Ahead of Saturday's match between Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City, the final Tottenham home match of the season, Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy wrote an open letter to supporters that was posted on Tottenham's club website. This is not the first such letter Levy has written to supporters, and will undoubtedly not be the last, but it does provide a nice bookend to a season that was by many accounts a transitional one for the club.
As is typical of a Levy open letter, the prose comes across as clinical and a little corporate. Levy is a businessman and communicates like a businessman. That said, there are some overriding themes at play here. So let's take a look at parts of what Daniel Levy wrote and try to infer some conclusions.
1. Patience, grasshopper.
We started this season with a new Head Coach and several young players looking to make the step up to the First Team, aware that this was a season where we would need to rebuild, reshape and take time to allow Mauricio to assess his squad and instill his training and playing philosophy.
This is never a quick process yet by mid-season we were seeing some outstanding performances, not least of which in our London derby matches. The number of match winning points we took late in games showed a new mentality and spirit that was testament to the hard work of Mauricio and his staff on the training pitch...
... The lift in performance mid-season, however, raised all our expectations, such that we have been disappointed by our more recent results.
If you take nothing else from this letter, take this point: This was always going to be a transitional year. Spurs in effect punched above their weight this season. The cup final, the manhandling of Chelsea at home, Harry Kane... all bonus. This was never going to be a team that seriously challenged for fourth place this season, though for a while any fans thought so. And while perhaps the worst thing you can say to a football supporter is "just chill out a bit, yeah?" it's what Spurs fans need to do. Despite our personal frustrations with Mauricio Pochettino, his team selection, his tactics, etc. in the end it's easy to forget that this is still his first season with the club.
Levy is trying to convince us that better times are ahead. Because we've seen what the team can do.
2. Expect movement in the transfer window.
Going forward, we have restructured the footballing side of the Club to ensure our sporting philosophy is adhered to - we need to ensure that we have a balance of experienced and home grown players, playing attacking, entertaining football our fans love to watch. Perhaps we had lost our way a little bit in this respect, so this will be our guiding principle as we embark on the summer transfer window.
We are all eager to be challenging at a higher level. Whilst the popular view may be to spend money in excess of earnings or find a philanthropic investor to fund transfers, those scenarios are simply not possible under the new world of Financial Fair Play rules whereby clubs can only spend revenues generated through operations.
That said, this summer we shall look to make changes to support Mauricio's plans for next season.
Perhaps we have lost our way a little bit in this respect. This is Daniel Levy's mea culpa. He seems to be acknowledging that he made a mistake with regards to the players he purchased with the funds from the Gareth Bale sale. Opening the pocketbook was a huge gamble, and it didn't pay off. We all know it already, but it's nice to hear him acknowledge it.
This also seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that there's dead wood in the side, and that there will be player departures this summer. Players like Etienne Capoue, Younes Kaboul, Emmanuel Adebayor, and others will be sold or moved on to make room for new players. The last sentence also implies that Pochettino will be supported in the transfer window, and that he'll start getting some of "his guys" in the team, whether that be through the transfer market or promoting from the youth academy. But don't expect Spurs to spend big this summer. Paul Pogba is not coming.
3. The stadium is the primary focus.
In respect of driving higher revenues in order to enable greater investment in players, it is clearly evident that we need a ‘game changer' to lift this Club to the next level - namely an increased capacity stadium.
Currently we are competing for Champions League qualification whilst driving revenue in the smallest stadium of the top six clubs in the Premier League. The new stadium is, therefore, critical.
Our challenge is to deliver the stadium scheme in a viable manner.
For years now the stadium has been Daniel Levy's white whale. Now he's actually harpooned it, and he's not about to take his eyes off the line. For Spurs, this likely means more of the same: moderate investment in player acquisitions, attempting to punch above the club's weight, and in all probability, a few more seasons where we finish in fifth or sixth place. The stadium is the great equalizer. Finish it and Spurs are suddenly dealing with a much larger attendance at home matches, which means more money. More money equals a greater financial stability, and more funds to re-invest into the club.
This means that Spurs will continue to be a profitable club, and those profits will be reinvested into the stadium to meet costs. It also means ticket prices won't be going down anytime soon.
4. The club will make some unpopular decisions. Deal with it.
We are currently undertaking due diligence and holding discussions on alternative stadium options. Consideration needs to be given to several factors, including planning, policing, transport and the impact it may have on the Team itself. Clearly all possible options have pros and cons and we are aware that we shall not be able to find one which will please all. It is, however, a short-term, interim arrangement so that we can ultimately deliver a fantastic new stadium in Tottenham for the long-term future success of the Club. We shall also, at the appropriate time, be sending supporters a survey about their matchday activities, in order to better inform decisions for the season away.
Tottenham are going to be playing at least one year away from home. That's a fact. That location is most likely going to be at stadium.MK, home of MK Dons. That's also a near certainty. I understand why fans dislike MK Dons – it's not much different from the New York baseball fans that to this day hate the Dodgers – but in this situation at this time the best thing for the club is to minimize expenses and find a temporary home that won't break the bank. Here, Levy is acknowledging that the club will likely do some things (StubHub, relocation, etc.) that will be unpopular with the average fan, but that these things are done with great forethought, and will result in a stronger club long term.
And, essentially, that this is temporary and fans need to get over it.
5. F**k Arsenal.
We know that our North London neighbours experienced delays and setbacks during the delivery of their stadium and their challenges were far less than ours with no site constraints and with significant enabling development.
This is perhaps my favorite part of the letter. It's pure, unadulterated red meat towards supporters. Here, Levy is saying "We're doing this thing, and it's harder than what Arsenal went through, but dammit, we're going to do it BETTER. Just watch." What better way to garner support for a major project than to imply that you're going to one-up your most bitter of rivals? Brilliant.
In both tone and content, this is about as good a letter as Tottenham fans can reasonably expect from their chairman. Daniel Levy is not a "lad," and you're not going to get overly friendly platitudes or enthusiastic nods towards the terrace supporters from him. That's not his way. What you will get is pragmatism: here's what's going to happen, and here's why it's happening. This can rub some supporters the wrong way, but it's undoubtedly done for the good of the club.
Can you believe Daniel Levy? That's a difficult question to answer. And yet I think the things he says here are all things he himself believes firmly. In this letter, he's taking a leap of faith: he's asking Tottenham supporters to trust him, and to trust that in the end it will all be worthwhile.