Firstly, let’s establish why we’re discussing Spurs’ next manager. I’m presuming it’s because we know that in 13 months or whatever he’ll be announced as England’s next manager.
Or that in two months he’ll be banged up.
The point is, I guess, is that we’re preparing for him to leave us rather than calling for him to go, right? I mean yes, we’re in the midst of the worst run since he took over, and yes it really grates when he derides us for daring to expect something slightly better. But: Saving us from relegation + 4th + 6th + a great Champions League adventure + key wins against Arsenal (including one at the emirates) doesn’t = the sack, surely.
In my mind, despite some niggles, he absolutely deserves credit for what he’s done, but, conversely, when he goes I won’t be sorry and I’d actually quite welcome a new manager – just to see what might be possible.
I think we’re in an oddly fortunate situation with Harry.
Barring any significant judicial movements or a complete meltdown next season, he’ll be sizing up his Wembley office this time next year. And it’ll be strange to see him off. When he arrived, I felt like an Uncle had arrived to clean up a family mess. With his warm reassurances, practical advice and clear dialogue, I suddenly felt safe again. After years of Director of Football faffing and self-dug holes, here was Uncle ‘Arry to sort it all out.
And he has. Like you rightly point out, his list of accomplishments is robust and impressive. But this late season collapse has left me thinking what a more tactically astute coach could do with this elite group. Perhaps nothing more at all. But us football fans get itchy trigger fingers, particularly those with Tottenham-branded firearms.
We shouldn’t underestimate the affection a lot of these players will hold for Harry. It’s a torch that some will probably use as an excuse for their own exits when he goes. But it’ll be time to roll the managerial dice again whether we like it or not. And we appear agreed that this might not be the most terrible news. But who would we want?
Well, firstly, I think that even in the midst of our dialogue Harry has raised the stakes (and the temperature) in terms of his relationship with us Spurs fans with his ‘suicidal’ (quote marks possibly not needed) comment. Ill-judged, at best. I now think we’re as likely to be looking for a new manager this summer as next.
Also, I think it’s a good and worrying point about you make certain players using his departure to facilitate their own exit. But I guess that depends on who we replace him with. Which brings us to the main course...
Okay, so I’ll be the first one to mention Mr Mourinho, shall I? Opinion seems divided as to whether or not he’d be the right man for us. Some argue that he’s a serial winner (okay, not so much this year) and that if he brings us trophies, maybe even the title, we would love him just like fans at all his other clubs have loved him – with a burning devotion and a V-sign to his/our detractors.
Others seem to think that his ‘anti-football’ style is anathema to ‘the Spurs way’ and that even if he wins us some silverware, he might lose us our identity.
I feel a little disloyal to the true believers, but I can’t help thinking it would be a great ride and I quite fancy it. I actually find him a preening, self-aggrandising and faintly ridiculous man at times. But the centre of the footballing universe seems to shift around him, and I do like the idea of it alighting on White Hart Lane.
There’s a danger here, though, of us looking a little silly. I mean, why would he come to Spurs? If (or, according to him ‘when’) he comes back to the Premier League, he’ll go to Man City or Man Utd, right? And we could come across like the rather plain girl making eyes at the handsome quarter back who only smiles back because he’s confused by our gooey expression, but then looks way quickly as he realises he can’t remember our name and, besides, the prom queen is waiting for him behind the bleachers.
I may have got slightly confused by my American metaphors there, but you get the point.
The card we do hold, however, is the one that appeals to Jose’s ego. Oh yes, sorry, did you not hear? Apparently he has one – with its own weather system.
If he goes to Man Utd the best he can do is not quite as good as Sir Alex. If he goes to Man City, well, they’ve already spent, what, a quarter of a billion? By the time he wins something, it could be more than half a billion. So, yes he likes to go to a club that supplies a limitless budget and yes, if he does win City the title he can say, as with Chelsea, that whilst the money was the main factor, he was the ultimate difference – but, it wouldn’t be messianic. City winning the league is a question of time and diminishing odds, not an achievement of genius to be marvelled at throughout the world and down the ages.
If he wins the title at Spurs – against City’s billions, against his old love, Chelsea, against his old enemy, Wenger, and against the institution that is Man Utd... well then it’s statue time. Roll over Bill Nicholson and tell Keith Burkinshaw the news.
Sorry, that sounds sacrilegious, I don’t mean it to be. I just mean that in the modern game, in this environment, when winning the league isn’t just 50 years away, it’s a million miles away, well that really would be something....
So, thoughts on Jose? And, when we’ve both agreed he’s definitely not coming, who else?
Firstly: entirely agree. A Pompey-enduring pal just this morning warned me we’re balls-deep into ‘The Harry Exit Plan’.
Phase One: constantly remind everyone just how well you’ve done and That the fans should be grateful for bringing the good times back.
Phase Two: develop demob happy attitude. Fail to see off inferior opposition? “It was one of those days. The boys did everything but put it in the back of the net.” Draw a vital derby when only three points would do? “We played nice football and gave the fans a show, didn’t we?” Capitulate and hand Man City our Champions League slot? “We’ve overachieved and they’ve got loads of money.”
Phase Three: Start drip-feeding a few moans to the press.
Pahse Four: Ensure media pals exaggerate these moans, paint you as wronged man, hoodwink less savvy fans.
Phase Five: Leave.
The “there might not be any cash this summer” leak sees us move stealthily into Part Three. You’re right, Dave: he may not see out the summer.
So, Jose. I, too, would welcome him. I’ve loved our fill of cavalier Harryball, but, frankly, would welcome some of Mourinho’s dark arts. He is a preening, self-aggrandising, faintly ridiculous man, but I’d love him to be our preening, self-aggrandising, faintly ridiculous man.
Which is why I’ve surprised myself by how much I’ve enjoyed The William Gallas Experience this year. All that snarling, the tactical fouling, the PR-unfriendly honesty. I’d like to see a few more of our players – to borrow a wrestling expression - “turn heel”. Go bad. And who more dastardly to corrupt, for example, Tom Huddlestone into Black Swan than Jose. He add some devil to any number of our fairplay fairies.
It is enormously fanciful though, as you warn, Dave. No matter the ego, or the faintly flattering comments he’s put our way down the years, surely someone – his agent, his staff, his wife, even – might remind him who he is and who we are. It’s a beautiful long shot.
Who else, then? Well, how about Jose Mk. II. André Villas-Boas. 33, sponge-like Bobby Robson/Mourinho apprentice, fluent English speaker, currently has Porto in the Europa League final and safely into the Portuguese Primeira Liga’s winner’s circle, might be more handsome than Jose, has an exceptionally cool name.
Of course, he too might be a fanciful bet, with all of Europe’s aristocrats fluttering their purses. And he could be an inexperienced disaster. But you know what: I bet we go leftfield. I can’t for one second envisage David Moyes being given the nod, for example.
In many ways, he’s the most qualified and deserving of the Spurs job. But call it arrogance, or the club’s foolish romanticism: we don’t like settling. We’re the Liz Taylor of the Premier League, forever preferring that one heart-melting, explosive and unhealthy love affair over a lifetime of stability. We won’t give it to Moyes and we’re probably silly enough to instantly dismiss Owen Coyle. Should Norwich put up at least a fight next season, I’m sure Paul Lambert’s name might some inches. His story is a little sexier, but Levy would be swooning ten-fold if he’d just led Celta Vigo through two promotions.
Of course, I’m afflicted by this terminal romanticism, just like the rest of us. Which is why I daydream of my Jurgen returning through the gates. All sun kissed and rested, Gary Mabbutt and Teddy Sheringham his Tottenham-in-their-veins lieutenants and his best mate Nicola Berti showing up for the mums. Of course, it’d be Ossie: The Remix/Hoddle 2: Legend’s Revenge and I’d be devastated that another hero sullied his playing legacy. But it doesn’t stop these bloody daydreams.
So, Dave, you’re drawing up your list of candidates. Who’s on it?
My problem here is that I’m not one of those devotees of European or lower league football who can give you chapter and verse on emerging players and promising young managers.
So, I won’t be throwing any wildly leftfield names into the ring.
Villas-Boas I’m aware of. And I know he’s well thought of. But the ‘new Mourinho’ tag just seems a bit too convenient for me. Good-looking, well-dressed, Portuguese, spotted early by Bobby Robson, just guided Porto to the Europa League final... surely that’s piquing people’s interest as much as his track record.
Some ugly bastard could be just as successful with Panathinaikos and barely be noticed. Plus he’s 10 years younger than me for fuck sake.
Moyes is an interesting one. I used to be dead set against him. Dour man, dour football. But he’s at Everton, isn’t he? His transfer budget is generated by cutting down on biscuits for the boardroom in June. What can we expect? And when measured over a sustained period, in relation to outlay, he’s been brilliant. No European experience, though. Well, some, but it’s limited, essentially to getting beat.
Klinsmann? Yep, there are endless reserves of affection for The Good German, but, as you point out, there were (are) for Hoddle and Ossie. Nah, I don’t think he’s got his hands dirty enough yet – and don’t think he ever will. Why should he? Carry on driving Herbie round California, Jurgen.
So, with an acknowledgement that my search has been far from thorough and in no way scientific, I’m gonna go for Owen Coyle. He’s made Bolton play neat one-touch football. He’s made Elmander play football! He clearly wants to play the ‘right’ way. And he’s Scottish. Told you this wasn’t scientific.
More than anything I think we need someone with the sort of personality and will to win that actually hits this club so hard it shifts our psyche into a different gear – actually transforms the personality of the club. Like when the young David Bowie got it so hard one of his eyes changed colour. That’s the sort of impact we’re after. We want a man that everybody hates and we fucking love.
Wenger did it for Arsenal, Ferguson did it for United and Mourinho did it for Chelsea. Who’s gonna do it for us?
That we’ve tossed about two (well, three including Lambert) un-starry, mid-table Scots and a Junior Jose as our prime candidates perhaps tells us it’ll ultimately be nicely leftfield candidate who succeeds Harry. But it has to be someone the players respond to. A boss with a reputation and ego to match his army of premature millionaires. Someone who they’ll be intimidated (Mourinho-style) or inspired (like King Kenny) into playing for. That’s my only requirement.
Ultimately, it all comes down to a point you raised when we first began this most agreeable of correspondence: this is the most important summer in the club’s most recent history. As most decent bosses always say, it’s how you respond to a defeat that’s important. And if Harry knows it’s to be his final season, he can’t betray the club by half-arsing it between now and August.
I’m hoping he’s told himself the England chances hinge on Tottenham’s performance next season. But the demob happy attitude he’s blithely and offensively brandished towards the season’s end tells me this won’t be the case. I fear a summer of excuses, leaked stories about how we apparently tried to sign some £30m game-changer but couldn’t afford his wages and a series of selfish grumblings.
But do you know what? He’s done nothing but surprise me since he’s been here. And I reckon he’s got one more round of surprises left up his cockney sleeve.