I wish I had positive encouragement for everyone, but it’s not going to be that kind of article. This will almost certainly read like the rantings and ravings of a madman who is at his wit’s end and, for that, I apologize. However, I need this and venting helps us all.
I woke up this morning and, before I even got out of bed, opened up Slack to find the writer’s room had over 100 messages. That’s a sign something big happened. I was hoping to find that we had Arne Slot flying over to London to finalize things or that we hired a Director of Football and he’d be the one finishing up the deal to make Slot the next manager. Things would be done and we’d go into the summer with a clean slate and a manager who had all the time needed to get to know the club and decide on a transfer strategy.
Instead, we’re back here in a familiar place....
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the ten years of covering this club, is that it’s never boring. This club finds new ways to make us scratch our head, feel pain and despair while giving us some good moments mixed in between. Lately, though, it’s been a lot more despair and anger than anything else. Spurs need help on Sunday just to get into Europa Conference League or face a year outside of European competition. Taking that into consideration, one would think that when you sack your manager almost two months ago and your Director of Football gets banned from working in football, that might make someone change their ways.
We used to refer to Daniel Levy as a “bald ninja Jedi” for the savvy ways he negotiated deals. He was a relentless negotiator. People like Sir Alex Ferguson saved a paragraph about him in their biographies. Nowadays, he’s the king of “we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas,” and seems to have lost a lot of the ruthlessness that made him so effective. And after today, it’s become clear that he needs to get out of the way if this club is ever going to get out of its self-inflicted doldrums.
When the club announced, perplexingly, that they weren’t interested in Julian Nagelsmann, we should have taken that as a red flag that something was off. It’s fine if Nagelsmann wasn’t the guy, but to actually come out and say it while still negotiating for a manager is truly mind-boggling. To imagine that Daniel Levy had the shocked Pikachu face yesterday when Feyenoord took advantage of this and demanded £15m in compensation is something I can both laugh and cry at.
Dustin’s piece from earlier today summarizes the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s negotiations with Slot and his agent. It sounds like Levy was expecting Feyenoord to roll over and do nothing, yet acted surprised when they did anything but that. So he took his ball and went home.
Here’s the thing, though: If the club truly believed Slot was the guy, you pay the money. Full stop. You grit your teeth, open the coffers, and send a Brinks truck to Rotterdam as fast as you can to get your man in. Instead, Slot is going to re-up with Feyenoord, continuing a longstanding trend where both managers and players use Tottenham as a convenient stalking horse to get what they want rather than actually desiring to come. It’s beyond infuriating and is entirely self-inflicted.
Now, the question is simple: Where do we go from here?
Honestly, I have no idea. The links to Ange Postecoglou popped up almost immediately after Slot announced he was staying, but what’s to stop Celtic from doing the same thing and slapping a big compensation fee on the deal? Any club chairman with a functioning cerebral cortex will look at what just happened and do the same. Levy wasn’t willing to pay Bayern for Nagelsmann, nor would he pay Feyenoord for Slot. Why would he do it for Postecoglou? (Author’s Note: Prior to publishing, I believed Postecoglou had signed an extension with Celtic. This is not the case and he is still on a 12-month rolling deal.)
Putting aside the fact that we still need a Director of Football and that should have come first, the choices are now down to those who are unemployed as I have no belief Levy is going to negotiate with a club for a manager who is succeeding in their current role.
For those who are holding out hope for an 11th hour gazumping to get Mauricio Pochettino back at Hotspur Way, don’t hold your breath. The reporting around that has been pretty consistent: Some of the board are simply not interested in bringing the Argentine back and, truth be told, return tours rarely work out. I know there’s a group of supporters that do not agree with this, but it would be a pretty stunning turnaround if suddenly Poch walked into those doors in north London again.
Spurs could knock on Nagelsmann’s door once the season is over and Bayern are no longer due a fee, but that’s more time wasted. Nagelsmann was and is still my top choice, so if there’s any links in the next day or two on that, I will cling to it as hard as I can hoping we someone trip over our feet and land on him.
Graham Potter is still out of work and, once upon a time, Levy had great big googly eyes for the former Brighton manager. He wouldn’t pay the fee, Chelsea did, and he was out of work in less than a year. Potter might have been in over his head at the west London club but that should be cause for concern. I wouldn’t outright hate it if Spurs brought him in, but the shine on him has certainly diminished.
Luis Enrique I still think is an outsider in all of this. PSG have been talking to him and, truthfully, I don’t think Enrique has really been serious about going to the Premier League, let alone go to Spurs. I think it’s PSG or bust for him, but surprises have happened in the past. I suppose Levy could bring him in? I wouldn’t hate it, but he’s not my first choice.
Then there’s the one that might break me if we hire him.... Brendan Rodgers.
Nothing that this club has done in the past few seasons makes me believe we are smart enough to avoid a man who ran Leicester City into the ground, so much so that the club are one of the odds-on-favorites to be relegated come Sunday. Rodgers brings nothing exciting to the table. It’s tired ideas from a boring manager who has a history of bottling it when things are on the line before ultimately getting sacked because he lost the plot. If this club settles on Brendan Rodgers, we deserve every last bit of pain we get.
That’s why Daniel Levy needs to hire a Director of Football ASAP...and get the hell out of the way.
I’m not even asking him and Joe Lewis to cash out, though they’re closer to doing that more than ever with the stadium being done. After all, ENIC purchased Tottenham Hotspur as a business investment and, at some point, you take your chips to the cashier.
Daniel Levy running the club’s day-to-day businesses had always been his strong suit. When ENIC purchased the club at the beginning of the century, Tottenham was a mid-table club that usually put their efforts into domestic cups. Levy and Lewis deserve credit from taking Tottenham Hotspur from those levels to what it is today, but it has become increasingly obvious since about 2017 that Levy is out of his element running everything like he has for 20+ years.
When a club grows like Spurs has, you have to break up the roles so you don’t overextend yourself. We saw the first real sign of this in 2018 when the club signed absolutely nobody in the summer window. Levy was trying to finalize the stadium while running the club. It was clear then that he was doing far too much yet refused to acknowledge that publicly.
But honestly, why stop at Levy when it comes to throwing around the blame? The entire board of directors, whether it’s Executive Director Donna-Maria Cullen, Chief Commercial Officer Todd Kline or Director of Football Administration and Governance Rebecca Caplehorn, are to blame. It also would be nice to see Joe Lewis sail over from the Caribbean and show his face at the stadium. He’s like the sighting of a rare white elk nowadays, but that doesn’t absolve him from blame in the slightest.
Everyone I named above, along with the rest of the board, has to shoulder the blame here. These are the people that are making it miserable to support this club. I want to avoid the standard “profit before glory” argument here, so I’ll settle for this:
This club has no plan. It’s as simple as that.
I don’t think that was always the case, but right around that time I pointed out in 2017/18 there was a shift. The stadium was well on its way to being built. We had Champions League football. There looked to be consistent growth and no real concern about things. It was like watching a Pokémon evolve into its next form, if I may be nerdy for a moment. And then it all stalled out.
Levy and, ultimately, the board refused to delegate necessary duties. Imagine if we had a Director of Football from 2016-2019 to handle recruitment for the squad? Levy could have focused solely on the stadium and commercial growth, something we know he’s good at, while the football side was being handled by a capable person in charge. Delegation is a good thing, yet Levy and the board seem to scoff at such things.
So here we are, 25 May 2023, with no full-time manager or director. We’re somehow repeating 2021 yet this one feels like it’s going off the rails faster. The Spurs beat writers that we all follow like Jack Pitt-Brooke, Alasdair Gold, Charlie Eccleshare and Dan Kilpatrick, have been poking their own fun at the club with tweets making it clear they are coping with the pain just like the rest of us. Their jobs cannot be fun when the club is in this state, just like we’re not having fun writing about this on a day-to-day basis.
I think we’re all asking for the same thing: We want answers. We want to see a plan. We want to see this club take the next step and win trophies while playing exciting football instead of feeling like two hours every weekend is a slog-fest where we laugh at things because it’s the easiest way to deal with the pain.
I want to enjoy my weekends again with this club. I want to see meaningful ideas and plans translate into success. I want to see that exciting football we once had.
Most importantly, I just want Tottenham Hotspur Football Club to be fun again. But that won’t happen without significant change, with Levy in charge no one would be surprised if that change is too slow in coming, if it comes at all.