Another cycle almost complete. Change welcomed, blowing away the stale air of the last rotten manager. Sticky, uncertain beginnings, then promise and progress, only to slide back into a mire of frustration, recriminations and bitter departures. The only thing that changes is how rapidly we move through the different stages. Nuno was something special, a record-breaker even for us, but Conte’s coming in a close second.
Is the award of a dodgy penalty in injury time a tipping point moment at Tottenham? Surely Conte would not have fired off his press conference broadside if the ref had waved play on or if Forster had saved it. Asked a question and he was off on one, blaming everyone except himself for the team’s recent performances. Or I am thinking of a JM conference – it’s so confusing.
There were truths in what he said. The players are not giving their best and it is entirely legitimate to criticise the way the club has taken team and player-related decisions over the past 20 years. It’s been suggested this was a dig to motivate the players and provoke to board in some way but I don’t buy that. It was an exasperated rant without any goal in mind. He’s sick of everything at the club, who in his eyes have not supported him as his status requires and at his own failure to get through to players who aren’t responding to him. Conte didn’t say these things because he wants to provoke a positive reaction and plan for the future. He’s said them because he wants to protect himself and his reputation. He’s halfway out the door already.
I care about the future of my club. He speaks as if he’s on the outside looking in, it’s all they this and they that, as if he has nothing to do with where we are right now. The team have no togetherness or spirit but who organises and leads them if not the manager. That is his job. That’s what managers do.
I don’t wish to excuse the players totally. Late on in recent games they have not looked confident as a collective and individuals have made poor decisions. We don’t seem to have that on-the-field gumption to lift ourselves to get over the line when things aren’t going our way. That bloodymindedness is hard to put your finger on, but whatever it is, we don’t have it at the moment. That said, the modern player expects to be coached and organised. There’s a debate for another time about whether that’s a good thing or not. Players still show individuality but within coached patterns and shapes. They expect this, and it’s Conte who consistently encourages them to sit back in the first half and, if we are winning, at the end of games, which did for us on Saturday and nearly did the same against Forest, a match we dominated. But nothing apparently is his fault.
The players know he has given up on them. They know he’s going. And last week he blamed the fans. Expectations too high. Impatient. We don’t understand. I don’t need him to be patronising. If I wanted to be patronised, I could go on Twitter for half an hour. One trophy in 20 years, highest prices in Europe yet the ground is full every week, away tickets allocated at sky-high points totals, and we still sing his name. 5,300 go to Sheffield on a weekend night, no trains home. We didn’t pick the team.
The fact of the matter is that while this rant has been interpreted as an event of seismic proportions, it changes nothing. Maybe he’s squeezed some pus from the boil but the infection is still there.
Everything is the same as last week. Then, as now, I write the same things. Conte doesn’t want to be here any more and he is not getting through to the players, so go now. He could have left with dignity. He deserves our sympathy for the losses he has suffered, and his serious illness was understandably a time for personal reflection. His family is still in Italy, his contract is up in the summer, so he could have left with our good wishes. But his reputation is his priority so he’s leaving a scorched earth policy in his wake.
Spurs remain a club working full tilt to not win anything. The board consistently make poor choices of manager because they don’t understand the game or, more importantly, what sort of club they want us to be, let alone how to achieve their goal. JM and Conte were vanity driven choices. Spurs need a manager who can build a side over time, who can improve players and who is properly and consistently supported in the transfer market. By that I don’t expect money to be thrown at the problem, rather there needs to be a shrewd, targetted recruitment policy.
History tells us that recruitment remains a problem at Spurs. Paratici has done well enough but it’s the gaps that have not been filled by him and others that reveal embedded, cultural problems, the impact of which will worsen when we have to replace Hugo, possibly Son and Kane, as well as find creativity in midfield and a couple of dominant centre backs. This is a big deal.
This is how ridiculous our club is. Paratici draws up shortlist for a new manager, fine, that’s his job. But he may not have a job soon because of the dodginess in Italy. And he’s not going to opt for anyone who he might clash with if he keeps his job. But someone else may well have his job by the time new man arrives.
Saturday night, we all thought Conte was writing his own P45. However, yesterday the message was that he and the board had had a chat, and they accepted that his words were directed at the players, not them. It tells me that for whatever reason, the board don’t want to sack him, so they are spinning the interpretation that emphasises his criticism of the players, not them. So it’s not their fault either. That’s something they and Conte have in common. Protecting reputations seems more important than Tottenham Hotspur’s future. It sickens me. The fingers point, blame game in full swing. I hear only one thing loud and clear – this club is a complete and utter mess.