The End of The World But Nothing’s Changed

The dread anticipation of the Doomsday Scenario was hideous, elongated as it was over several weeks as first the semi-final and then the season’s final day played out. Goals and sendings-off that weren’t, the bitter tease of a former Spurs keeper throwing three goals into his net, yet another rearguard action, all of this involving not just any club, not just one rival but both of our bitterest enemies. Bad enough, or so you would think. Not so: fate was having a ball so why stop there. The way things were panning out, being outplayed and snatching a winner on the break was all too predictable but a late equaliser, missed extra-time penalty and the last-kick shoot out never crossed my mind. Simply could not happen.

The consequences for Tottenham Hotspur didn’t bear thinking about, yet over the weekend I could think of nothing else. However, in the cold light of day, which for Spurs fans admittedly felt arctic, nothing has significantly changed. Planning for next season and the longer-term future is the key issue and always has been. Recent events have had little effect on the context.

What I want for Spurs more than anything else is a plan. I need to know that we have a long-term strategy to keep the club at the very top of the English game. Chucking money on a few marquee signings will keep most fans happy but it has to be part of something wider, stronger, more permanent. Change for change sake is a recipe for disaster. We can’t control the efforts of our rivals but we can be contenders, competing on merit with the very best.

While fans and the media focus inexorably and, frankly, tediously on Redknapp, Daniel Levy remains the pivotal figure at Tottenham Hotspur. The cornerstone of our present development is financial prudence. It’s been that way for many years and because of the impending costs of the new stadium that would not alter even if we were in the Champions League. Granted a season will produce a windfall that could go on players but Levy does not include such revenue in his budget calculations. He won’t overturn his principles and throw money at the problem, or as he sees it throw money down the drain in the pursuit of short-term success without any guarantees and which is unsustainable in the long run.

I firmly believe this team is hesitating on the threshold of glory. Whether it takes a step into the unknown depends on keeping our best players and adding top quality new recruits, two strikers and a mobile centre half being the priorities. Levy is not going to radically change our salary structure, therefore regardless of where we play our european football next season we will be pursuing players on the up rather than established stars. It’s no bad thing – give me players with the right ability and mental attitude, men who want to better themselves and who focus on the game not celebrity status and I’ll show you a club with a future.

I’m not sure that we have scouts any more. They probably have a business-speak title like ‘Talent Development Analyst” or some such bollo, heading a department composed of statisticians pouring over facts and figures rather than standing on exposed touchlines searching for the next big thing. Whoever they are, they hold the club’s future in their hands: we rely on them totally.

They have to be psychologists too – motivation and a determination to be the best convert ability into class. We’ve done well in that respect lately – Walker, Kaboul, Sandro, all are good footballers united by a desire to play, and a total cost of what, £15m?

It’s the same with transfer fees. Levy the ruthless negotiator looks for value, not just at the bottom line. To him, paying a large sum for a youngish player with a bright future is an investment. Everything’s risky in this game but a fat insurance policy, long-term contract to maximise any future transfer price and payments to former clubs spread over several years all significantly decrease the uncertainty. Over the years he’s learned the price of experience too, about £4m and 70k a week for Parker or Adebayor on loan. Spurs have to pay for that knowledge and that time in the game but Levy won’t go over the odds.

Our salary structure is well set, with a maximum of around £70k a week, although that is extended by various means including lump-sum loyalty bonuses. It should be extended upwards but it won’t approach the double or triple that is commonplace elsewhere. Our stars are therefore vulnerable and being in the CL would help player retention but nothing can outweigh the pull of big bucks if a man is that way inclined. Again, no CL is not a major determinant of our future.

Our chairman is in the box seat when it comes to our manager too. Levy’s last gamble with the precious jewel that is our club was dismissing the popular and comparatively successful Martin Jol in favour of Juande Ramos. When Redknapp arrived amidst relegation panic, all thoughts of any strategic approach had gone, or so it seemed. In fact, contrary to my initial expectations, Levy has reined in Harry’s worst excesses in the transfer market. Also, whilst Redknapp is one of the world’s best paid bosses, there’s value to be found. He’s not only saved us (you probably know how many points we had when he arrived…) but he’s taken us to the CL quarter-final and our highest sequence of finishes for donkeys’ years. Also, Levy has refused so far to extend his 4 year contact beyond the end of this coming season. He doesn’t want to get caught with huge severance payments should manager and staff be sacked. Doing everything he can to keep the odds stacked in our favour.

So Levy finds himself in the place that all CEOs or businesspeople want to be – he has options. I completely agree with Spurs author, fan and all round seer Martin Cloake who wrote last week:

“I’d stick with Redknapp – if I could sit down with him and be sure he was fully focussed on Spurs. There’s one more year on his contract, and unless he wants his legacy to be ‘Almost there’ he needs to win a major trophy with Spurs in what could be his last year in the job. So there’s certainly incentive there.”

To me that’s sufficient motive for Redknapp. It’s highly unlikely that he will ever find a better job than Spurs at his age and this informed piece from the Guardian suggested that last season he was keen to ‘retire’ to a cushy job in Dubai. If it’s not, and maybe Levy should make that judgement rather than HR himself, he should go straight away.

That seems about right to me. I have an ambivalent relationship towards Harry Redknapp, which mirrors the behaviour and performance of a man portrayed in the media as a known, consistent quantity but who in reality is riven with contradictions. The so-called great motivator is popular with many players but there have been other occasions where the players have dead eyes and he’s an impotent mess of frustration on the touchline. Bale, Walker, Assou Ekotto, Kaboul and others have flourished under his guidance whereas Pienaar, Pav, Bentley and Bent have shrivelled to almost nothing.  For extended periods last season we played breathtaking football that stunned the league, by far the best to watch and the best for thirty or more years for Spurs fans starved of glory. Redknapp deserves full credit – don’t give me this nonsense about no tactics, it was his team, but that same team was virtually unrecogniseable against Villa and Norwich, a hollow shell of what had been.

I don’t warm to him but he’s ours, and I’d give him another year. Arguably Redknapp has helped us over-achieve. He’s managed that on tiny resources compared with his rivals. These figures did the rounds on twitter last week. I haven’t checked them but they have the ring of truth: Spurs have spent £16m since last top 4 finish in 09/10. Arsenal £64.7m, United £80.3m, Chelsea £160.4m, City £212.7m. He was fortunate that Modric, Bale and Assou Ekotto were here when he arrived but he’s helped make them what they are. Also, the harm caused by yet another change of direction with no chosen successor in sight is a major factor. Like I say, I want a plan, I want what’s best for us and I’d back him with a generous budget, but see ‘value’ above. Our immediate prospects hinge on the dynamic between the two of them.

This piece isn’t about tactics but there’s one thing I am compelled to add. Football is extremely complex but whoever makes up the team, whatever the formation, we have to get more men back behind the ball when we lose possession. It is a huge problem and leaves us exposed. No other team in the league is as open as we are. It’s why I like the two defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1. If it means more cautious approach, so be it. A price worth paying.

Mind you, who cares about tactics? It’s all down to fate. Written in the stars. I don’t believe in that twaddle. All we have is us, and we should look after our world and our fellow human beings to the best of our very considerable abilities. After the season’s end we’ve had, it’s enough to make me recant this heresy, fall to my knees and shout a few hosannas. The Pentecostal Church of the Sacred Cockerel. Glory glory hallelujah, sisters and brothers, let’s pray for future success…

Meh, maybe not. My faith in Levy’s plan is not unshakable but it’s the best thing I’ve got so I’ll go with that. It has the long-term interests of the club at heart, and that’s the only thing on my mind.

28 thoughts on “The End of The World But Nothing’s Changed

  1. Great article – you kind of covered everything! I agree with most of it, especially your view on Levy.
    And I also favour a 4-2-3-1 approach. If we sell Modric I don’t see the need to replace him directly, I would put Sandro and Parker in the middle. If, as seems likely, we sign Vertonghen, Remy and Damaio then I can see us playing 4-4-2 as well. We have the option of VDV dropping into the middle to replace Parker/Sandro.
    I would say the one thing we lacked last season was OPTIONS. Redknapp couldn’t change a lot simply because he didn’t have the players to do so.

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    • Agree.. We can play Sandro / Parker deep, but also have the option of Hudd too for a little more creativity and darting out balls to the wing..

      Modric is quality, but fitting VdV, Modric and Lennon into the team is often a problem for us, especially if 1 of those cogs isn’t fit or we need to change our tactics to suit nulifying the opposion threat.. W

      e need to play with the 2 wingers.. Then 2 of those 3 stronger CMs sitting will allow VdV to play in ahead of them, without him and Modric tripping over each other around the edge of the box. VdV is more of a goal threat, as is Hudd from distance.

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      • This will also give us more stregth & height in the middle. Which also helps against opposition set pieces and winning the ball from loose balls.

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        • Thanks gents.

          Totally agree re choice. We need several options – cover, tactics to suit different occasions, rotation. Hud could like a new signing and Livermore had a good season. We need width but that does not have to be from 2 wingers – see my comment in the piece about being too open. Width comes from full-backs – we have the players.

          Regards, Alan

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  2. Agree, a well thought out article. I don’t rthink there is any doubt that we overachieved last season, and the additions needed on the playing side are well documented. I hope we keep Modric, he is a very good player, but lacks a lot in goals and assists.
    For me the most important thing for the next few years is a new stadium. I have been a Spurs supporter for over 40 years, and the only way I can get to see them live now is by taking a corporate deal and paying at least £180 for a D grade match. Our maximum gate is around 36,000, and we could fill 55,000 every week. It is this extra match day revenue that will help us to compete with the Chelskis and Citehs of this world. Until we have a new stadium we will never be a top four club!

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  3. Brilliant article as always. Saturday night & sunday morning was the lowest point for many a year following spurs but gradually the hurt is fading and will be totally gone come August.

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  4. Financial prudence and all that good stuff is obviously the way to go but I do feel you overlook Levy’s often counter-productive love of playing hardball Alan.
    Why, for example, didn’t we bust a gut to secure the services of Gary Cahill? I don’t know what the figures were but, suffice to say, Owen Coyle talked about the completely unrealistic level of our offer. We really needed Cahill and he’s already showing what we missed out on.
    Even now, with Vertonghen, we’re messing around over the odd one or two million dollars.

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    • Fair point.

      This piece is about the aftermath of the dread weekend but there is another question – is Levy’s way the right way? This one’s up to you. Broadly I believe it is but he has to loosen the purse strings to some extent. Harry’s failure to rotate plus a proper go at the Europa league requires greater depth to the squad.

      Your example of Cahill is the one I would have chosen. Levy thought he was paying too much for a man who would shortly be at the end of his contract but over the long term it would have been an investment. Cahill isn’t our saviour but he’s a fine player. Would have been good for us.

      Regards, Alan

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      • Hi Alan,
        Always read your pieces, but don’t comment as you always seem to say exactly what i have felt about the game, even if your shelf side view is a little different from my paxton! Interesting views with regards to long term stragergy, and to how Saturday’s result may or may not impact that. I think it will hamper the plans more than you, as it will encourage bids on players that are necessary to continue the building of the squad.

        Re Cahill, little bit of ITK, it was never a goer, he is good friends with a friend of mine, the delay was his desire to stay in the north, and the hope that Utd would come in for him. He never considered joining us.

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        • Interesting Stuart, thanks for putting the Cahill thing to bed. Shame – decent player, bit slow but excellent in the box. Maybe his value to us was less because we have Dawson who could be described in a similar way.

          You might well be right. If I had written something last week, that’s definitely what I would have said but on balance I reckon those bids will come in anyway and the salaries will be so far ahead of ours, if that’s what the player wants then they will follow the money.

          Regards, Al

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  5. Chelsea’s win was also full of Footballs hidden shame and if Spurs have got any sense they should appeal Chelseas good fortune that was full of energy boosting substances that Palattini is ignoring along with the FA and Fifa

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  6. Alan
    Most weeks I rely on you to redress the euphoria or abject depression that my men have served into a sense of realism and something a little positive. I think you just did it for 2011-12.

    For gawd’s sake don’t stop now!

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    • Writing that probably helped me more than it did you…the last few weeks have been awful, just numb, so I needed to look forward, not back. For my own sanity, and yours too apparently…

      Regards,

      Al

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  7. Well, Alan nicely thought out on the whole however, ‘redknapp has helped us to over achieve’ is pushing the boat out a bit far I believe.
    4,5,4, last three seasons, first 4 we probably did but at the time Gomes was playing superbly, for the 5 well Gomes wasn’t and we also couldn’t score and redknapp was unable to change the teams mindset as we drifted come Feb. This last season we had bought friedal, and Parker and borrowed ade all superb signings, the first two of whom definately brought steel and believe to the defense, and so yes we flew higher and higher, however onc e things started to go sour we had no way to change our tune, not because we didn’t have the players but because arry had sent them out on loan,or sold them because…. well your piece tells us he haqs favourites and the others can just rot I find it unblievable that Pienaar could of been so bad at WHL and so good at Goodison.

    Buying more players now will not change that it will be different names thats all, who out of Daws, Ledley, Kaboul, Gallas and Caulker will partner our new centreback and who will be content just to sit and watch, or play in redknapps version of the Stiffs in the europa. Redknapp doesn’t do rotation cause he can’t do tactics and picking 10 players to go out and runabout may work with top players but just expecting 7 or 8 of them to adapt to two or three new players in the second half needs planning.

    Defoe is already making noises about wanting to play and why not, now I believe, defoe has limitations regardignhis playing style however He should of got a lot more time on the park in the second half of the season.

    Alan honestly if |I believed that redknapp could change his spots i would give him another year, unfortunately I don’t so therefore rather than see the squad collapse during next winter, i think now is the time for Levy to get a proper coach in, who well AVB or Gaal or Rykard who started the barcalona ball rolling for gaurdiolla.

    Anyway thanks for this opportunity to put in my threepeneth. COYS

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    • Happy to hear what other blogs are saying, which is why I have a long blogroll. I’ve seen this – it’s done the rounds of the boards. It mentions similar things re Levy and budgeting that I’ve hypothesised in this piece. Very interesting re HR’s input or lack of it and confirms other rumours about his absence after the court case. On twitter a Spurs supporting non-football journo says Levy has torn into Redknapp over this. Won’t do any harm.

      Certainly has an authentic ring to it but then again it is ITK. You often read about Harry going to see players and these days in any club managers have so much to do, they can’t see every possible player out there so rely on scouts to narrow the field.

      Regards, Al

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  8. The model you present sounds suspiciously like the Arsenal model maybe the two clubs should team up their resources against the clubs where money is no object. Your Arsenal spend figures are misleading as you have to factor in sales for not spend, if you buy 65 mil but sell 75 mil your net spend is negative

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    • Cheers for this. I suspected the figures did not include sales to offset expense. And once again we find the two clubs and their fans have far more in common than they would wish to admit.

      Regards,

      Alan

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    • Much appreciated, ta. I strongly suspect TOMM will carry on with exactly the same stuff next season, and the one after that, and….

      Regards, Al

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  9. Thanks for all your articles Alan. It is a gift to be able to put into words what is very deep and I always look forward to the lifeline you throw out.
    I thought I was over the disappointing end to the season after daring to hope and enjoying so much, but it is still there underneath. Time is the only healer!
    The only point I wanted to add was the one you raised about psychology. This seems to be the biggest factor to me. You have all the talent but if you dont have the belief you cant achieve. Look at Chelsea winning the CL with hardly the best team they’ve had, but mentally they never gave up and the pressure was off them whatever. I dont like to keep hearing, from Rednapp included, that Spurs should be happy and had a good season. Its a difficult one because I dont want to knock the team who may have over achieved, but also as soon as you settle for second best, mentally you will never win anything. Look at ManU over the years. I believe you have to be gracious in defeat, you cant always win, but there has to be a steely determination and underlying belief. I think the speculation for Rednapp and England derailed the mental belief the team had and cost us in the end.
    Thanks again Alan.
    Nick

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  10. Spurs are naff lol, Season end is the end for you, you won’t get the high pfile players you could’ve got, will lose at least one star this summer, and after messing up when 13pts clear the deflation will linger into next season. Even if you did well everyone will be waiting for a collapse including the now self doubting players.

    The only way to sort it is kick saggy chops out, the reason you are not in CL is due to his poor tactics and selfish lust for England.

    No positives just take it like men!

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