Making the best of a bad mess?

I am not a supporter of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I also find the claims that this is a “big club” somewhat ridiculous, as the last time that title could accurately be described was in 1961. However, as someone who is interested in businesses and the people that run them, I have to give credit where it’s due to chairman Daniel Levy.

The performance of the management of Spurs over the past summer has verged on the farcical. The person responsible for this state of affairs was Mr Levy.

However, the actions over the past few weeks, have, in retrospect been handled as effectively as I think they could have been.

First, the club had a series of games that, if keeping the team coach Juande Ramos and his assistant Gustavo Poyet (both very capable people and likely to succeed in other circumstances) was going to work, they had a chance.

First Spurs won a game on September 24, but in the useless Carling Cup (the competition the club won last season) and against Newcastle United, a club which at the time, if anything, was in an even worse state.

So at least, Mr Levy knew his coach and players could break their winning duck in the Premier League.

But then, against Portsmouth on September 28, there was a 2-0 defeat (made worse by a former player scoring the first goal).

This was followed this month by: 1-1 draw in Poland against Wisla Krakow in the UEFA Cup; defeat 0-1 at home against newly-promoted Hull City; defeat 1-2 away to Stoke City (another newbie); and defeat 0-2 away to Udinese (Italy) in the UEFA Cup.

Today, against Bolton Wanderers, a struggling team but currently above the relegation zone, was the last chance before tough matches against big rivals Arsenal, then Liverpool, Dynamo Zagreb in the UEFA Cup and Manchester City on November 9.

In my view, Bolton was the only credible chance of a win, but not with the existing set-up.

Mr Levy has therefore publicly owned up to the error of trying to have a coach/sporting director double act, the latter being Damien Comolli, who became a hate figure for many Spurs supporters. He sacked, Messers Ramos, Poyet and Comolli (with other coaches going) and swiftly appointed Harry Redknapp as the replacement, reportedly offering £5 million in compensation to the latter’s current employer.

In addition to a change of personnel, the result is a complete change of management strategy and how players will be treated. I don’t think it’s a surprise that today, Spurs beat Bolton 2-0 for the first league win of the season after 8 previous failures.

Mr Levy also provided a rationale for his position, making no excuses for not being flamboyant or for taking a commercially-minded view of the club. He did so in an open letter to the club’s supporters, which in my view was bold and clever.

By his actions in the past 48 hours, Daniel Levy has given his club a chance to turn things around, and made exactly the sort of appointment that could succeed. Mr Redknapp is renowned as a football manager for two skills: buying and selling players, and getting players other people have given up on and getting them to perform to their potential. It would be hard to argue that he isn’t exactly what Spurs need.

For Portsmouth, where Harry Redknapp was going a fine job and which has assembled a squad of players who have formed a strong working relationship with their boss, it could be a disaster. But that’s not Mr Levy’s problem.

When deciding whether to sack a manager, several factors come into the equation. One of these is “who is the best person to get us out of this hole?” Juante Ramos, whose spoken English was frankly not better than my Spanish would be after almost exactly a year, did not appear to communicate well with players from the touchline, according to this report for example. The sporting director Mr Commoli’s handling of transfers was, to put it mildly, incomprehensible to Spurs supporters and the media.

It may not work: the transfer window for players remains shut until the end of the year, by which time it may be too late to effect a rescue, the current strikers in the club squad do not seem capable of playing as a complementary unit, another indictment of Mr Commoli’s handling of the last transfer window in July and August.

But some chance is infinitely better than none. Will Tottenham Hotspur supporters be mollified? My guess is that they will, at least till the end of the season next May.

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2 Responses to “Making the best of a bad mess?”

  1. Patrick Crozier Says:

    On the positive side I understand Spurs have a remarkably low level of debt. This might prove a godsend over the next few years.

  2. Antoine Clarke Says:

    It’s interesting to consider if being close to Arsenal is a good or bad thing. The downsides are: harder to get a new stadium built and competition for almost the same North London catchment areas. On the plus side, both gain from having guaranteed full grounds for derbies and each provides a target of envy and ambition, which can be constructive.

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