Do it now. Pointless waiting. Why wait, not a rhetorical question because there are no reasons.
Conte has had enough of us and we’ve had enough of him. He’s heartsore after three bereavements, plus a serious operation. Losing friends has a profound effect on any individual because while the bonds with family may run deeper, the death of a contemporary is a sharp reminder of your own mortality. It’s a time for taking stock, for stepping back to reflect on what is past and what the future might hold. He doesn’t need us. He needs his family and Italy.
Part of that mental stocktaking must be a judgement about how little he has achieved at Spurs. He has great faith in his methods and approach. He cannot remain oblivious to their failure. His failure. A proud man, he knows he cannot carry on.
His approach may be rigid and unchanging but he’s absorbed one aspect of life at Spurs, how ridiculous this club can be. Last night he’s quoted as saying, “Let’s see how the season ends. Maybe they can send me away even earlier.” We’ve heard of ‘come and get me’ pleas, this is a new one, the ‘come and get rid of me’ plea. Spurs in the vanguard of modern football once again. He’s begging to go, on his knees and pleading. He’s at Tottenham Way but not taking training, he’s digging an escape tunnel. That’s what Tottenham can do to a man.
I don’t for a moment wish to compare the pain of bereavement with that of losing a poxy football match, but our hearts are hurting too. We go to the match, loyally, 61000 despite the absence of any sniff of success, because it’s Tottenham, and they are a part of us. We go to experience the joy and pain of being a fan, to be part of something, we feel this stupid, inconsequential thing deep down in our hearts and in our souls.
Last night, we saw many things, but above all, what we feel wasn’t matched on the pitch. I’m a Spurs fan, I can deal with losing. But not like that. Have a go. Put everything you have into it because it matters. We had, what, one shot on target plus a deflection, then Harry’s late header, well saved but actually not as far away from the keeper as it should have been. Dull, predicable build up and passing patterns that haven’t worked for much of the season and didn’t work last night, against opponents who were ordinary by the standards of the CL knock-out stages.
But just have a proper go, and that’s my point – it didn’t matter enough. Conte is going. We know it, he knows it, the players know it. When it matters, players dig deep to find something extra, just because it matters, but we had nothing. The pressure is on as time passes. So our best defender decides to get himself sent off with a tackle primed to take out not just the full-back but, apparently, the entire Milan bench. At least it shows ambition.
Then with 10 men, we bring on Sanchez. Conte’s sacrosanct system came before pressing for a late equaliser. I get it to some extent – you need some shape and Porro needed to attack, not drop back. But that was massively outweighed by the need to SCORE A BLOODY GOAL, and we had two centrebacks on the field already. Plus Sanchez is not comfortable on the ball. It’s a symbol of Conte’s refusal to let the team off his leash. What is the point?
This dreadful week laid bare the rotting innards of this club, although many of us caught a whiff of the stench a long while ago. Levy has talked of the club’s DNA – I wrote about this last week after our ignominious cup exit. His contribution is to build a culture where all our efforts are geared up to not winning anything. Wherever you turn, recruitment, choice of managers, leadership from the board, there is a total lack of understanding or strategic thinking about how to create a winning side and winning mentality. Managers who had some ambition and wanted to play good football, Jol, Redknapp, Pochettino, all gone, replaced by AVB, Nuno, JM. If I have been over and over this on Tottenham on My Mind for the last decade, imagine how often that’s run around my addled brain in a toxic mixture of fury, frustration and despair, of simply not understanding how so many decisions can be so wrong for so long. It does me no good whatsoever.
That has seeped into the hearts and minds of the players and a winner like Conte. The team selection against Sheffield told the players that we don’t want it, really. Come to Spurs because you have ambition, yet we’ll knock that out of you soon enough. It’s like Nuno’s selection of a reserve side in that European tie against, I can’t remember and can’t be bothered to look it up. You know the one, we lost and it told half the squad that the manager thought they were no good.
It’s found its way into my head too. Last night, all I could think of was, this is pointless. Levy has no emotional intelligence. He doesn’t grasp how his decisions come over to people or how it affects them, and is closed to new ideas. But the club does keep an eye on social media and blogs, so they would do well to understand that if I as a loyal fan and regular matchgoer for over 50 years, someone who is generally of a mild disposition and infuriates folk by being fair, reasonable and seeing both sides of any story, if I am mightily hacked off then something is wrong and I’m not alone. Everyone I talk with says this openly, long-standing supporters feeling alienated and disillusioned. The only difference is whether they are angry or apathetic. Both are dangerous emotions.
Once again, we have not so much a distance between the club and supporters as a vast yawning chasm stretching from Everest’s peak to the permanent darkness of the bottom of the Mariana Trench. I should be furious, instead I am numb with frustration, alienated from the club I hold so dear.
And this is not a new feeling. The Pochettino era, warts, lemons and all, brought fan, team, manager and club closer than ever before. That’s not the Tottenham DNA however much I wish it were, that’s the outlier for this generation. The club’s dismissive contempt for supporters’ feelings and emotions persists.
So let him go now, with some dignity, rather than make him feel compelled to utter the patronising drivel he spouted after last night’s game. Dismissing him is an act of mercy for him and for us. It’s also essential. But this is only the next step, not the whole solution. Spurs are on the edge of a precipice. We have a decent number of good players who could improve as individuals, including several promising young players, and more could be made of their collective talents.
At the same time, we must spend to get better players, backed by an informed recruitment policy. Plus, we must reinforce in key positions notably at centre back, goalkeeper and midfield creativity. Then have Harry, nearing 30, and Son, whose form has already plunged down that cliff edge.
Money speaks louder than words, and the booing at the Lane is not going to subside if this carries on. The next date circled in red in Levy’s diary is the season ticket renewal deadline, which seems to get earlier and earlier each year. He will take action before then. But on past form, this is a huge task that the board is unable to handle.