes, we still had a settled team with good enough players to take 4th in a season where City, the scum and the chavs were all there for the taking. Great run as newbies in the CL, but naive tactics and poor team selections from the manager cost us.

      Levy knows this too.

      If we had bought more and better players in this window, I don’t believe that Redknapp would have had the tactical nous to form a top 4 side this season. Unlike the season he got lucky, this season a resurgent Liverpool will claim 4th spot, why bother backing him with big signings?


  3. “Levy the consummate businessman”….please.

    With his record of failing to deliver, he would have been sacked years ago in any other line of business.

    The man has become a symbol of arrogance and stupidity and unfortunately our football club is and will be suffering the consequences.


    • Failed to deliver? On what basis? Before he joined, Spurs had 9 years of finishing 9th-15th. Now we have finished in top 5 four times in the last 6 years. Our financial situation is better than before him AND our football is better too. A proven fact.


    • Please try to remember that King Cnut did the opposite in fact he sat by the shore getting his feet wet to demonstrate to his sycophantic advisors that indeed he could not hold back the tide irrespective of their fawning blandishments!!

      Too many people are duped by Arry and not enough focus is placed on his witless team selections, inflexible tactics and substitutions plus a determined unwillingness to give talented players a real chance preferring his “old mates” or a lacklustre safety first approach. He and his band of backroom bruisers are supposed to coach the team but over the last 18 months there seems little if no evidence that they either learn from the mistakes or have any flair or creativity in preparing the team for critical matches. If they are really doing one on one coaching with players like Lennon it does not reflect well on the player’s ability to deliver for the team or just as importantly the quality of coaching.

      Arry’s continuing ability to drown us all with his fatuous soundbites and his perpetual retort of “the Chariman’s dealing with it” leave me utterly cold. Arry is so self obsessed and so preoccupied with his media profile and his property development business that he is not sufficiently engaged in doing his day job. It is so telling that in one of his numerous HR public relations appearances in the last week he kept telling us how we had too many strikers and seems oblivious to the fact that none of them can hit the side of a barn door. It seems to grate with him that he is not trusted to handle fee and salary negotiations but there is ample evidence from both WHU and Pompey that this would be nothing short of disastrous for our club.

      The window is shut I just wish Arry’s mouth was!! it is time for Arry and his coaching staff to do the jobs for which they are paid enormous salaries. We can recover from the poor start. We have excellent players if not quite enough quality strikers and with energy, application and more creative tactics and preparation we can still compete. So stop gasbagging to the media and get on with your job Redknapp.

      Come on you Spurs.


  4. Yes well we all know what happened to Canute & currently Levy is still standing empty handed on the beach IMHO & looking like a fool & that is despite keeping Modric


  5. I agree with a lot of what is said here. With a small capacity restricting our revenues and stopping us paying the big wages that bring in the best players, Levy’s only option is to remain fiscally vigilant and ride it out until we are in the position to have a new stadium. If he can keep us there and there abouts by the time our new stadium arrives, we’ll be in a great position to push on. I think the biggest challenge is reigning in supporter expectation over the next 2/3 seasons. We punched above our weight getting Champs League and now, given the financial stimulus of clubs around us, 5th/6th is what we should feel comfortable acheiving.


    • Exactly – it is a maintenance job. If we can maintain top five-six for the next 4 years with a stadium at the end, then Levy has excelled. Just look at the revenue of who we are competing with! However, add a 60k stadium to a 5th placed team with occasional champions league appearances, and then we are in full competition. People need to be a bit more patient. Until then, do not tell me that it hasn’t been fun the last 2 years. This is merely the start.


  6. One last point about criticising the top-end salary. Our revenue stream is constant, so how on earth can you pay for higher top-end salaries? Where is that money coming from? Would you approve of Spurs putting the season tickets up QPR-style to finance it? I think not… Also we were pushing for raising the wage cap in order for Joe Cole to join. Sometimes a cap is a blessing in disguise. You get players that ACTUALLY want to play for you, rather than for the money. Don’t just criticise the wage-cap, you need to explain where the extra money is going to come from ANNUALLY to pay for it. People forget that Liverpool can pay Suarez 90k+ because they have vastly higher annual revenue.


    • Tony, thanks for the comment, and I’d be interested in the thoughts of anyone who has a better grasp of financial matters than I do. Which is pretty much anyone, really.

      I guess what I’m saying is yes, Levy needs to reap the rewards of his fiscal prudence by taking a few risks. That prudence gives him some room to manoeuvre, income continues to be high and the salary/income ratio is good, as I understand it. Pointless having a new stadium if it is half empty because we are failing on the field. One of my themes so far this season is that if we don’t do well this time, this squad will break up, so team building is back to square one, after all the effort over the years, levy included.

      Keeping the squad trim, i.e. no high earners languishing on the bench. I’m not suggesting huge salaries across the board, which is the downfall of some teams where ordinary squad players get ridiculous money. Finally, we can’t and shouldn’t compete with City and United, but coming back to supply and demand, who’s to say Suarez isn’t worth 90k. If his gaols had got us into the CL for another season, that’s a sound investment.




  7. I think if Levy can arrange a deal for Damoei (excuse my spelling) to be transferred during the Jan window as the Brazilian season ends soon and also find a half decent centre back as King and Gallas are either injury prone or old, Dawson only excels when he’s playing with one of them and it doesn’t look like a dream partnership so far with Kaboul.

    Gary Cahill deal it looks like fell through because Bolton sensing our desperation either asked for too much for a player who’s only got a year left on his contract or as it mentioned in some papers that they asked for Defoe in return. I cannot see him asking for wages that breaks our wage structure, hope we can get him for Jan window for a much reasonable price.


  8. We have a decent, no really god squad. It is up to harry to get his team selection and tactics right, and for the players to be consistent. A midfield like the one that started against man City wad plain stupid, and players like Lennon need to perform


  9. I admire Levy for his prudence in many respects. As much as I desire success, I only have to look at clubs like Leeds and Newcastle to know that the lure of the CL can also be a graveyard for the financially reckless. Better to play Shamrock Rovers than Colchester Utd in some respects but we should be in the CL this season.

    The problems we have stem more from last year’s transfer window and then again in January. We failed to sign a world class striker then which would have secured 4th place and thus helped to retain and attract players in at this window. We also needed another quality centre half as King and Woodgate failed to play a significant number of games . Dawson is a good player alongside a more experience pro like King or Gallas but looks more vulnerable when asked to lead the line playing alongside Kaboul or Bassong. Instead we seemed to pursue a number of midfielders ending up with Pienaar who to my mind wasn’t /isn’t any great improvement on the existing players and who has started his Spurs career as the next Darren Anderton. I hope he proves me wrong.

    I think we have had a mixed transfer window. The signings and transfers out have given us a better squad. However 4th place looks a harder task than last season and we are still short of a striker (I fear Pav will never be ‘Super’) and another quality centre half. I wonder whether the quest for the best possible price led to a misplaced confidence that we would pull off another ‘van Der Vaart’ on deadline day. We didn’t and now we’ll need to hope that we can pull off something special to get 4th place or next season we’ll be back to a transition season with a new manager (once ‘Arry has gone) and a new team as our more valuable players move on to ‘further their career.’


  10. Not a bad article Alan but perhaps too one sided. I’m old enough to remember when Spurs were known for buying players at a drop of a hat and were regarded at one point as one of if not the richest club in the land and could afford to buy who ever they went after.
    The problem does not lay with Daniel Levy infact, he has brought sanity to the club. No the problem goes way way back to the days of Irvine Scholar, a Chairman who loved Spurs with a passion and would spend the clubs money on just about any player the manager wanted without looking after the clubs finances properly. Eventually the over spending took its toll on the clubs purse strings and we effectively went out to tender for buyers of the club. He entertained Sam Hammam of Wimbledon fame and many other colourful characters eventually Alan Sugar of Amstrad stepped in as the saviour and voice of reason. He concluded that the club had to be restructured.
    Dont get me wrong, Spurs did have some great times under Irvine Scholars stewardship. We won FA Cups and UEFA Cups with players such as Archibald and Crooks, Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardilies, Maxi Millier and Graham Roberts, Stevie Perryman Glenn Hoddle and Micky Hazard, just to name a few and they played under a great manager at that time in Keith Burkenshaw whom Scholar threw away.
    Sugar was pragmatic, he didnt understand football and knew even less about the game but he is an astute businessman, enter ENIC, Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy who succeeded Sugar as Chairman. The ship was finally stedied and stabalised. Like Scholar, Levy is also passionate about Spurs and wants only the very best for the club but he isnt going to put the clubs welfare in danger. Dont forget that he sanctioned the purchase of the vast majority of players currently at the club which includes Modric and dont forget, he bought VDV, Harry didnt have a clue. As for accusing him of being King Canute trying to hold back the tides of change is inacurate and perhaps childish of you to say so. Listen, we all want Spurs to go out and buy the best players available, pay them over the top wages for their services just like City are doing now and Chelsea before them but it aint going to happen until we get a bigger ground. Spurs are still a very rich club but we will only be able to pay stupid wages when we have a much bigger capacity stadium which brings in the necessary revenue.
    With regards to Cahill, I’m glad we didnt get him because I feel that Christopher Samba is a much better player bigger, stronger, faster. Granted he is slightly older but could still have grown with the squad and a very valuable asset too. May I remind you that most of the players Harry introduced to the club are to all intents and purposes surplus to requirements (deadwood), we got rid of two of them yesterday alleviating the wage bill. I agree that Harry will only be with us a short while longer which may well be playing pn Daniel Levy’s mind but the fact remains is that Spurs are healthy, wont go under tomorrow should a rich sugar daddy decide that he’s had enough with his latest toy.


    • Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Ray.

      Don’t know if you read the blog regularly but I’m not anti-Levy. I agree with some things he’s done and like other posters will always be grateful for the financial stability he’s brought to the club. Disagree with other decisions. I didn’t go over the pros and cons of his tenure because I bore myself with that, never mind my readers, but that’s the context of this piece. I do believe he’s been inflexible during the window and as a man of principle myself, I’m questioning whether his finacial and moral principles have helped us at this moment.

      Like you I’m old enough to remember the buying policies of old. For me it was about going for the individual star name or two at the expense of building a team. Levy has taken us to a point where we have built a fine team, at last. Not a consistently upward curve by any means but here we are. I don’t want to see that enterprise fail and after all, that could be his legacy.




  11. Its time for Levy and Redknapp to go what has been done is in the pass we need to move on but with them two at the club we have no chance and this window has proved it


  12. Remember the saying

    “There are no great managers but great chairmen”

    Redknapp is not a great manager but Levy is a great chairman..How easy do you think it is to keep a club running almost faultlessly despite some Arab sheikhs £1 Billion investment or Russian mafias money laundering activity??

    Show me another chairman in Spurs history that managed to sign two different shirt sponsors paying the club in excess of £12 million a season? Making a dream of a world class Stadium of us fans a reality, building the best football academy and training facilities in Europe?

    Next season when wearing your wonderful and enviable Under Armour kits , I just hope that you praise Levy for once.


  13. Haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I think this article, as well as the one you posted in May about this being the “watershed” season is off by about 12 months. Last season was the watershed season and last summer was the time to invest (in the hours immediately following the 2nd leg win against Young Boys to be precise). One, maybe two players was all it would have taken to cement another fourth place finish. They didn’t even need to be “world class” strikers, just better than we had, so really just above average. I hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see Spurs finishing above Liverpool or Chelsea this time around, unless Liverpool’s early momentum doesn’t translate into long-term success.


    • Yep, something similar could have been written this time last year, probably was. I do think there’s a difference. 2 main points: one, most of the squad and certainly the key men are better players now than they were 12 months ago, and as a team they have the European experience to improve their resilience.

      Two, there’s no going back. Fail this time and the best players will want to move at the end of the season.

      Regards, Al


  14. Enjoyable and insightful read as ever Alan. The key is Modric and his attitude. Like Ardiles, it isn’t only his huge ability and brilliant performances, he also makes the others play and fills them with confidence and belief, simply by being there.

    While I would have sold Miodric for 35-40 million, in terms of cash 30 was highest Chelsea went. Good for levy, keeping a player who signed a 6 yr contract only months ago.

    I don’t rate Parker anywhere near as highly as you, taken on his career not just last season, which seems to be something of an anomaly for me. Adebayor is very exciting, potentially.

    A central defender would have been nice but not essential at this point. As you have said before and again above it is the deployment of the midfield and role of the wingers that needs looking at most urgently. Three in central mid, esp away from home, is my preference.


  15. Good article Alan, agree with most of what you say about Levy. I do think that Redknapp not being part of our long term plans was an important factor in our business dealing this summer though. It seems obvious to me for example that the decision to offload Crouch was not one that Harry was a willing party to. As pointless as it is to speculate, I can’t escape the feeling that Levy was in the business of clearing the decks, and that most of the targets that Harry identified were never seriously pursued with the exception of Parker and Friedel. The Modric saga also showed a clear division between the long term vision of Levy and Redknapp’s short-term plans.
    Maybe Levy does have a long term plan to raise the wage ceiling of the club and the first step in this was trimming the first team squad?


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