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Nuno: “no regrets” about time at Tottenham Hotspur

He made us proud.

Nottingham Forest Unveil New Head Coach Nuno Espirito Santo
“Hi Nuno!”
Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

In case you haven’t heard the news, as of yesterday Nottingham Forest have a new manager and it’s a name that Spurs fans will recognize. Days after Tottenham Hotspur defeated Forest 2-0 at the City Ground, the club sacked manager Steve Cooper and have now replaced him with... former Tottenham manager Nuno Espirito Santo.

We all know the history of Nuno’s short tenure as Spurs manager — less a managerial stint and more an “interregnum” between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte (neither of which really went especially well either). In 2021, Nuno was, to be brutally honest, pretty far down the list of potential candidates after Daniel Levy fired Mourinho, and was approached only after then-Director of Football Fabio Paratici backed off from appointing ex-Roma manager Paulo Fonseca and was dissuaded from hiring Gennaro Gattuso after a furious fan revolt.

He said he was going to make us proud, but in reality Nuno’s tenure was short. While he led Tottenham to what was then their best ever start in the league (along with a Manager of the Month award and hilarious win over Manchester City), results cratered afterwards and he was let go after just four months in charge. Nuno spent some time away from the game, eventually surfacing in the Saudi Pro League as manager of al-Ittihad until earlier this season when he was let go.

Now he’s back in the Premier League with Forest. Predictably in his first press conference he was asked about his time at Tottenham and his response was basically “no hard feelings.”

I gotta say, while Nuno is pretty much the butt of many jokes about Tottenham both from within and outside the fanbase, I honestly don’t harbor many hard feelings towards him or his tenure. He seemed like a really nice, upfront, honest, and personable guy and that kind of thing matters coming off of a personally divisive appointment like Jose Mourinho. He was Tottenham’s first black manager since Chris Hughton’s caretaker stint,* and that kind of representation is important. He wasn’t a good choice for Spurs and everybody knew it, but I also think at some level he got hard done by while he was here, because I’m not sure anyone in that situation coming in could have done much better. It sucks being the guy after the guy, and in this case Nuno was the guy after the guy (after three more guys who didn’t actually come).

At any rate, it doesn’t appear that he holds much of a grudge, or if he does he’s not spitting fire into a public microphone at his first press conference with another club. If nothing else that speaks to his integrity. He’s got another challenge ahead of him trying to keep Forest in the Premier League this season, but if Forest were going to make a change this feels like a cromulent appointment for a club of their size and stature. I hope things go well.

* — An earlier version of this article attributed Walter Tull as the first black manager of Tottenham; Tull was the first black Spurs player but never managed the club before his death in 1918. Apologies for the error.