Big Ange is in the building. Ange Postecoglou formally started his job as head coach of Tottenham Hotspur on July 1. Today, nine days later, he held his first press conference in front of assembled UK and world sports media. It was Postecoglou’s first real opportunity to address the media in a live setting, and he came across exceptionally well — smart, confident, ambitious, and even funny.
Obviously there was a LOT of talk about Harry Kane, enough so that I’ll spin that out into a second article. Watch for that one on the heels of this one.
The full press conference is available on YouTube and is embedded in the header image at the top of this article, and I’d encourage everyone to view it, as it’s wonderfully engaging content.
Ange opened the presser by being very open about the fact that he is starting a new chapter at Tottenham, specifically referring to it as a “rebuild” and hinting that it might take some time before Spurs fans start to see results under his tenure.
“It’s fair to say every position I’ve had has needed some sort of rebuild. I had a brilliant two years at Celtic, loved every minute of it, but it was challenging, particularly at the start. I don’t know if it’s about patience. You can’t ask people to feel a certain way or dampen expectations. I think what I’ve tried to do wherever I’ve been, including Celtic, is allow them to form their own opinion based on what they see not what I say.
“We had a massive rebuild at Celtic but at the beginning, even though the results weren’t there, the supporters could see what we were trying to do and get behind us. I don’t know whether it’s going to be a rocky start or a good start for us but my hope and desire and what I’m going to try to do is give supporters hope that we’re going to embark on something special.”
Postecoglou went on to talk about his immediate plans Tottenham, emphasizing that he starts with no goals or expectations. He said it’s not about picking a goal and making that the north star for that season or for his tenure, but rather coaching principles and establishing tactical ideas, and letting the team determine what the realistic goals are.
“Going in with preconceived ideas might be limiting, as might be making goals. Again, from the outset what’s important is that we try and establish some key principles of who we want to be first of all. Not just in how we play, but how we behave, how we train. The way we interact with one another, how we treat everyone else. And let’s see where that takes us. Because goals are great but it can stifle you a little bit because you become a bit narrow.
“The reality is we’re going to have to do things and be flexible along the way to adjust to whatever challenges there may be ahead of us. We don’t know what they are - sometimes you do all the best planning and try to have foresight but something comes across your path and you have to be agile to adjust to that. And we’ll see where that takes us. But we’re a big club and the end goal for all big clubs is to have success and that’s what we’ll do.”
When asked specifically about how Spurs will look under his coaching, Postecoglou demurred a little bit, noting that he doesn’t have his full team back yet, but returned again to the principles that guide his coaching at his other managerial stops.
“I guess without again having a too defined approach, for anyone that has charted the course of my career will know if you watch my teams play they all have the same basic elements in there. That is we want to be aggressive, we want to take the game to the opposition and try to win every game of football, which I guess is not unique. Everyone wants to do that, it is just the manner in which we go about it and we will go about it is we want to be a team that tries to dominate games of football. What that is going to look like, obviously my history is a bit of a predictor to that and I have been pretty consistent in playing that way whichever level I have been at, whether that is domestically, internationally or different countries and competitions.
“So, what this Tottenham team will look like? Again I don’t want to limit that because I am using different players here, some fantastic footballers that could be something brand new that even I haven’t put together before. Hopefully that is successful, but the elements of it will be we want to be an aggressive team, a dominant team, a team who takes the game to every opposition home and away. I think for me the history of this football club kind of suggests that is the best fit for it. Having said that, it doesn’t mean it is the only way you can have success, but that is the way we will be trying to do it.”
Postecoglou is a confident man who has an unflappable belief in himself, his talents, and his ability to be successful. That came through remarkably clearly in his comments. Ange was asked specifically about fans’ initial reactions to his appointment, which was at best mixed on social media after the club was turned down by Julian Nagelsmann and Arne Slot. His answer I think gives a pretty good encapsulation of what we should expect from him in all press conferences going forward — he understands that fans are going to say what they’re going to say and have their own preconceived notions of what success means at Spurs. He’s just not paying attention to any of that nonsense.
“Supporters with every appointment have the right to reserve their judgement. Absolutely, why not? This is their football club and anyone who comes through their football club they have a right to determine whether they think it’s the right person or not.
“For the most part, I think the overwhelming majority of Tottenham supporters want me to be successful because if I’m successful then their club is successful. I think they will wait and see and wait to reserve judgement on me when that comes.
“It doesn’t affect me. It’s not look I feel like I’m battling against any tide or anything. To be honest, I’ve felt overwhelming support since I’ve been here. The people I’ve come across outside of here have all been very supportive in terms of Tottenham fans. So rather than troll through social media to find what is said about me I’ll go with the feeling I have at the moment.”
A big chunk of the press conference was dominated by Harry Kane, but there was some discussion about other players, notably Tanguy Ndombele, Tottenham’s record signing who recently returned from a season-long loan to Napoli. Once tipped to depart or even have his contract annulled by Spurs, Ndombele is a player who on paper seems to perfectly mesh with what Postecoglou wants in an attacking midfielder. Postecoglou has been giving Tanguy a good look in preseason training, and when asked if Ndombele has a future with Spurs under his leadership Ange basically said “That’s up to him.”
“Yeah, Tanguy has been good. He is working hard at training, to be fair they all are, they have got no option. Again, I take things as I see them. For me, he is obviously a very talented footballer, he was part of team that won Serie A last year and within that context, I am pleased to have him here and part of the group. What that means long-term, again I will not get into the definite of that because a lot of that will depend on how the team shapes up and how he shapes up.
“He may decide this is not for him. I’m not sure. Like I said, the group I have had in so far have been really good at embracing the change of direction, the way we are doing things. As I said, once we get all the other guys in, it will be great to see how everyone measures up and decisions will be made moving forward from there over who will be involved and who won’t.”
Postecoglou was also asked about the upcoming tour to Australia and Asia which starts next week, and said there will be a few players, notably (and understandably) Rodrigo Bentancur, who will not attend due to injuries.
“We do have a couple who [will miss the tour], obviously Rodrigo Bentancur has got his injury, is still a little bit off. Fraser Forster has got a bit of a back injury, which means he won’t travel and won’t be able to participate. There are a couple of others who are touch and go at the moment. We will see how they go for the next few days. For me, I would really like as many of the group along as possible because it is the best way to figure out how we set up our environment and sort of the culture around the group if everyone is there. But if it is going to be beneficial for some guys to stay back, we’ll make that decision. I don’t think there will be too many in that boat at the moment.”
The press conference ended with a question that noted that Spurs have been on a downward slope for the past few years, and hasn’t seen real success in the form of silverware in a long time. Ange again disarmed the question with a bit of humor.
“You have created a pretty bleak picture there, I was excited about this!
“To be fair without being dismissive that is why I am here. That is what I love about it because of all that is not here. I want to bring success to this football club and I want to bring European football to this football club, to bring it back to where it has to be. The biggest thing is that there is an enormous challenge here and I love it. For me, all my career I have always taken over sides who have a rebuild and that is the challenge. To create something that will hopefully last over my tenure because I wont be here forever.
“What a great story. What does success look like? The fans will tell me that.”