Ange Postecoglou’s first Tottenham Hotspur press conference was a long and sprawling one, as you might expect for his first one as head coach of the club. Some big questions were asked, and Ange answered them forthrightly, if not always entirely directly.
That said, it was a breath of fresh air to watch his press conference and have him speak clearly and confidently about his plans for Tottenham. That confidence came through, especially as he spoke about his tactics, his style, and his belief that he can do very good things with this group of players, including some who have been marginalized by past managers.
But the elephant in the room was, of course, Harry Kane. Tottenham’s star player, an academy graduate, and the best English striker of his generation, there’s been a lot already written about his future as he enters into the final year of his contract amidst two rejected bids from Bayern Munich. Kane reports back for preseason training on Wednesday when he is expected to have a meeting with Postecoglou.
Notably, Ange didn’t duck the topic, which he could’ve easily done, and instead answered pretty direct questions with what felt like good faith. It’s obvious that Bayern have a serious interest in Kane, and it’s also just as obvious that Kane’s feeling is mutual, so it was refreshing to see Postecoglou engage with that thorny mess.
That didn’t stop him from cracking a joke about a “Harry Kane question betting pool” though.
“Question three was Harry, was it? We were running a pool with the coaches, I think Mile Jedinak won actually. I had over six because I thought you’d care more about me.
“In terms of the squad, think it’s fair to say the reason I’m here is because the club is seeking change. A change of direction, a change in the way we do things and that usually means a change in personnel: players and staff. In that context, my role right at the minute is to deal with what’s in front of me, the certainties that I have, [while] knowing that are going to be many uncertainties and trying to tick off one by one the path forward for us and [determine] what our squad is going to look like.
“It may take a little while before we have clarity on that. But within that I can’t wait for that moment to start working. We’ve started working already.”
Ange hinted that it’s unlikely there will be any real resolution to Kane’s future after the planned Wednesday meeting, but he made it clear that he wants Kane to be a part of the club’s present, and its future.
“I don’t think it’s my role to sit down and treat people in a manner because of their circumstances. I’m really big on treating everyone the same, and Harry has already entrenched himself in the history of this football club. He’s a very important part. He’s one of the premier strikers in the world and I want him involved. My conversation with him will be about how we can make this club successful. And I’ve got no doubts that what he wants as well.
“So within that context, whatever that narrows into the personal stuff around Harry as an individual. If the conversation takes it that way then we’ll take it that way. But I doubt it’s going to be defined in the manner that people think it’s going to be. It’s not going to be a conversation where we walk out of the room and have an understanding. I don’t want that kind of conversation, what I want is to introduce myself to Harry and give him my vision of the football club. And get a sense from him on what he thinks the club needs to do to be successful and walk out on that training pitch and try and make it happen.
I didn’t expect Ange to put any one player, even one as important to the club’s history as Harry Kane, ahead of the collective, so his answers about the upcoming talk with Kane were both interesting and align with what I know of him. Ange didn’t give away the farm, but he did repeatedly note how important Kane is to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, and also subtly imply that the club will go on with or without him.
“I haven’t had any assurances [about Kane’s future at Spurs] and I wouldn’t expect any assurances, because when you’re dealing with these kind of things you’re never dealing with definites or certainties in anything in life. That’s just my nature. I just kind of go along and try to concentrate on the things I know right now. What I know right now is that Harry is part of this squad and he’s looking forward to coming back to training and being amongst these players and starting to work together.
“If I spend too much time worrying about the impact it might have either way, I’m going to miss trying to build a team because ultimately that’s what’s going to make us successful, if we build a team that plays football a certain way. That’s going to be it. I’m not going to miss this initial opportunity to lay down what I think is going to be important in the long-term. What’s going to be important in the long-term goes beyond individuals. It’s more about overriding philosophy about who we want to be as a team and the key people within that.”
That’s interesting. You can read into these quotes a number of different ways, but these two paragraphs imply to me that Postecoglou doesn’t see Harry Kane as an indelible and immutable fixture in the club. Obviously he wants him to stay. What coach wouldn’t? But Ange makes it clear that no one player is the club. Tottenham had a long history before Harry Kane, and it will have a long history after he’s gone, whenever that happens.
Postecoglou has a strong belief in himself and his abilities, and he feels like he’ll be able to succeed here. He’s uncompromising in that way. My guess, based on reading between the lines here, is that he’ll lay out his vision to Kane and invite him to be a part of it, and then leave it to Harry to decide, but there will be no arm twisting, no deal making. Here’s my vision, you’re either in or you’re out. Which is how it should be.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with Harry Kane, but the one thing I feel confident about is that the project will proceed under Ange the same way with him or without him.