Sorry about the title but anyone who’s read any of my previous articles knows I can’t resist a bad pun.
Ok, Spurs fans: are we shocked? The timing, perhaps, though I wasn’t looking forward to Saturday’s game at West Ham with any confidence. That’s the thing, maybe; nor was Levy. Forget about the start to this season; crap as it was/ is, two or three good results with others going our way and we could easily be up to 6th, such is the mediocrity behind the top four so far. I think it’s more to do with the woeful form since January, which deserved to see us out of the Champions League places last season and would have done should Arsenal or Man. Utd have not been just as bad.
As for the Champions League run last year, we owe VAR big time for beating City and our pathetically passive display in the final was beyond awful, especially as Liverpool were there for the taking. The home and away victories over Dortmund and great come-back against Ajax away apart, let’s face it, we rode our luck. Something was wrong and, ultimately, that comes back to the manager. Since the bad run started, there’s been too much tinkering with the team, too much playing time given to woefully out of form players, particularly Eriksen and Alli, but also at times Lamela, Rose and Lloris. Too little time given to Moura, perhaps – certainly when thrown on as a sub in games we’re chasing. Too often, no Plan B when things were going wrong. Ultimately, I think Levy’s patience reached breaking point.
So, sad as it is to see Poch given the push, it shouldn’t be too surprising, particularly if the rumours of discontent on all sides behind the scenes are true. Broadly, I agree with Paul Maslin’s earlier article about his legacy, apart from his ‘best manager of the last 50 years’ ( i.e.for younger readers, that means since the incomparable Bill Nicholson) ranking. In my book, that has to be Keith Burkenshaw, who not only produced the most thrilling midfield four I’ve seen in 53 years of following Spurs – Ardiles, Villa, Hoddle, Perryman – but won two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup when it was a top European Trophy filled with teams that would now be in the Champions League and got us to 3rd in the old First Division despite the handicap of losing our best keeper ever, Pat Jennings, and having to cope with a number of inconsistent or downright inadequate replacements in his stead.
Poch deserves to be judged as a very good manager and a decent man who never slung mud or looked for excuses and who took us a long way without spending fortunes, gave chances to young home-grown talent and made us regular Champions League contenders for four consecutive seasons, something none of his predecessors could get near. But, ultimately, he didn’t actually win anything – not even one measly League Cup – despite having a team regularly winning in the league and full of internationals. At the critical moment, he seemed unable to get that Spursyness out of our system, hence our bottling the league twice through too many draws or defeats at critical times, and two finals and three-semi finals.
Our form since January has been, as any others pointed out, that of a relegation contender. Even when we were winning last season in the league our form was often poor, e.g. scraping home for undeserved victories over the likes of Newcastle, Watford and Leicester. In short, last season, some Champions League Games apart, we were serving up the dull, predictable football – loads of possession, no end-product – that led to Poch being labelled AVB2 in his first season. Something had to give, and Levy decided to break with the manager who’d, perhaps significantly, had started recently to grumpily describe himself as just the ‘coach.’
And now, despite the many cries of ‘No way’, we have José. He wouldn’t have been my first choice, I admit. But – and it’s a massive ‘but’ – if, by some miracle, his time out has rekindled something in him that he had when winning things with unfashionable Porto and first time round at Chelsea and that he’d clearly lost ( while,it must be said, still winning things)second time round with Chelsea and Man Utd, it could just pay off. That quality was of both being able to fashion winning teams that often performed better than the sum of their parts and having the ability to match the mind games of the likes of Alex Ferguson in front of the media with flashes of irreverent humour. The Mourinho of recent years had seemingly lost that, getting involved, instead, in exchanges of insults with other managers, behind-the-scenes battles with players and backroom staff, bad-tempered press conferences and the like. If that’s the guy who turns up it would be a recipe for a short-lived disaster. Though us fickle fans will probably settle for that if it means our first trophy in over a decade.
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