The news that Chelsea had successfully approached and eventually appointed Mauricio Pochettino to be their new manager landed like a ton of bricks on the Tottenham Hotspur fanbase. After Antonio Conte’s “mutually-agreed” departure, Pochettino was the sentimental fan favorite for the open Spurs job. Why not? It had ended badly, but Pochettino had led Tottenham to its best period of results since the 1980s, including a magical run to the Champions League final.
Since his sacking, Pochettino has been very open about wanting to return to Tottenham someday due to some “unfinished business” with the club, something that endeared him greatly to supporters. As the sentiment went, Dad had just gone down to the corner store for some cigs, he’ll be back any time and everything will be just like it was before he left. Right? Time heals all wounds, etc.
Daniel Levy clearly didn’t think so. Now, thanks to an article from Dan Kilpatrick in the Evening Standard, we may have some insight as to why, instead of coming home, Dad is now living with that nasty woman and his new family a few blocks south.
According to Kilpatrick, Levy opted not to approach Pochettino for three reasons: he wants to appoint a young, up-and-coming project manager (a category to which Pochettino no longer belongs), looking backwards almost never works in professional sports, and he didn’t want to be unduly swayed by emotions.
Levy appointed Mauricio Pochettino as a relatively unknown and untested Premier League manager — he’d done good things at Southampton, but he was hardly a big name manager. It’s tempting to think that Levy wanted to appoint a young project guy, but that would be undercut by the fact that he tried very hard to appoint Louis Van Gaal first. Poch turned out to be the perfect choice to capture lightning in a bottle with a team of young, cheap talent, so everything worked out well. But this project is different in that Levy is clearly actively searching for the NEXT Pochettino, meaning that for him the current one is no longer a good fit.
This story is obviously sourced from the club or from someone close to the club, but sentiment and nostalgia aside it’s hard to say that Levy is wrong, necessarily, in his rationale for not approaching Pochettino. So much is different now from when Poch last roamed the sidelines. The squad has been almost completely turned over by this point (for better or for worse) and there’s no guarantee that what worked for Poch the last time will work with this group of players. Pochettino also got extremely fortunate to have a young Harry Kane fresh out of the academy and hit paydirt with Dele Alli who was signed for £5m from League One side MK Dons. There’s young talent at Tottenham now that needs a chance, but a lot had to go right for Poch when he arrived.
I also understand the impulse not to be swayed by nostalgia or emotion in this particular hiring. It’s well documented that Pochettino and Levy maintain a very friendly relationship even after Poch’s sacking, but the nature of returning to the well for Spurs’ new manager, while tempting, suggests that if things go wrong this time they could go very VERY wrong.
Kilpatrick also noted — again — that there was resistance to going back to Pochettino this time from others in the upper Spurs hierarchy, even after Levy had unsuccessfully tried to grab him from PSG after Jose Mourinho was sacked. Pochettino was apparently not on Fabio Paratici’s initial list of candidates, which considering what happened to Paratici might not be so significant.
I get why supporters want Pochettino back. Those were extremely good years to be a Spurs supporter, and for many, the reason why they’re Spurs fans now. The emotional impact is made worse now that Poch has opted to return to football by managing one of Tottenham’s biggest league rivals. But sometimes you have to make a decision to either go back to what worked the last time or try something new. Daniel Levy is obviously hesitant to look backwards, and Pochettino decided he can no longer wait for Levy to make the call.