Funny how these things turn out. I’m bashing out my post-match piece after the Liverpool game, usual routine except I was hitting the keys so much harder than normally, castigating Villas-Boas, blaming Levy for a decade or more of lousy decisions and predicting our manager’s sacking, at the very moment AVB was indeed being dismissed.
It’s happened before, many, many times before, but still comes as something of a shock. This follow-up should be a proper review, a look back at his time at Spurs. But it’s not about analysis, it’s about emotion. At least it is for Spurs fans. For others, it is much more straightforward – Tottenham are a laughing stock. Eight managers in twelve years, close to £100m spent in the summer and four months later the guy who spent it was gone.
It’s provoked different reactions amongst the fans, as you would expect. Many are delighted, some ghoulishly gleeful that their negative assessment of his ability has been proved right. My blogging pal Greg is angry and tearful in this fine Dispatches while Martin Cloake and Adam Powley separately (they are not joined at the hip after all) glory in the absurdity of it all. You have to laugh or else you’d cry.
I should be worked up about it. Long ago having sold my soul to the devil, I’ll be watching Spurs ’til the day I die regardless of who is in charge and who is playing, so rejection, the rational response to the mess the club is in, is out of the question. Rationality and supporting Spurs – really? What am I thinking?
But I invested in what I thought was happening at the club. I wanted Villas-Boas to succeed because I like the idea of a young, progressive and driven manager taking the club forward with a squad of similarly able and upwardly mobile players under his protection. I felt protective because of the way sections of the media and those within his club rubbished him at Che***a. He was ours now and White Hart Lane would be a safe home for him. We Is Us 18 months before it was said out loud.
He’s gone and I wish him well. I’m left feeling not angry, sad or happy, but numb. Hollow and distracted that once again my club, should be left in such disarray as supporters look on powerless. However difficult any life event is, human beings develop strategies for dealing with any repeat. Life goes on. Time and again our hopes have been raised only to be dashed once more. One step up and two steps back. We’re always regrouping, starting again. A endless loop of transitional seasons. It has to stop. Some clichés deserve repeating because they are perfect encapsulations of reality. We can cope with the despair, it truly is the hope that gets you.
I guess I don’t ever want the hope to be extinguished. Life isn’t measured by the passing of the years, it’s how enthusiastic you feel about the things that matter. Once that enthusiasm withers, so does body and mind. That’s why football supporters are such lovely, wonderful people to know. I mean real supporters, measured not by how many games they go to or their knowledge of the inside-out passing stats of Latvian second division false-nines, but supporters who feel rather than spectate. They hold these two diametrically opposed emotions in happy, blissful equilibrium, the cognitive dissonance of despair and hope that protects us from collapse. We moan, wring our hands and kvetsch in our frustration but we know what’s important. And we will turn up next week because good times are just around the corner. It’s a fundamentally decent, buoyant outlook on life that I love and would never be without.
It’s a good way to be but damn hard to maintain with a club that takes every opportunity to trample those positives into the mud beneath layers of cowpats. Uncomfortably numb, in fact, although the thought of a Pink Floyd song is the surest way of driving me completely over the edge.
I’m a keen student of Spurs’ history. If you asked me right now to sum it up in a sentence, I’d say something like: ‘none of the people who have run this club in my lifetime knew what they were doing.’
Daniel Levy has presided over a period of financial stability, and rightly deserves praise for that achievement. Yet he is totally unable to put into practice those same principles of sustainability and continuity on the field. A CEO in any business is not responsible for the detail. That is a waste of her or his time. Rather, they should establish a framework to implement clear goals that everyone signs up to. They set the parameters and the plan, the way the organisation will go about its business. Above all, their job is to pick the right people at senior level to put the plan into action.
This is how Levy has been successful in business. When it comes to football, that flies out of the window. This is what I can’t understand. I would rather a bad plan than no plan at all. To my mind, the club has had a consistent strategy over the last few years, to buy young(ish) players who will develop at Spurs. They come with more potential than experience. Develop together, we have a future in the long-term. the risk that they will leave is balanced to some extent by their increased value in the transfer market.
This long-term strategy is the best option for a club like ours, without a big stadium or recent success to generate income or a rich investor prepared to buy success. (we have a rich investor not prepared to buy success). It’s worthless without a coherent, stable senior management because this development takes time. Time is the most precious resource at the chairman’s disposal. No successful enterprise would dream of making so many changes. yet Levy cannot find the right man and does not know where to look.
Never mind all this speculation, we all know that Levy has no idea who to appoint. None at all. I wish Sherwood well. People I respect rate his coaching abilities and knowledge but if he succeeds it will be by accident not design. Levy has a record of appointing men at odds with the English game – Santini, Ramos – then folding to give anyone who happened to be around a chance – Martin Jol. He allows infighting within his management team – Jol actively undermining Santini with the players, Poyet the same with Ramos. Redknapp came as a panic measure to fight some raging fires, the success was unexpected. He invests millions in giving Villas-Boas the job, a huge risk given his recent CV, then refuses to back him in the market, the Moutinho deal going down the pan and playing an entire season with only two strikers.
I’m numb in the face of this because I have heard it all before. Much sighing and head-shaking annoying everyone around me this week. It’s real but the anger has gone. Not totally – it erupts to the surface as it did when I wrote my last piece. Sugar – Graham, Gross, Francis. Scholar – brought the club to the edge of bankruptcy. Burkinshaw’s parting shot: “there used to be a football club there.” Sidney Wale dynasty: Terry Neill, failed at one club and Ars***l to the core. It has to stop.
Monday was my birthday. It was nice to get wish-you-well messages. My good friend Adrianna, who tolerates but doesn’t get it, asked me if I had a good day. ‘Lost 5-0, lost a manager’ I replied. She hasn’t got back to me. My son knows me well: ‘Spurs in disarray, there’s a birthday present’ was all he said.
It is a shameful catalogue of wasted opportunities stretching back for over forty years. However, I am a supporter, a stupid sucker maybe but a committed sucker undoubtedly, so I find grounds for optimism always, and it is this: the players. This is a decent squad of footballers. Some obvious gaps but the potential is real. Healthy organisations need a goal: ours should be, whoever is in charge, to start next season with this same group of players. Without direction or some sniff of Europe, they will leave. It’s imperative that we keep them. Add to them, sure, but build on what we have.
Levy should look for someone with evidence of enabling talented, skillful players to create the right patterns of attack. In other words, to do what AVB couldn’t do. And whatever happens, I’ll be there to see it.