Spurs: A New Era. Just Give Me a Moment to Get Over the Old One

I’m old enough to know that football business is brutal and heartless, but I’m genuinely shocked at the callous way Pochettino was disposed of. Tuesday night, I turned twitter on at about 8.10 to join the reaction to the leaders’ debate, to find that Poch had been sacked. Wednesday morning,  I woke at 6.30 am and Mourinho had been appointed. And they say there are no surprises in football these days.

Another piece with a hundred introductions in the trash folder. What’s on my mind now does not correspond with how this would have looked if I had had the time to write yesterday, the day before yesterday or five minutes ago. If I had expressed my feelings on Tuesday night, the degree of fury would have been therapeutic. In hindsight, and these days in football as well as UK politics a couple of days counts as hindsight, the real surprise is not the dismissal but the way it was kept secret, because the board have clearly been planning this for a while. Mourinho’s contract signed, sealed and delivered and he’s had time to come up with gags about wearing his Spurs pyjamas as the press chuckle along. Always good copy is Jose. Let’s hope he keeps them laughing for a while longer.

So this is what I’m left with. Poch had had enough. I suspect he didn’t put up much of a fight, because his energy had dissipated to the point where the bowl of energising lemons on his desk could do the trick no longer. Not even the unfailing support of his team, his real team, Jesus, Mig and Toni, could lift him.  Key members of his squad, in whom he has invested so much and who, frankly, owe him, remained unresponsive, while his patience with his chairman was exhausted.

I won’t pick over the bones of his demise for too much longer, the last few pieces on Tottenham On My Mind went over that ground. Suffice to repeat the saying that for every complicated, complex problem, there’s a simple, straightforward answer, that’s completely wrong.

In the here and now, the old cliché about losing the dressing room applies. In previous pieces, I’ve said Poch should have been given the time and resources to make it right, but this week shows I was sadly over-optimistic and plain wrong because things were too far gone. Pochettino’s plan was holed below the waterline the summer before last, when essential rebuilding did not take place.

On the surface, Spurs were moving onwards and upwards with the enticing prospect that the best was still to come. In reality, that summer was the last opportunity to rectify the problems caused by a lack of activity in the transfer market and thereby sustain the momentum Pochettino had generated. Rebuilding is a process, not a one-off event.  From then on, lost impetus was impossible to regain. Pochettino knew – he told us. It began to translate into results around January onwards. It just took a while for the ship to sink.

This summer, Pochettino got what were said to be his top three choices in N’dombele, Sessegnon and Le Celso. These grounds for optimism were undermined, however, because the board could not move Dier, Aurier, Eriksen and Rose, which I assume was also part of Pochettino’s plans and, presumably, promised by the chairman. I strongly suspect also that Poch was expecting replacements.

His patience ran out, he found he could not motivate a squad where half of them knew they were either unwanted or had no long-term future at the club because their contracts were due to expire. He makes that clear, Levy then gets hacked off and the downward spiral descends into freefall. None of which excuses the below par performances of some players, who could and should have done better, or Pochettino’s tactical set-ups this season, where the diamond leaves the back four bereft of protection.

In the past, Levy should have acted to support his man in the market. In the present, he had to act. This truth sits alongside the harm he has caused over the years by not investing enough in the squad. Pochettino brought a record of playing good football and developing players but the suspicion lingered that Levy chose him not because he had finally learned the lessons of a succession of ill-thought out managerial appointments but because he knew the Argentinian would not be as demanding a manager as others. Someone like Jose Mourinho, for instance, to pluck a name at random.

Which begs the question, Pochettino, Sherwood, AVB, Mourinho, they all come and go but Levy’s still there. He holds the plan, the future. I’ve never met him and I’m never likely to. I know people who have, and the one thing they all say about him is that he is passionate about the club. The problem is, Levy in my view understands what is required to make Spurs a sustained force in English football but I remain unconvinced that he can choose a leader to put this into practice or that he is prepared to commit the required resources. Building and rebuilding is a process, not a one-off event. You would think he’d know this as a successful businessman, but I wonder if the majority of his work with investments and property development removes him to some extent from the process of building and rebuilding an organisation where people are the key resource.

I wish Mourinho the very best in the job. I hope he comes to understand what the club means to so many people. I don’t like him. I respected Mourinho but never liked the way he goes about his work, although in private he’s said to be warm, generous and loyal. No shrinking violet ever succeeded as a manager but does it matter that an arrogant, moaning, self-absorbed whinger is now in charge? Who took a fortune from United and left them in a right state? Who looked bored out of his wits in his last year there? Who bullied a young full-back? Where nothing that goes wrong is his fault? Who spends money like water working with Dan Levy? Remember, when he whinges on in the media about how hard done by he is, it’s our club and our fans he’s talking about.

JM doesn’t fit the Spurs culture. We don’t like preening self-publicists. We want someone who is close to the fans and who doesn’t put himself before the club. He is synonymous with the success of one of our greatest rivals and enemies. Terry Neill and George Graham came the closest to this appointment – that didn’t work out well. Spurs play expansive, attacking football – JM’s teams don’t. Also, there are practicalities. Never mind his character, at United his tactical approach looked outdated and his judgement in the transfer market was seriously flawed. United didn’t have a director of football to help the manager with transfers, and, worryingly, neither do we.

But as I say, does it matter? It begs the question of whether clubs having a culture is true. I would say damn right it is, and Martin Cloake and I wrote a book about it. Julie Welch in her lovely Spurs Biography firmly believes this, pointing out that all our achievements have come through playing and behaving in the Spurs Way. Or is this an invention to bring comfort to supporters, that in reality we are like everyone else and will accept anything to climb the greasy pole to the top?

So tomorrow, a new era begins. We move on. All the very best to Jose Mourinho, sincerely, get behind the team and up the Spurs. I love the shirt and hope he can inspire the players. In the short-term, he’ll focus on defending, which is no bad thing, and sprinkle around some bloody-mindedness, also needed.

He’s inherited the players to get the ball forward, so on the field there are grounds for optimism. He seems refreshed after his break and is saying the right things about the new challenge. The players need that too at the moment. Longer term, well, let’s see if he sticks around if Levy doesn’t allow him to spend big money. A word to the wise, Jose, don’t bang on about how Spurs were always close to your heart or some such, no supporter believes you. Just get on with it and show us what you can do.

Forgive me if I’m mourning the loss of the old era, that I’m not quite ready to move on yet. I admired Pochettino hugely. I miss him, even though I know his faults all too well and the ending was unbefitting of what had gone before. I cared about him, because he cared about the club. I wish there was some way of telling him, a site or something to gather messages. He’s just gone without saying goodbye.

The most read piece in a decade of Tottenham On My Mind was written just before the Champions League final. At the time it served as an expression of gratitude, anticipation and wonder at what Spurs had achieved and Pochettino’s pivotal role. For a long time, it felt like he could be the one, a builder of dynasties, someone who understood the club, understood us. A Nicholson for the 21st century. Where dreams became real.

Looking at it now, it reads as the Argentinian’s elegy and a lament for what might have been.  What I feel about Pochettino and his team, I can’t express any better here. He understood Spurs’ and the club’s heritage, then gave it his own interpretation. Glorious football, miraculous European nights under lights, the best team since Burkinshaw’s in the eighties, arguably since Nicholson in the late sixties. In today’s jaded, cynical materialistic football universe, he bestowed magic and wonder.

More than just understanding our heritage, he reflected it back to us. He understood the supporters. He reminded us just how much this club means, which tells us something about ourselves, deep down, and what being a Spurs fan means to who we are. he reminded us that, “without football, life is nothing.”

Team and fans have never been as close. He reminded us of the delight and wonder we felt as children when heroes in navy blue and white left us spellbound. He stayed with us as White Hart Lane crumbled under the wrecking ball. As well as a season unbeaten at home, he kept us at the top when we played nearly two seasons away. He gave us daft dad-dancing at Ajax, mirroring the uncoordinated explosions of joy in the stands and in living rooms around the globe. When we didn’t know we could be that happy or what to do, he was one of us.

Good luck, goodbye, Mauricio Pochettino. Never forgotten.

20 thoughts on “Spurs: A New Era. Just Give Me a Moment to Get Over the Old One

  1. Harry Redknapp, on Sky Debate, late on Tuesday night, dropped a bombshell by admitting that Poch had had his head turned by Manchester United overtures but for one reason or another didn’t go through with it. From then on, last December, the team’s form took a dip, except in UCL. In the summer, Trippier left with a parting, damning comment and Levy continued to play Russian Roulette with Pochettino’s targets – two of them arrived on deadline day.
    That 18/19 form has continued in to 19/20, along with five squad members admitting they no longer wished to be part of his project.
    The bad smell began to permeate the squad, rumblings escaping of unhappiness which was transmitting to results on the pitch. Colchester, Brighton, Sheffield United – no response from 14/15 Pochettino – just resigned sighs and poetic comments.
    The end was almost a relief since we had lost Pochettino over a year ago.
    An elite replacement had been identified months ago – see Mourinho’s application and job interview in a Sky production with him sat in the back of a car, projecting to the world the ideal club that would suit his style.
    The future is a two / three year fairground ride ahead.
    As someone else has said, Pochettino DARED us to believe, and Mourinho will spearhead this club and its players to DO, to deliver titles nd trophies.
    Watch this space.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Poch is endlessly fascinating, with an exit like Tony Soprano’s. But didn’t he somehow will this on himself, committing to a cycle of self-destruction and renewal? Following that universal energy, y’know.
    I tend to agree with Spiggy – the end was almost a relief.
    But those 5 years have elevated both Poch and the club. Whatever you think or anticipate about JM (and I’m kind of optimistic), Spurs are now at Mourinho’s level – a significant European player.
    Yup , “watch this space”.

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  3. Alan, Pochettino never won us anything other than praise for our attractive football. As nice a man as he appeared to be, he didn’t deliver any silverware which us long suffering fans crave as it’s been far too long without a trophy and I for one am fed up with the jibes from the melts at the library. Of course we are sad to see Pochettino leave in this manner, the same can be applied to Keith Burkinshaw, our second most successful manager since Billy Nic, when Irvine Scholar dismissed him in favour of Terry Venables. Fortunately we managed to win an FA Cup under Venables and play attractive football to boot.
    I’ve been a Spurs supporter for the past 57 years from aged 7 and have witnessed the highs and lows of our beloved club during that time. The past twenty years have been torrid/abysmal and to be honest, had we appointed a chimp who got us top four in consecutive seasons and Champions League qualification, he’d have also been hailed a hero and a great manager as Pochettino has been favoured with but the fact remains, great managers win trophies. Even Claudio Ranieri (tinkerman) won a the Premier league title for Leicester City with lesser players and far less money at his disposal than Spurs a few years ago. Do you blame Levy for that or the manager?
    Levy gave Pochettino almost 6 years in the job which is a lot longer than he’s given anyone else.
    You bang on about Mourinho being disruptive and divisive wherever he’s been but wherever he’s been, he’s won those clubs trophies and in short time too.
    Pochettino’s manner and behaviour let alone his comments in the press for the past 2 years was strange and annoying to put it mildly and why on earth did her extend his contract for another 5 years if he was so unhappy? I’m of the belief that he started to believe his own press and thought that his piss was champagne. I shouldn’t feel too bad for him particularly as he’s supposedly walking away with £12.5M in his bank account and I have no doubt that he’ll be back in football management fairly soon.
    Mourinho may or may not work out for us but I’m willing to give him a chance, indeed looking forward to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Poch set the first team up for greatness. But we could always feel something was lost in January.

    We might have survived with Poch with one barren window. Two was one empty transfer window too far. From then on, his cryptic replies to various questions started to sound more negative than positive. And once the glorious leader has doubts, all his followers will to.

    Especially the comment about leaving if we had won in Madrid. That must have contributed massively to the actual limp performance that Saturday night. All the players that looked up to him, players that have had their careers massively enhanced under him, suddenly felt mortal and no longer invincible. It was a story of two teams that had willed themselves to the final. One last fight. And we hurt our focus to win, to push, right there and then. Sissoko’s handball was just the coda to the story.

    If we had won, and he had suddenly announced at the presser that he was done, his fairytale would have been complete, and he would have been this decade’s Jose. Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way.

    No matter what, we will always have City and Amsterdam for memories.

    Thank you Mauricio. He’s Magic, y’know.

    Now on to Jose. Levy has done the dirty deed. He chose to recognize first what all fans did, who were starting to see doubts in Poch’s heart, but were afraid to voice it for recognizing that would be itself the beginning of the end, and act. Hard. Given the swift way Jose has been installed, one might wonder if the Amazon team advised on the process.

    Jose may have left a trail of broken teams in his wake. He has also won something with those teams before his own spell broke. For the first time, his backroom team is not the same as from those past left-broken teams. Fresh perspectives. Fresh thoughts. People who have never worked with Jose before too, but have had discussions, so much have some similar footballing philosophies.

    Will it work? Does that matter? He is the gaffer now. Nothing we do can bring Poch back. We must grieve (only 11 hours allowed!) and support the new boss. It is still Tottenham Hotspur, and fans are its soul. We cannot hate Jose for his past, for it is his present and future work with Spurs thaat we will judge Jose on.

    For now, COYS.

    E.o.M.
    [by the way, Poch’s desk lemons were for absorbing bad energy, not generate positive energy]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for that poignant elegy. Pochettino had us eating at the top table, where Mourinho would sit regularly and smirk at us looking in. Levy has yearned after his poster girl, but was rebuffed as not being good enough. Let’s hope he doesn’t come to regret it if it turns out to be a faded model with a facelift. I mean, the schadenfreude would be delicious were it not that it was our club that would suffer. For all those decrying Pochettino’s comments, think about what he had in mind, a warning that decay was at the door. As for wanting to leave, maybe it was just him trying to get the players motivated for one big day. I saw one man crying after the final and one smiling. The one crying has left our club, thanks to the latter. Many of us have hearts that will take a long time to heal; a piece of me died on Tuesday night.

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  6. Great insight Alan. As a united fan it’s interesting that JM has popped up at Spurs. Many within the walls at United didn’t want JM due to the way he behaves, Sir Bobby Charlton for one hated the thought on JM getting his hands on the proud club. However, JM gets results and we are in a results business. In my opinion united should have signed JM when Fergie left but made a howler in getting Moyes.
    JM got us to 3 finals in 2 years, winning 2 of them, losing the FA Cup final to Chelsea.
    He also did what no other manager did since Fergie, he made us consistent in his 2nd season always being 2nd and finishing above Klopps Liverpool. JM claims this was his biggest achievement in football and looking at the squad he had he wasn’t wrong. Look at us since.
    JM was also right in identifying the need for a commanding centre half in Maguire. The problem was and this is something you will have to watch is that Woodward said no and claimed we had enough players in that role so crack on. Yet in that 3rd season we shipped so many goals and we all knew the centre halves at the club needed shipping out. Proof is that Ole has already started getting ride of Smalling and Jones and got Maguire. Woodward ended up paying an extra £10m a year later for his mistake in not listening to JM.
    I thought Pochettino disregarded the domestic cups and many Spurs fans say they want trophies. I firmly believe that success breeds success. United and City have started trophy laden years by starting with a league Cup or FA Cup win. Never underestimate a day at Wembley running around with the Cup. JM will get you to finals and win you those trophies. The danger will come when he approaches Levy wanting the cash to take you to that next level and a title if Levy says no. JM spat his dummy out at United after Woodward failed to back him when he wanted to have a crack at City and the title in his 3rd season. That fateful preseason the press. It will be interesting when the honeymoon is over how it plays out but he will guarantee to you at least some cups. I genuinely wish you well. Ian

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  7. Great read everyone!!
    I am still trying to get my head around all that has happened.
    One thing that I do know is that Poch was there a half a year too long. He seemed lost for ideas and from what we hear lost some of the dressing room.
    JM, love him or hate him, does bring a winning mentality to our Club.
    I wish him well and hopefully he will get a couple of players of his choice in January.
    We need to be optimistic fellow Spurs fans!!!!!

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  8. Perfectly judged piece Alan, as always. I’m genuinely shocked by some of the comments in response.
    Poch was, and will always be, one of us. Even if he wins us a bagful of trophies, I doubt the likes of you & I will ever feel or say the same of Mourinho.
    Tomorrow at West Ham and next week v Olympiakos I hope to be joining massed choruses of “He’s magic, you know, Mauricio Pochettino “. After that I’ll back the team but loving the Club, or the regime that runs it, seems a long way off right now.

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  9. It’s a different world to the one in which I watched Billy Nick’s Lilywhites from the mid 60s to the early 70s, and Burkinshaw’s terrific teams of the 1980s, and, even though things began changing with the super rich PL, who knows just how far Venables and Sugar could’ve taken us in the ’90s (?) if their personalities hadn’t ultimately clashed, with Venables detaching himself from what he was genuinely good at ..ie coaching! And then there was the short and unfulfilled Harry Redknapp era. We all love Harry, and those wonderful Bale/Modric years even had Fergie (at United) drooling at the quality of our play. But remember then how after supporting Harry in his court case, the following day (with Capello resigning) our manager flung his hat in the ring for the England job! He’d still deny today that he got distracted when we were on the cusp of great things, but we let a nailed on 3rd (at least) in Feb/March of the 2011/12 season (while 11 points ahead of Arsenal in 4th, and chasing hot on the heels of City and United, with great expectation) slip miserably away to a disastrous 4th in May, because Chelsea’s CL victory denied us even a qualifying CL place for the following season. All the ‘could have beens’, the ‘what ifs’, and I’ve seen many in the past 55 years. But I’ve seen the Glory too, along with many successes, trophy wise, and the excitement of the CL quarters and semis were right up there with my best memories.
    So this latest and very memorable era ends ..not with a bang, but a whimper. And although I was shocked, and genuinely did not see it coming (putting it all down as usual to fake news, press and blog speculation etc.) I think I see things more clearly now, and perhaps it’s for the best all round. But I shall miss the man greatly. I never met him but I felt I really knew him (perhaps loved him, as he loved Harry Kane, and as much as we all loved Ardiles, and he, us). He was our finest and most consistent manager since Burkinshaw, this great but fairly modest Argentinian, and I hoped he’d lead our club to the promised land, once again. In a way, he did, because even Billy Nick couldn’t take us to the Final of Europe’s top competition. Yes, it papered over the cracks, but what beautiful and unforgettable paper it was!
    I wanted so much for Poch to win things for Tottenham (whereas I’ve always thought Mourinho wanted to win things for himself). I wanted to see a statue of Poch, one day, outside our new ground because of the trophies he’d finally bring home. I wanted our squad to finally fulfil its potential after 5 exciting years, and he’d be the man who’d ensure it would happen. But suddenly it’s over, and a man who many feel you couldn’t ‘warm to’ in a million years steps straight into his place. The King is Dead …Long Live the King! Well, that’s what we all pray for now, longevity linked to success, so let’s give Jose’ the best welcome and support we can.

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  10. Truly an elegeic piece, Alan, fitting of the heroics, dramas and subversive plots of the past couple of weeks as Poch, Levy, Mourinho and others flit across the stage. One of your top ten pieces. It feels like we have taken part in a Tottenham fairy tale that only Levy could twist into a tragic ending. We wanted the magic to continue, but the past year showed that Poch and his team are human after all. He couldn’t last forever, he just lasted longer than most, and gave us the best four years in recent memory along the way. But something had to be done to arrest the decline, didn’t it? The accumulation of reverses and defeats did not fit into the Levy masterplan and Poch eventually used up all his credit. I think the humbling by Munich, coming so close to the loss at Colchester did for him, and it proved the Levy that it was time to move beyond the Poch project.
    I agree with 100% of your take on JoMo. I think it will end badly in a season or two, amid much pouting, but Levy has found us someone who has the ability to get the attention of the players, cut through the dressing room egos, demand a more pragmatic approach to results, and haul the club up the table. Maybe he’ll win us a trophy. This takes us back to your question about where the club is heading. Do we want to hold on to a romantic notion of Corinthian values and adventure, or do we want to compete at the same level occupied by the cynical, cold blooded names that are written onto the winners trophies each year? I’ll take winning every time.
    I’ll rate Poch among our top five managers and certainly the best in the modern era. In addition to his achievements into building the team into a real force in Europe, he avoided the hysterics and scandals of his peers and generated a respect for the club through his behaviour and personal style.
    I look forward to the day when he returns to the club as a manager elsewhere to give everyone a chance to stand and applaud his legacy and contribution to THFC.

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  11. This says it all. The Football Ramble boys used Ferguson as an example a master of the refreshing effect of continual squad evolution and without it things can grow stale. You hit upon that too. Seems primary here.

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  12. Thanks Alan for once again finding the words to celebrate an extraordinary five years under Pocchetino. He will become in time a true legend of the club because he restored a belief and genuine confidence which we had not experienced since the early sixties. We have no choice but to move on, but let’s never forget this time we had

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  13. Certainly that was written from the heart and I’m sure most Spurs fans would agree with most, if not all. Im writing this after the west ham result, so trying to be honest with my thoughts before that much needed win.
    I don’t think I ever wanted a Spurs manager to succeed as much as Poch. For me, he’s the first manager in the PL era to give me the expectation of a Spurs win , rather than hope. He improved the team, increasing dramatically the upturn in performance started by Jol and carried on by Redknapp. The fact most of us pretty much expect CL football every season is not something I’d ever see with Spurs – this is all because of Poch. There is a ‘but’ though, on hindsight, the league form for the past year wasn’t sustainable, and though I wanted so much for results to turn around under him, I must admit it was increasingly unlikely. The performance at Brighton really did show a team without direction , confidence or seemingly, organisation, so reluctantly, bringing an end to his tenure was probably the right decision .
    Personally, I thought Mourinho may have been damned forever had the Chelsea physio not understandably taken the increased offer that saw the court case shelved & the truth buried from public scrutiny. It’s safe to say he would not have been my first choice, but now hes here , I really hope he continues his record of winning trophies , they’re long overdue and if we have to sacrifice a likeable manager for one seemingly lacking charm, in public at least, then so be it. I get your point about Neill and Graham, but let’s not forget that the latter was the last but one manager to win some silverware. It’s long since time we won some more, and if Mourinho succeeds, then it’ll be hard to complain too much that him getting thr job was the right decision.
    I hope Poch continues to have a fantastic career and gets the huge (non PL) gig his work at Spurs shows that he has very much earned

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