Penny pinching prick, or another beating stick?

beating stick

In these unprecedented times of difficulty, where lives are at stake and the economic future of the entire planet is on a knife edge, our attention has turned to the world of football and the all conquering English Premier League, or more importantly, how those involved in the PL are responding to the Coronavirus crisis.
This scrutiny includes the issue of the obscene wages that PL players earn, especially at a time when they are not working, which rightly breeds much contempt from a general public that are currently losing their jobs, under increasing financial pressure, and have an uncertain economic future. But I’m not going to debate the rights and wrongs of this, instead, my focus is on how THFC have reacted.

As I am sure you are all well aware, Daniel Levy issued a statement 3 days ago with regards to the Coronavirus, and how the club were reacting. The most relevant part of that statement is the following excerpt:

“Yesterday, having already taken steps to reduce costs, we ourselves made the difficult decision – in order to protect jobs – to reduce the remuneration of all 550 non-playing directors and employees for April and May by 20% utilising, where appropriate, the Government’s furlough scheme. We shall continue to review this position.”

There has been a significant reaction to this stance from the media, pundits, a government minister, and our own Flat Oeufers alike, condemning the actions of the chairman as greedy, unnecessary, and generally the wrong thing to do in the current climate. Amongst this, there has been the usual fabrication:

“To put it another way, the staff at the club who are paid the least amount of money, are taking pay cuts, while those on million pound contracts (including Daniel Levy) will lose out on nothing.” Football365 article

“Anyone furloughed who earn over 36k are getting capped at 2.5k per month max. Nothing else is being paid to any of them.” Flat Oeufer

“Levy ain’t taking a pay cut, he’s deferring payment on his obscene and disproportionate salary.” Flat Oeufer

To put these claims into context, at the time of writing, the only available evidence where such claims could be justified is the above excerpt from Levy’s statement. Read it again. Read the claims again. I cannot think of any reason why such unfounded claims would be made, other than to dramatise and whip up an emotional reaction over and above what is already being seen, but lets move on.

The negative reaction to the clubs actions centre around two core elements;

Should a company that earns millions in profit be taking advantage of the government scheme where taxpayers money is being used to cover 80% of furloughed workers wages up to a maximum of £2,500?

Should a company that earns millions in profit be cutting the wages of 550 members of staff by 20%?

Firstly, it has since been revealed by the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust that 40% of the 550 members of staff discussed have been furloughed, meaning 220 employees. So at the very maximum, the government scheme is contributing 550k per month towards THFC staff wages.

Why does a company that earned £68.6 million last year need 550k per month in taxpayers money?

Lets put some context on that by way of comparison. Here’s a list of just some large companies that have taken advantage of the furlough scheme, and what profits they earned last year:

135,000 furloughed workers
$21.08 billion profit

43,000 furloughed workers
£102.5 million profit

Greene King
38,000 furloughed workers
£246.9 million profit

British Airways
30,000 furloughed workers
2.9 billion (euros) profit

30,000 furloughed workers
£913 million profit

This list could go on, and on, and on, and on, but I’m sure by now you get the gist.
Are THFC any different to these companies? Has their revenue been affected any less than these companies? Are THFC doing anything that other massive businesses that create staggering profit levels aren’t doing??

You could subsequently argue that all of these companies (and many, many others) shouldn’t be using taxpayers money either. Surely those profit levels mean that they don’t need to? That they can take the hit by themselves?

This brings into question exactly what financial impact the Coronavirus will have on the club. When trying to quantify this, you could easily estimate how much revenue they may be losing up to, say, the end of the season in May as is the norm.

Final league position prize money in the last financial accounts was £32.3m

Planned televised March and April games postponed (5) £1.13m earnings per televised game, so £5.65m

Matchday income, currently unknown, but putting a low estimate of £2m per home game, 5 home games left, £10m

Breach of broadcasting deal if season not completed 750m, £37.5m per club

So just on those four factors (there will no doubt be many more, such as paused sponsor payments), that’s £85m down. How is that £68.6m profit looking now? You could argue that our revenue has probably gone up since that £68.6m profit was realised, as that set of accounts had most of the season at Wembley, with just a few games at our cashcow new stadium. But that 68.6m profit included our run to the CL final, with earnings from that alone being around £90m, and this seasons exit in the round of 16 meant CL earnings of around 55m, so 35m down. I think this figure would more than account for any extra revenue we may have received up until fixtures were postponed, by comparison to the previous financial year.

A reminder that this is only taking into consideration any lost revenue to the end of the current season in May, around 6 weeks time. Should THFC, or any business come to that, assess the financial implications of the social distancing measures for 6 weeks? Especially a business run by Mr Levy, a well known ambassador of long term strategies? How uncertain is revenue after this period?

England’s deputy chief medical officer warned on Sunday that the UK’s coronavirus lockdown could last for “six months or more”.

“Some kind of distancing will likely be necessary for at least six months,” William Hanage, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, told FRANCE 24. “The distancing measures already in place are stopping the establishment of new cases. Those already infected should be resolved for better or worse in two months, after which the goal will be to prevent the surge we have seen in the first wave happening again.”

“The German health institute’s idea that two years of restrictions could be necessary to deal with the coronavirus presents a “fairly likely” scenario, Hanage said, adding that it “depends on what is meant by restrictions; two years of the current state is unlikely, but two years without large gatherings is another thing”.

That last paragraph again.


I’ll put this another way.

Should the current lock down in the UK be lifted by say, June (very doubtful), how many of you chaps that regularly go to games would be happy to sit in a packed tube carriage, walk through Tottenham High Road amongst thousands of people, and sit crammed in a stadium with 62,000 other people in August? How about September? December?
If the 2 metre social distancing rules are still in place even after the lock down is lifted, as expected, would every football player be excluded from this to entertain us in what is a contact sport? Would these footballers agree to it, potentially putting themselves and their family at risk?

Based on this, in projecting potential losses, the following question must be asked.

How much revenue could THFC potentially lose over a longer period to say end of this calendar year? Or even to the end of next season?

It’s a shit load. A shit load that makes the £68.6m profit we enjoyed look insignificant.

So should THFC, a company that has paid millions in tax for it’s entire existence, be entitled to claim government help (like every other UK company) when faced with such losses?

Should THFC make tough cost cutting decisions (that in fact save jobs) when faced with such financial losses and uncertainty?

I’ve no doubt some of you have decided the answers to these questions already, and my above ramblings will have no bearing on your judgement.

Can you name the Premier League players by their past?

How well do you know the past of some of today’s Premier League footballers? Time to find out.

We have taken a player from each Premier League club and described them by the list of teams they have played for. Now all you have to do is guess their identity.

Twenty players. 10 minutes. Simple, right?

Let’s see how you get on. Good luck.

Can you name the Premier League players by their past? –

Courtesy BBC Sport

I know what we shouldn’t have done last summer: what Premier League clubs would change

By Jonathon Wilson, The Guardian.

The season must be completed. The season must be abandoned now. As the arguments gabble on, only occasionally acknowledging their own hypothetical nature given how little we know about how the virus will proceed, how long the lockdown may last and whether there may be a second wave of infections when it is lifted, it’s tempting t o dip into another hypothetical. What if this were like a game of Football Manager? What if we could quit without saving and go back and start again last summer? What would Premier League clubs, given their time over, do differently?

Let’s start with the obvious one: Tottenham’s decision to sack Mauricio Pochettino and replace him with José Mourinho. Once a path has been embarked on, there is perhaps some logic in pursuing it to its conclusion, but would Daniel Levy really take that road again? Tottenham are without a win in their past six games. They’ve gone out of the FA Cup and Champions League. They’re seven points adrift of fourth. They’ve kept three clean sheets in 26 games under Mourinho. For Spurs, this season has been a shambles.

Injuries haven’t helped, while Mourinho loyalists point to a creaking and jaded squad. But if the squad is an excuse for Mourinho, why was it not for Pochettino? It’s not as though he wasn’t aware of its failings, not as though he hadn’t been campaigning for two years for greater transfer spending.

Levy, given the choice between replacing the manager or the bulk of the squad, went for the manager, but it looks as if he will end up having to replace the bulk of the squad as well. And when it comes down to it, which would you rather have: a thrusting manager with a point to prove and a recent history of team-building on a budget or a weary former great who has come increasingly to deal in big transfers and whose ideas have begun to look outmoded?

In terms of other managerial comings and goings, Watford may think they could have sacked Javi Gracia in the summer rather than waiting until September and they certainly wouldn’t bother again with the 12 games under Quique Sánchez Flores. Everton, Arsenal and West Ham, perhaps, will think that they could have acted more swiftly to arrest seasons that were drifting.

In terms of the top of the table, Liverpool would presumably change very little, although they might perhaps look at what happened around the winter break and wonder if something in their schedule led to the slight loss of rhythm in February and early March. Given how the Atlético game turned out, they might also look at upgrading their reserve goalkeeper.

For Manchester City, though, there is one clear problem that they would surely take steps to address: the lack of cover at centre-back. The departure of Vincent Kompany inevitably risked leaving a vacuum of leadership, but there was no need for there also to be a vacuum of defensive nous. With Nicolás Otamendi always a slightly rash and clumsy figure, the least obviously Guardiolista player in the squad, and John Stones’s form uncertain, City were left extremely dependent on Aymeric Laporte. That he has started seven league games this season is the major reason the gap to Liverpool is so vast, not only because of his absence but because Fernandinho has been lost to the midfield as he has been forced to drop back as an emergency central defender.

Manchester United’s case is intriguing. Given their improvement after the arrival of Bruno Fernandes – they have won six and drawn three games since signing him at the end of January – they would presumably try to land him in the summer. Harry Maguire, assuming United still deemed him worth the £80m fee, would probably have been signed earlier in the summer to give him more time to adjust to his new teammates; the attempt to drive down the fee by drawing out negotiations simply did not work.

Given that Paul Pogba has started five league games this season and none since September, offloading him last summer presumably would be a priority; surely nobody now, even at United, thinks a positive future still awaits him at the club? And there are those, too, who would argue that Ole Gunnar Solskjær should have been replaced when Pochettino became available, although recent form has perhaps begun to soften the concerns about the Norwegian’s long-term suitability for the job.

What about signings that clubs would now avoid? Would City spend £58.5m on João Cancelo, who has started eight league games? Newcastle, surely, would not spend £40m on Joelinton, a forward wholly unsuited to the isolated frontman role he has been asked to fulfil. Spurs might still splash out £54m on Tanguy Ndombele, but not if they still planned to bring in Mourinho. Aston Villa, perhaps, would rethink their entire transfer strategy: they spent £140m to no great effect. While the injury to Wesley was unfortunate, only Tyrone Mings has been a clear success. West Ham would probably reconsider their transfer policy, but it’s hard to think of the last season when that wouldn’t have been the case.

Leicester and Chelsea presumably wouldn’t change too much, although Frank Lampard might start using Olivier Giroud earlier given the opportunity. But perhaps the most interesting case of a club with little to fix is Norwich. It is easy to say that they should have spent more, that a splurge on a couple of high-class players might make the difference for them.

But given the financial constraints under which they operate, it’s not clear how much more they could have done. Daniel Farke is a consistently engaging coach whose young team play attractive, bright football. It wouldn’t have taken much to have gone differently for them not to be adrift at the bottom.

That, perhaps, is the key: the league table doesn’t lie, but it cannot be considered without context. And that’s where asking, given context, what might reasonably have been improved feels useful. No audit can look only at results.

Daniel Levy and the 5 problems Jose Mourinho will face at Tottenham when next season does arrive

By Alasdair Gold,

Next season is going to be one like no other for football clubs across the world but for Jose Mourinho it was already going to be a very different one.

The Portuguese had been telling anyone who would listen that he just wanted to get to July 1 to start the next season.

We now know that July 1 is unlikely to be the start of the new Premier League campaign and we also know that Tottenham Hotspur will be a very different experience for Mourinho compared to any managerial job he’s had in decades.

With the assumption that the next Premier League season will come – in whatever form and at whatever date – let’s look at the problems that the Spurs boss will need to tackle when it does arrive.

What happens next

Let’s start with the obvious one. There are of course far greater challenges facing the world right now, but planning for next season following the coronavirus is going to be tougher than their usual assignment for managers.

The timing will be completely off, the issues of contracts ending and when the transfer window operates will be very different.

Mourinho and other managers will be managing very different pre-seasons, perhaps shorter ones and working out with their sports science staff what the players can handle after what could well be a stop-start number of months.

There is also the very real possibility that players could still be contracting the coronavirus during what is meant to be the early months of next season and that of course requires very different management.

Even without all the above, Mourinho will have never worked with a chairman like Daniel Levy before or a club like Tottenham Hotspur.

Recently the Spurs boss explained that when he was a Chelsea during his first spell it was very different and that he could just point out a player and they were bought.

In north London that magic wand cannot be waved to fix problems with the ideal new player.

Mourinho appears to have enjoyed working with Levy thus far and he will have entered this job with his eyes wide open, both from his meetings with the Spurs chairman and also from the inquiries he has made about the club before taking up the offer to join.

However, as with any manager there will be a certain amount of self confidence, ego if you will, that they will still feel they can change things, be the one who convinces Levy to open the club wallet that little bit further.

In Mourinho’s case he’s been used to getting what he wants in the past but that will not happen so much at Tottenham.

Levy has chased the Portuguese for years but having finally landed his man he still won’t threaten the club’s financial stability to make him happy.

The recent financial results showed that Tottenham’s profits have shrunk and if they do not qualify for the Champions League Levy has already said any transfer funds will be further affected.

Mourinho is going to have to channel the coaching ability that made him a star in the first place at Porto, taking them to that unexpected Champions League title without the vast resources of the big boys they were facing.

The problem above also seeps into another issue in that Tottenham require an overhaul in certain areas.

They don’t need a complete makeover, with last season’s near £200m spend having begun that process with five new faces, six if you’re including the future potential of Jack Clarke.

However, there are parts of the squad that will still need new faces.

Danny Rose, Jan Vertonghen and Juan Foyth could all move on this summer, as could Kyle Walker-Peters, which means almost an entire new backline needs to be brought in to provide depth and compete with those left.

The much spoken about striker issue needs resolving with another forward to provide back up and another option to Harry Kane, while a natural defensive midfielder is also on the wanted list.

The club have also lost, and will lose, some experienced heads and those need replacing with men who have been there and done it.

That’s a lot of transfer work to be done and will involve others leaving to free up funds, which in turn can create further holes in the squad.

Mourinho may also have to convince some of his star players like Harry Kane to stick around and trust he will bring them the silverware they crave.

There’s the added issue that the transfer market itself is going to be a mess, with all clubs financially hit by these months without football and revenue, some more than others.

There may be a real lack of movement before the next season with players unsure of where is best to go in the current climate and whether it’s best to stick or Twist.

The club’s enormous new stadium should be an intimidating place for teams to visit, but it just hasn’t been on the whole.

The Spurs players and the fans are still settling into their new home almost a year on and the noise and performances – both feeding each other – have been inconsistent.

For visiting teams it’s a bit like the first few months at Wembley in that it’s a real novelty to play at such an impressive stadium, Spurs’ new home being arguably the best football ground currently open in the world.

For Mourinho, making Tottenham’s home a fortress is key to everything he’s doing.

The Portuguese has always made a big thing about making his teams formidable at home, as his record at Chelsea in particular proved.

Spurs managed it in their final season at White Hart Lane, that incredible unbeaten campaign fuelled by the emotion of the grand old stadium’s final months.

Mourinho needs to work out how to bring that air of invincibility to Tottenham’s new home.

One of Mourinho’s biggest problems could well be the expectation that he bring with him because of his history.

Mauricio Pochettino struggled with the expectation that Tottenham could only be successful if they won silverware, despite his feeling that three consecutive top three finishes, then a fourth place and a Champions League final, were remarkable given the constraints he was working within.

In a way the Argentine eventually became a victim of his own success and for Mourinho he comes with the baggage of transferring his own success to yet another club.

“It is a  club situation. A club vision. A club objective.  It is not Mourinho vision or Mourinho objectives. It is about us. So I don’t feel it this way,” said the Portuguese in his first press conference at the north London club.

“It is already almost two decades of big clubs, big challenges, big expectations. I think I am guilty of it because with my career I create so many expectations with people.

“In this case I think it is Spurs’ fault because in the last years the club grew up in such a direction where people are waiting for [silverware] even in bad days. So we have to go together and stick together and think about the good things that we can do.”

Mourinho also made it clear in that same press conference that he expected the club to challenge for the Premier League title next season and just before football was shut down this month he maintained that he would win silverware at Tottenham. They would not be the only club where he didn’t.

That expectation built from his own achievement and words could be his biggest challenge in the seasons ahead.

Football’s rare pause for thought gives coaches time for inspiration

By Jonathan Wilson, The Guardian

“What did you do in the war, Mr Bukovi?” “I invented the false 9. What did you do?”

That wasn’t all Marton Bukovi did during the second world war. The Hungarian coach – quite possibly the greatest tactical mind football has known – found himself in Zagreb, coaching Gradjanski, when the conflict began. When the Ustashe seized power and began enacting antisemitic legislation, his position became insecure, given he was the son of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. He, in as much as religion bothered him at all, seems to have identified as Christian, and there is a cross on his gravestone in the Rakoskeresztur cemetery in Budapest, but his wife, Aranka Klein, was Jewish and at least one of his sisters was a practising Jew.

Bukovi not only kept working but also helped protect the club’s groundsman, a Jewish refugee called Max Reisfeld who had fled Nazi Vienna, taking food and provisions to him and his family as they hid under a stand at the stadium where, for four years, they remained undetected and survived.

Bukovi was courageous and a man of firm principle but he was also notoriously difficult. He had his habits and was rarely minded to change them. He loved the cinema and would go every day after training, but he hated being distracted so would turn up at the box office, ask if his wife were there and, if she were, he would go on to a different cinema.

“He was a hard man,” said Marika Lantos, whose husband, Mihaly, later worked as Bukovi’s assistant at Olympiakos. “Precise, strict and consistent. He demanded order and discipline. It didn’t matter who a player was; he would always tell him what he thought of him. That might be why many didn’t love him. He could be reserved and grumpy but he had a heart of gold. He was like a bad mother-in-law: he commented on everything and always found fault. He meant well, but he couldn’t understand that he needed to make distinctions between people. He just said what he wanted to say.”

But then he was a genius, and geniuses perhaps are allowed some leeway with the social graces. When the war in Yugoslavia was over and the Communists were in control, the clubs who had played in the fascist league were disbanded and, in many cases, had their archives destroyed. Gradjanski, eventually, were reborn as Dinamo and Bukovi was persuaded to become manager.

The interim had given him time to think. He had already overseen Gradjanski’s transition from a 2-3-5 to the W-M formation but what, he wondered, if you went further? What if you withdrew the centre-forward so deep he was almost a midfielder, gave your inside-forwards licence and pulled one of the wing-halves so deep he was in effect a second central defender, turning the 3-2-2-3 of W-M into something very close to 4-2-4?

And so, in 1946, in the game against Lokomotiva that would decide the Zagreb championship, Bukovi put his theory into practice.

Gradjanski won and Bukovi was vindicated – not that he was entirely happy. “Dragutin Hripko played the role,” he said. “He played it closer to well than to poorly, but far from ideally. As a footballer he never achieved great quality, but I always spoke about him when asked about a withdrawn striker. He was my lab rat … I can clearly remember how the Lokomotiva players didn’t know how to handle him.”

Bukovi took the system with him when he returned to Budapest and by 1952 Hungary were using it to win Olympic gold, part of a four-year unbeaten run – in which they twice hammered a befuddled England – that ended with defeat by West Germany in the 1954 World Cup final.

Managers rarely get time to think. The churn of games, the routine of training, of the day-to-day dealing with players is too much. But now, during a shutdown that will last at least a couple of months, managers do have time. Football is a mature game now: huge developmental steps such as Bukovi’s are unlikely. Everything happens by increments. But what is possible? What might an enlightened manager do having been given this long period without the immediate pressure of games?

Elite-level football tends to move forward by solutions. A team is successful playing in a particular way and so a means must be found to interrupt that. The possession-heavy game of Pep Guardiola and his imitators was eventually overcome by the high-energy, highly focused press and transition game of Jürgen Klopp – to the extent that Guardiola has begun to change.

That makes sense: the way to defeat possession football is to work out a way of disrupting those patterns of passing and regaining the ball better.

So what comes next? How do you disrupt a pressing game? One way is simply to pass the ball better, in less predictable patterns. Perhaps if Guardiola’s Barcelona of 2008-11 were still around, still at their peak and still with the dribbling potency of Lionel Messi, that would be possible (it may be that what passed was less their stylistic hegemony than simply the peak of that side). But given it is not, and given the seeming impossibility of that aim, how else could hard-pressing football be circumvented?

An obvious way, which Guardiola briefly took against Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund in a German cup game, is to go over the press. Guardiola used Javi Martínez as his target man, but perhaps target men in general are due a comeback. What better way to thwart a well-deployed pressing line than by whacking it long and early at a Niall Quinn or a Joe Jordan or a Nat Lofthouse, particularly if they could be supported by a rapid poacher? How better to unsettle two central defenders picked less for their marking and battling qualities than their positioning and passing than by making them defend against a pair?

Or perhaps not. But in this time of enforced inaction, it’s perhaps worth managers asking, what would Marton Bukovi do?