SO hello, Mauricio, welcome to White Hart Lane, the world famous home of the Spurs.
Or is it infamous? The old place has been something of a temple of managerial doom in the last decade or so. It’s like that climactic scene in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, when a succession of whimpering candidates tread gingerly on their quest to find the holy grail, only to have their heads sliced off as they get their answers to various riddles hopelessly wrong. Make one false step at Tottenham and you’ve had it.
Spurs fans will be hoping the new man is clever enough to read the runes and negotiate his way round such treacherous ground. At the time of writing Pochettino is the 10th Spurs manager in 13 years – a truly eye-watering figure.
It’s pointless raking over the bones of all who came before him – who should have got the job, who shouldn’t, who succeeded, who didn’t. We all have our favourites and dislikes but in the final analysis it’s been much of a muchness. Some brief, brave new dawns, a rise of about five league places, one League Cup, and one season in the Champions League. Not a lot for all that money spent, all that hope, all that perpetual material and emotional investment from the fans.
Not excluding the bewildering array of managers and DoFs. Enic have tried just about every permutation going. Experienced British old lags, bright young continental things, man-managers, tactics wonks, bluffers, enigmas, motivators, returning heroes and prodigal sons. Suffice to say the rapid hire-and-fire approach from the owners looks less like a strategy than a case of trading lots of players, and throwing cards up in the air in the hope that one day, some might fall in the right way to knock up a half-decent hand.
It surely can’t go on like that. Some of us have banged on many times before about why Spurs need managerial stability rather than constant churn, but one can only hope rather than expect that this time the incumbent lasts the course. He’s been given a 5-year-deal, which sounds good but as we all know, when it comes to football, contracts means diddly.
So he’s doomed before he’s already started? According to some traditionalists and permanently angry people on social media that’s the case. He’s not wanted, not experienced enough, too much of a yes man, not enough of a big personality, and, that old chestnut, not English. He was beaten twice by Spurs last season, and by his widely-maligned immediate predecessor, so ergo, what exactly is he bringing?
Alternatively there are other views that he’s just what the club doctor ordered: young, ambitious, cerebral and tactically-minded. He apparently likes structured pressing, offers up plenty of supportive stats for those who like that sort of thing, and his Southampton players stacked up well in a ‘comparison matrix’ (I’m not making this stuff up).
For my part, and for what it’s worth isn’t much, he wasn’t my first choice. I was erring towards someone like Rafa Benitez, a combination of many of the aforementioned characteristics and a manager who definitely does have the experience, coaching nous and the trophies to match. And, arguably, the personality, reputation and clout to best manage Enic and their rather particular way of running the club under a defined economic model.
instead, Spurs have got a bit of a younger, apprentice version. A man with a fair but modest track record. He has experience in the PL but sparingly so; by all accounts he’s an effective man-manager yet one with a promising tactical awareness. It’s a punt – all appointments are – but one invested with faith more than concrete evidence.
I wish him the very best. If you’re a Spurs supporter and you don’t then you perhaps need to reconsider what this football fan lark is about. But I have no idea if he’ll succeed or not – and that’s the way it should be. Here comes another record I keep on scratching, but it doesn’t matter what I, any other fan, twitterer, blogger, pundit, expert, ex-player, manager or DoF thinks. What matters is what the people who make the actual decisions think – and more importantly if they are going to stick by their choice.
In their welcome to Pochettino, the board have made all the right noises about winning mentality, a talented squad and a commitment to attacking football with an emphasis on youth. Fine, that’s good. But we’ve heard very similar all too many times – usually about 18 months before the latest project leader gets the boot. And let’s be clear about this: Pochettino was clearly not the owners’ first choice.
That’s understandable. A big beast like Louis Van Gaal was an admirable target, but out of reach. It’s hard for Spurs to take on Manchester City, Chelsea, and the other established Champions League sides with wage bills to match. Liverpool are now spectacularly back in the hunt, making that ambition to get in the CL, and make the more important challenge for trophies, much tougher propositions.
In truth, I don’t expect Spurs to actually achieve them. Brutal economics, regrettably, dictate that. But I do expect Spurs to have a better go at it. Wanting to play good, entertaining football that gets results is music to my ears. Bringing through youth gets a firm thumbs up. I’ll even support the club’s persistence with a DoF.
But please, Mr Levy, Mr Lewis: no more of this perennial, debilitating change. Give Pochettino a chance. Give him some proper and less equivocal say over recruitment. Let him have a decent stab at it. Two years at the very least, preferably more. Don’t panic and pull the plug at the first sign of a wobble. If noisy fans like me start moaning, ignore us. Stick with your own programme. You made the decision, after all. Now, back it up.
Spurs fans can help by, as ever, supporting the new man. I’ve never bought this idea the supporters are fickle and responsible for all the turmoil. Sure, the atmosphere’s been poisonous at times, with bizarre armed camps forming online over this manager or that and needlessly fracturing the support. But I haven’t heard too many calls for sackings and wanton disruption where it matters, at the ground. Maybe I’m turning a deaf ear on the few occasions I go it but it’s noticeable that through all those nine previous managerial dismissals, the fans haven’t really turned on the bloke in the dugout. It’s the owners that have done that.
So, its likely Pochettino will get plenty of support from the crowd. He inherits a curate’s egg of a squad. Good in places, not so good in others, and too much of an unknown quantity. Hopefully he can mould the clunky parts into a cohesive, functioning whole. Maybe he’ll even rescue the seemingly lost cause of Lamela.
The pair’s shared nationality can certainly help. In fact, it’s kind of comforting to see Spurs with an Argentinean streak again. It’s regreattable that Tottenham have never exploited that connection as well as they could have done. We should have made more of being the first club to successfully bring Argentineans to these shores in the wake of Ossie and Ricky’s dazzling success. Think of all that talent that headed to Spain and Italy that perhaps should have ended up in North London.
But that’s all in the past. What matters now is how the new ones fare, and already the new coach is making quite an impression. There’s a picture doing the rounds of what seems to be Pochettino looking very pleased with himself in the company of two ladies garbed in Stars and Stripes spandex, with Mauricio himself dressed in a nurse’s uniform and looking like Benicio del Toro. Maybe it is Benicio del Toro. I have no idea what’s going on. I’m not sure I want to.
You can’t quite imagine that first Enic manager, George Graham, being pictured in such a way, so there is some significant difference between the two at least. And there does seem to be a bit of hope engendered in the new guy, which was almost completely absent regarding his predecessor back in 2001. Hopefully, Pochettino fares well. I can’t admit to being that excited about this next instalment in the grand Enic plan. That’s not Pochettino’s fault, just that there have been far too many days like it to really believe otherwise this time. But good luck, Mauricio. You’re going to need it.
Now, how about a ticker tape reception at WHL?