Reinvention is survival. It’s one of the most often quoted aphorisms in business because complacency can be as fatal to any enterprise as a economic downturn. Any leader knows that change is necessary but painful. The best way forward is to establish a clear goal that’s mutually agreed by everyone and build on existing strengths so that development is gradual rather than a transformative shock. However, there’s no escape from the harmful side-effects as adjustments are made before a new equilibrium is reached. Change is hard.
I missed Saturday’s match as I was at the Olympic Stadium for an evening of Paralympics, tickets bought a year ago before a disappointing but inevitable fixture clash. Although I’m never one to turn down an opportunity to watch sport, I wasn’t aware that shopping was part of the athletics programme. The fact that come kick-off I was jostling for space in a hideously heaving Westfield Shopping Centre could become the latest in the Life’s Great Mysteries series, coming soon to the Discovery Channel.
The Paralympics is a remarkable event, not merely for the heroic efforts of true athletes but for the interaction between these performances and the crowd. Every single effort is greeted by waves of genuine warmth and appreciation, win or lose, first or last. From what I’ve heard, there couldn’t be a greater contrast between that and the atmosphere at the Lane, where frustration turned into toxic bile at the finish. Still wish I’d been there, though.
Without going too far on the basis of Football First highlights, the irritating international break that provides a false start to every season also offers a pause for reflection and reassessment. It’s a pity AVB doesn’t have more time with his players to create the blend that will turn frustration into fluency. The growing pains of our new Tottenham are hard to experience. I just hope the players are hurting as much as we are. However, it is only to be expected. My pre-season predictions have sadly been proved accurate. I wish I was wrong but this team needs time to settle. Brace yourselves for a rough ride early season. Hopefully calmer waters lie over the horizon.
Spurs had a decent transfer window. I’m disappointed that Levy did not produce a top quality striker out of the hat. Again in the interests of consistency, whilst I appreciate his financial prudence, I stick with my pre-season comments that he has room to manoeuvre regarding fees and salaries now, not just because we have the cash but also because the high earners have all gone so he can increase the top salaries without alienating the rest of the squad. Moutinho is a loss, very impressive in the Euros and I would have gone the extra mile for him.We’ll never know where exactly negotiations reached and should take no notice of the bilious tabloids on a Levy/AVB search and destroy mission but the aftershocks of Ch**seas’s CL win are still being felt.
However, we have a 20+ goals a season man in Clint Dempsey, by no means Plan A but an absolute steal at £6m, and Dembele is a high quality footballer I have coveted for a while now. Lloris is good value – we undoubtedly needed a new keeper and competition can be nothing but good for us as Friedel proves once more that he is a wonderful professional. The squad has more strength in depth too. In keeping with policy, Spurs is a step up for all of the new guys so they should be bursting with ambition.
This season was always about the manager and his system. The focus remains on AVB to make the team greater than the sum of its parts and it’s clear he’s not sure what his best team is at the moment. Hardly unusual for any new manager - I said the same about Redknapp – but he’s been given a good squad and has to make a few tough decisions when the break is over. Up front, I don’t see Defoe as a starter. Dempsey was highly effective for Fulham playing around a central striker, with the freedom to come late and move across the field rather than being restricted to hanging around at the edge of the box. Therefore Manu must have a run alongside him. Further back, Dembele provides the vital link between defence and attack. Quick feet, sharp shot and a fine passer, he’s key to our fortunes.
I don’t know enough about Siggy just yet. However, I’d be inclined to play him in midfield. This could either be at Livermore’s expense, so we have one DM (Sandro) or keep the defensive solidity of two DMs and let Walker offer width at Lennon’s expense. It depends on who we play.
One problem with those two DMs is that they are not defending well enough. They should protect the back four better, that’s what they are there for. Although we are hardly leaking goals, Friedel has had to be on top form and both goals conceded at home came from similar situations, plenty of men back but not clearing the ball and it’s loose at the edge of the area. Kaboul’s injury is a blow – this was to be his season and he’s getting hurt too often for my liking. I anticipate a long and prosperous Spurs career for the excellent Vertonghen, which leaves AVB with a decision to make about Gallas. Unfair to blame him but I’d opt for Caulker or Dawson with a reminder to the full-backs to tuck in tighter when we don’t have the ball.
Regular readers will know that I tend towards mild optimism but above all I’m a realist. So despite the frustration, it’s not wildly out of order to say that our possession is good and we are making chances, both signs of promise. Dempsey, Dembele and Siggy could all make an impact in the box to convert just one or two more chances each game. If we tighten up at the back and do not give away unnecessary free kicks, then we can move forward. Tweaks rather than major surgery. Let that run for a while and we can take stock.
That and get off AVB’s back. He’s ours and he gets enough stick from the media. Luckily Liverpool are falling apart so some of the negative attention is directed their way but if we don’t give him a chance, then he has no hope whatsoever.
Finally, a belated but none the less fond farewell to Rafa Van der Vaart, a fine player in the Tottenham tradition, whose touch, skill and eye for an opening enhanced the team whenever he played. It’s a risk to let a man of this quality go – I wouldn’t have sold him but I guess he wanted to move. He wanted to win and could maintain his form under pressure, and that combination of motivation and ability is hard to say goodbye to. Although he arrived so unexpectedly even the manager seemed surprised, he quickly became a Spur, showing genuine delight when he scored in big games. The long shots and chips make me smile at the memory but I loved those sweeping diagonal passes, 50 yards right into the stride or the chest of the receiver. But here’s one to cherish, from his last game. In front of the Shelf, under pressure he takes the ball on halfway. Bale is on, simple 10 yard pass then peel away to see what happens. For Rafa, that’s not enough. He holds it for half a second, looks Bale in the eye and gestures with a tiny move of his head. Bale’s off, down the line and Rafa knocks the ball between two defenders and perfectly into his stride. Endless possibilities. Class, Rafa, always class.
So Harry Redknapp departs with my sincere gratitude but no tears. Tottenham Hotspur goes on, first, last and everything, as ever it will be. Those good players are still Spurs players. Daniel Levy is in charge, and he always was.
As news of Harry’s dismissal leaked out last night, the social media debate raged over the rights and wrongs. Much of it focussed on the end of last season – basically, 4th/5th/4th versus ten points clear of Arsenal. Spurs fan, author Adam Powley lamented on twitter: “before theinterweb did football fans of the same club endlessly argue the same arguments over and over and over again?”
It is and always was something more fundamental. It’s about the future of our club. In this regard, Redknapp gets all the publicity, Levy holds all the cards. The two seem never to have got on especially well but I doubt that matters unduly. In football and in any business personal relationships are of secondary importance to the main goal, success. My view has always been that Levy made Redknapp a better manager because he reined in his excesses by seeking medium to long-term value in any purchases. Our success is based on a steady stream of young players and players for whom Spurs is a genuine step up the ladder. Redknapp complemented them by finding value in experience – Parker and Van der Vaart the best examples, Adebayor on loan, Pienaar at £2m – which turned us into one of the best sides in the country and for a precious, magical time title contenders.
The media concentrates on the players wheeler-dealer ’arry was not permitted to buy but the primary issue here is the value to the club of the manager. Redknapp took his eye off the ball at the end of last season. The England job was a profound distraction whatever Redknapp claims to the contrary and I strongly believe the court case took much more out of him than anyone is willing to acknowledge. People assumed it’s over, now he can move on: rubbish. That’s not how the human mind works. Relief is the overriding emotion. Mind and body relax and although it feels good, it dulls the senses. Football managers have to be on top form all the time. They have no chance, no room, to relax, yet this phase of letting go then rebuilding and planning ahead has to be worked through from beginning to end. Inconveniently for us, unavoidably for Redknapp, that coincided with the climax to our season. His decisions were consistently poor and by the time he was ready, our time had passed. I doubt he had a full understanding of what was happening to him.
Now he’s looking to the future and he’s restless. He wanted assurances more permanent than either a three/four year or 12 month rolling contract allow, the shark agent no doubt whispering in his ear how much other clubs will pay for his restorative powers. Levy however is made of different stuff. Levy sorts out the club’s future whilst sitting shiva for his late mother. He has no time for those who are distracted. He kept a grip. Eye on the ball, eye on the prize.
Levy saw weakness and fatally it tipped the balance. Redknapp has accomplished a hell of a lot for this club but that’s in the past. Levy showed sentiment as he grieved. In business, he’s as cold as ice. He calculated the future to Tottenham Hotspur of a man who inspired the side to the quarter finals of the Champions league, whose players dazzled the league. Value. Redknapp wants more money but he’s 65 and his powers may be on the wane. When the going was tough, he didn’t get going. It’s not about the odd hundred thou, it’s tying Spurs into compensation of anywhere between £4m and £12m if it doesn’t work out, never mind the cash for Harry’s pals in the dugout. Not worth it, on balance. Harsh, perhaps not fair, but on balance, correct.
My view? Covered in the post before this one. Just scroll down a bit, it’s OK. Not a Harry lover but I supported another year provided Redknapp had but a single thought on his mind – the glory of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. If he was focussed and motivated, he should carry on. I don’t think he is. If another season managing this group of wonderful players for a great club at £4m a year is not sufficient ambition, then he should go elsewhere.
He won’t care a jot but he goes with my abiding thanks. The best football for over thirty years, the shimmering brilliance of a flowing, attacking, passing game – he did that, and to me whilst I won’t forget the dross, the missed opportunities, those memories burn brighter. Praising his achievements isn’t to say that someone else won’t be able to do it better. And dross and missed opportunites I can deal with. I’m a Spurs fan.
Consistency is what we crave, a man to stick by us, maybe someone who pays more attention to the heritage of this club that is held is trust by us, the fans. Daniel, we’re looking to you, because everything at this club, you make it happen. You’re better with balance sheets than you are with managers, so be careful. Be honest, Redknapp was a short-term appointment that in fact has endured remarkably well.
Tread warily. The media will be after you, because you’ve done down their mate. Two seasons running, we collapse at the end of the season, not a murmur. The players were tired, act of god rather than being Harry’s fault. Now, one slip and they’ll be on us. A start to the season where we are, heaven forfend, outside the CL places, and it will be a crisis, mark my words. So be careful and do your best. Don’t waste this squad. We’re counting on you.
Tottenham Hotspur desperately need a player like Emmanuel Adebayor. His strength, pace and goalscoring ability on the ground and in the air will if all goes smoothly become the long sought after focal point for our attacking play. No one who was at the Lane to witness his exquisite volley in the 3-1 defeat by our neighbours will need to be convinced – it’s seared in my brain, probably forever, which can’t be said for many of the goals we’ve scored since then.
So the real question is not do we need Emmanuel Adebayor but why does he need us? Specifically, and let’s not beat around the bush here, why does he want to play in front of fans who have given him dogs abuse, more calculated and vile than any I can recall in over 40 years of watching Spurs?
That Song is nasty, brutish and racist. Many say that’s not a legitimate interpretation. I wrote about this last year and nothing I’ve heard before or since has altered my opinion. I am neither a prude nor averse to the abuse that crowds dish out during matches. In fact, there’s a powerful argument to say that abuse is all fans have left in the face of intransigent and distant administrators, a game driven by profit and power and players who value money and celebrity above pride in their performance.
Despite this, there are limits and this song goes too far. In so doing, it shames the tradition of tolerance in the stands at Spurs. We are rightly indignant when subjected to the equally despicable insults relating to the yids tag, especially as no one does anything about it, indeed in some quarters we are blamed for bringing it on ourselves. However, in the dark days of football racism in the seventies and eighties, when WHam and Chelsea fans racially abused their own black players, when bananas were routinely chucked onto the pitch and not as an energy aid, you never, ever saw that at Tottenham. Yet this song is sung out of habit these days, when until recently the player had nothing to do with us, didn’t even play in the same league. I’m not particularly aware of him having a real go at us, although I am happy to be corrected. Not in the way Terry and Lampard, Henry and Pires have gone out of their way to taunt us.
The song is sung just for the delight of it. He first heard when his father had been dead for less than a year. And we are not the only ones. L’arse sung it when he scored against them for City after his infamous length of the field run to their end.
So in the face of this extraordinary abuse, which he heard for himself at the Bernabeu only a few months back, knowing the fans detest him, he signs. If he strung us along until deadline day only to spurn us at the last second, I wouldn’t have blamed him.
The easy answer is ‘money’. No doubt there’s plenty on offer, not just in terms of matching his salary but also a hefty bonus for signing on the dotted line. However, that’s not the sole reason because he could have achieved that aim by staying where he was or by accepting the other offers that were around.
Professional pride is a factor. He wants to play regularly and knows he will be first choice at Spurs. Harry made him welcome and despite any misgivings about his image expressed on this blog and elsewhere, his reputation with most players is justifiably high. Our style suits Manu perfectly, and if it all goes according to plan, he will be a star again.
Yet professional pride can’t be the full answer because there’s plenty of evidence portraying the striker as disruptive and selfish. At our neighbours he became bored and agitated for a move, cited in the process as an unwelcome influence in the dressing room, while at City he had a right sulk on after being left out, including a fight with one of his team-mates. When the mood takes him, he’s not professional in the slightest.
For us mere mortals, it’s nigh on impossible to fully understand the psyche of a professional footballer. They’re like you and me, flesh and blood after all, yet so different at the same time. In your world, whatever your job, if you had been viciously and publicly abused over a sustained period by your main rival company, would you go and work for them for the same money and if you had an alternative job offer? At your sales conventions, in the pub, in your trade press, you were the butt of all the jokes, now you’re on the payroll. I wouldn’t, and I’m the most reasonable man I’ve ever known.
Some players deal with this by being mercenaries, flitting from club to club with little or no loyalty to anything other than themselves and their paycheque, but that doesn’t ring true in this case. There’s something more to Adebayor. Many professionals react to the pressure by retreating into their own world as a form of self-protection. They assiduously guard this sense of self-worth, to the point of absurdity at times where their self-importance becomes arrogance. However, without their self-confidence, they are lost, unable to cut it in the face of the demand to succeed in the public eye, endless analysis of their faults compounded with stark abuse from fans. In Adebayor’s case, this resilience is not just about football, it’s survival.
The messageboards and twitter greeted Adebayor’s signing with a flood of suitably positive new versions of That Song, and very amusing and self-depreciating they were too. In a small way I like to think I set the ball rolling. Granted my effort in that article last year is unlikely to be adopted by the Park Lane - “Your father undertook a series of menial jobs despite the probable stigma and damage to his self-esteem in order to care for his family and give his son the best possible opportunity to further his footballing career.” It doesn’t even scan but has the advantage of historical accuracy.
Manu was born and raised in Lome, a town near Togo’s border with Ghana, where in order to eke out a living for her son and his 5 siblings, his mother sold dried fish. One account states that his family were so poor, they could not afford to pay for medical treatment so he was left in the hospital for a week or so. At 11 he was staying in a football academy close by a border where drug and arms trafficking was rife, moving on to France in 1999. This in an era where England’s internationals complain about the pressure of being in a 5 star training camp for a few weeks.
Despite his wealth, Adebayor hasn’t forgotten his roots. He’s built a house for his mother and family as following his father’s death in 2007 he’s taken responsibility for the household, and he regularly returns to his country to put something back into the society from which he escaped because he could play football.
Perhaps it’s not merely a common language and heritage that cements the friendship between Benny Assou Ekotto and Abebayor. Both have known hardship in their early lives, both present a detached attitude to the game that does not detract from the quality of their performance. They are self-contained, secure and confident in their sense of self. It gets them through.
This inner strength was tested to its limits and beyond when along with his Togo team-mates, Adebayor clung for cover in the twisted wreckage of a bullet-ridden coach as it was attacked before a tournament. His friend, the team’s press officer, died in his arms. He’s lived a life most of us could not imagine and he’s only 27. Perhaps the songs don’t have the same impact.
So there’s plenty to admire in Emmanuel Adebayor but the reasons behind his success mean that we’ll never become that close to him. And what does it say about us, the fans? Most didn’t sing that song, of course, but many have, and anyway he was on the receiving end of more than his fair share of abuse just for wearing the red shirt.
We’ll never take him to heart but I believe he will receive a warm welcome tomorrow and he will earn our respect if he gives of his best, as his former team-mate and fellow subversive Willy Gallas has done. Fans of all clubs are often accused of hypocrisy and there’s truth there. However, our loyalty is like no other in sport, in life perhaps, and that loyalty, blind, crazy, illogical, harmful, unwavering and unstinting, is to the shirt, to the club. Our club. That’s the point from all this.
In my own silly immature way, when Manu first comes over to the centre Shelf tomorrow, I’ll shout his name and applaud. He’ll hear me and I like to think it will mean something but it won’t. And if he scores, and runs over to the fans, and the fans sing his name, if he winks and raises an eyebrow in ironic surprise, I wouldn’t begrudge him his moment. Good luck to you, Manu. You’re one of us now and we’ll look after you.
The ‘Buy It Now’ price was reasonable but pitched too high for a tried and tested model like that one. Demand and supply fixes the value regardless of the opinions of the vendor, and these days everyone wants these new-fangled gadget phones. This one suited me, just calls and texts. He was open to offers, so I waited, that’s what I do. Tick followed tock followed tick followed tock.
As the clock ran down, I pounced. Once I made my move, he had little choice. The Nokia 3109, brand new, unwanted work upgrade, T-mobile only – he had nowhere else to go. Half his asking price, a quarter of the shop value. I had my prize and the vendor had been levyed.
Levy – verb to extract the lowest possible price, ruthlessly, from a transaction, usually by exploiting the weakness and vulnerability of others
Origin – the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, an English football club, renowned for waiting until the last moment when purchasing players for the team.
The purchase of my phone is pretty much the same as that of Van der Vaart, bar the 6 zeros at the end of the price. In the past I’ve been bitterly critical of Levy, from the ghastly era of Pleat as the caretaker boss where we so nearly were relegated, through to Santini and Jol’s sacking. However, over the past few years my grudging acknowledgement of his undoubted business acumen has become genuine respect. The club’s long-term future appears to be far more secure than most Premier League clubs and he’s brought some fine players here in the process. Early last season I wrote a piece characterising Levy as Redknapp’s poodle. When he took the job Harry made much of the fact that he had sole control over transfers – no director of football – and Levy, a businessman out of his depth when it comes to football matters, was more than happy to roll over and have his tummy tickled. I was wrong – Levy’s biggest success has been to curb Redknapp’s spendthrift instincts whilst simultaneously enabling the team to develop.
As someone who is to bartering what Kevin Pietersen is to tweeting, I admire his chutzpah. I am the definition of the opposite of pokerface, as anyone who has ever played cards with me will gleefully confirm, yet Levy is prepared to sit it out. More than that, he coldheartedly susses the vulnerability of a prospective vendor and exploits it to the hilt. Word is that other chairmen and agents don’t like doing business with him. I wonder why.
It’s not always worked, of course, as the hapless Ramos will testify. Frazier Campbell for Berbatov, anyone? We’ve clearly been outbid in terms of both fees and salaries for top players in this window. As the tumult dies away, I am more disappointed than I anticipated by our failure to improve the striking options. A top class striker with different skills to those currently available to Redknapp would have done us the world of good. However, I remain convinced that Levy is correct in refusing to pay vastly inflated fees and especially salaries. It’s tempting as we have cash in the bank but there is no reason to upset the pecking order in the club, where good players have been rewarded with generous contracts, team spirit is cohesive and the quality is there already.
Also, and I’m sorry if regular readers have heard all this before, we have to face facts: players may not wish to come here. Fabiano for instance: I’m sure we made a good offer but settled in one of the most beautiful cities of Europe, excellent wages, good team, sun on his back, fewer language problems, swap that for a team with no recent pedigree in Europe, an area of north London containing some of the most deprived communities in the country or, worse, Chigwell, a long hard slog through the winter and a ground that holds fewer than 39,000 people. To me, WHL is a holy paradise on earth but not to everyone.
When it comes to gambling, I understand all there is to know. What happens is, you put your money down, on the card table or at the bookie’s window, wait, then never see it again. But one thing I do know is, for a successfully gambler it helps if you’re lucky. Levy has mastered the art, or likes to think he has. Van der Vaart is a superb piece of business. He’ll provide vital guile and drive in midfield, plus hopefully the intelligence that was markedly absent on Saturday. But Levy and Redknapp got lucky with this one. I suspect we had made a few enquiries, as we have for hundreds of players, but this was a late call rather than the product of a systematic pursuit. Levy had a tip-off at 4pm and the deal was wrapped up by 6, or in fact just after but who cares about that, we had (snigger) ‘a problem with our server’, apparently.
Granted you make your own luck and Levy’s contacts served him well in this case. More importantly, we had the cash to put on the table. If we had had to go through the rigmarole of loans and staggered payments this thing would not have gone ahead, and that’s good finances. But in the end it was his luck that held, not on this occasion his nerve.