What has Levy Done Now??

By Alasdair Gold: Football London

Irony is splashed across Tottenham Hotspur’s search for their next head coach right now as their two month process nears its end with Paulo Fonseca now the leading contender for the role.

On one side you have the Spurs supporters who have expressed their frustration at the length of time it has taken to replace Jose Mourinho, who was relieved of his duties on April 19, and also called for someone to take more of the decision-making power off chairman Daniel Levy.

Both of their demands are set to be met with incoming general manager Fabio Paratici wanting Fonseca, but judging by the outrage on social media the end result is not what the fans wanted.

There is of course also irony on the club side, with Spurs now looking to appoint the man who was pushed aside by Roma so they could appoint…..yes, Jose Mourinho, the man pushed aside by Tottenham

History will decide which of the two teams got the better end of one of the strangest managerial swaps in recent years.

The deal for Fonseca is close, although not yet done, and this month has already shown that what looks likely to happen at the north London does not necessarily materialise. The reaction of the fans to the news may well also have caused alarm among the already under-fire Spurs hierarchy.

One person inside Tottenham told football.london this week that the club had “chased dreams” in their managerial search since Mourinho left.

Spurs’ top choice and their biggest dream was the return of Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine was the reference point for their brief to find their next manager – favouring attack-minded, possession-based football, developing young players into stars and using the cutting edge sports science techniques introduced by Pochettino.

However, after positive talks with their former boss the attempts to prise him away from PSG proved futile. Real Madrid’s approach also washed up on similar rocks as the French giants flexed their muscles and stood firm.

With the Pochettino door closed, so Levy turned towards an old structure he has experimented with many times in the past two decades – the director of football role.

Pochettino is not believed to have been keen on working within such a structure at Spurs this time around, wanting more of a say in key decisions.

With the Argentine out of the picture, Tottenham turned to Paratici, the Juventus transfer guru they had eyed up in the past. 

His impending appointment has certainly caused waves within the club. Spurs’ current technical performance director Steve Hitchen – who has director of football duties – is believed to have been unaware of the moves to bring in Paratici.

The treatment of Hitchen, who is popular within Tottenham, has left a number of staff and players unhappy but the club are understood to want him to remain within their new structure.

All eyes will be on Paratici now though and what power he will be able to wield. 

His role at Juventus after Beppe Marotta’s departure in 2018 had been a bigger, wider ranging role than simply a director of football, more a CEO of sporting matters and it is a similar position that he is expected to take up at Tottenham.

That should in theory give him more power than those directors of football – with various titles – who have come before him in David Pleat, Frank Arnesen, Damien Comolli, Franco Baldini, Paul Mitchell and Hitchen, and struggled within the parameters set by the club.

However, many within Spurs doubt that Levy will ever relinquish too much power at the club. This is a man who by his own admission was constantly on site during the construction of the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, micro-managing to such a degree that he was choosing what type of finish surfaces had in certain rooms and deciding upon the most minute of details.

One sign that points in Paratici’s favour is that the club dispensed with Hitchen’s shortlist of candidates who met the chairman’s desire for a manager who fitted the club’s “DNA” and the new man was given the power to decide who he should work with. The strength of a director of football structure does rely on the man at the top choosing the right fit for him as well as the club.

Antonio Conte, suddenly a free agent and someone who had worked closely with Paratici at Juventus, became the next dream but again it did not prove to be a reality.

The former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss did not fit the original profile Levy was looking for, but when one of the world’s most successful managers shows interest in your club, it would be folly to not at least talk.

After initial promising discussions, it became clear that Conte and Tottenham were not on the same page in their expectations for the club’s financial might this summer and talks soon fell apart. Conte had departed Inter in a similar situation and it is difficult to see how Spurs thought they could present a different project.

Paratici, who has already begun planning the summer transfer activity as well as becoming the key driver in the new head coach search, turned his attentions to Fonseca.

The Portuguese was not on Tottenham’s top candidate list in its original form although he was identified as a talented coach, but Paratici has seen enough of him in Serie A in the past two years to push him to the top of his own wishlist after the Conte talks failed.

Those inside Tottenham and within Fonseca’s camp believe a deal is close but is not yet finalised.

For the Spurs fans, following the failure to land Pochettino or Conte, the Portuguese has been labelled as an uninspiring choice, coming without the Premier League experience or sustained trophy success outside of his time in the Ukraine at Shakhtar Donetsk.

The 48-year-old, born in Mozambique, did impress at Roma during points in both his two seasons with the club.

In his first campaign he improved on their sixth-placed finish before his arrival to take them up to fifth in the table.

This season, at one point Roma were third during this campaign and seen as one of Serie A’s most entertaining sides but injuries hit them hard from March onwards as they competed in Europe as well as domestically and their season fell apart.

Roma ended up, like Spurs, finishing seventh in their final table. It had already been announced that Fonseca would be leaving at the end of season, communicated just days ahead of their Europa League semi-final second leg against Manchester United, with Mourinho to replace him.

On paper, Fonseca does fit that brief Tottenham originally drew up and he is different in style to his Portuguese predecessors in N17 in Mourinho and Andre Villas-Boas.

He likes his teams to play aggressively high up the pitch but with selective pressing in the right moments as they take the game to the opposition and he is believed to be a strong motivator who connects with his players.

This season, in describing the way his teams play, Fonseca told ESPN: “No, I don’t like playing deep and waiting for the counter-attack. Sometimes it can happen in moments with my team, like against Ajax in the second leg of the quarterfinal, but it is not my style of play.”

Critics of Fonseca have said that his team can be vulnerable defensively – something that will concern Tottenham fans after their own defensive concerns season – and the Portuguese said that can be a by-product of his style of play.

“I think [when we’ve had problems] many times, it hasn’t been because other teams created situations against us. It’s because we made mistakes, losing balls in the first phase of play,” he said.

“I think we paid more dearly for those mistakes than is normal, and that has been our biggest problem, because yes, this type of game that we play can be risky, but in the long run I believe it is successful.”

His players do appear to forge a strong connection with him. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who played for Fonseca at Roma and also under a certain current Chelsea boss at Borussia Dortmund, believes there is a comparison to be made there.

“”He is similar to [Thomas] Tuchel, he is trying to put the players in the right position, giving them the freedom to enjoy their style of play,” said the midfielder.

“I’ve had the best coaches in my career and I’ve learned a lot not only about the game of football, but also about life. Even now that I am 32 years old I want to learn, because I want to know a lot about football and about life.”

On Fonseca’s style of play, he added: “We play differently depending on who we face, especially when we have the ball. Sometimes we have to stay tight, other times we have to stay wide. It depends on the game and the situation. 

“It’s not about the position you start the game in, it’s about the space. We try to use the space to create opportunities for ourselves and for our teammates. The most important thing is the chemistry between the players, because if you have chemistry you can do different things.”

Even long-serving Roma full-back Alessandro Florenzi, who found game time hard to come by under Fonseca, said: “That’s something that’s fundamental for me, respect for people and their work. The coach was very clear about this.

“Fonseca is one of the greatest coaches I’ve had in football. The problem is that he might not like me in that particular role and that he expects something else from me. I have a great relationship with him and he clearly told me that he didn’t know how much space he could give me.”

Fonseca, who speaks good English, has previously admitted he dreams of working in the Premier League.

One key point for Tottenham and Levy will be that praise for the Portuguese from outside of his clubs often centres on him making the best he can from what he’s got.

Former Milan midfielder Massimo Ambrosini said this season of Fonseca’s Roma: “I like the calmness, the balance, the desire to always try to lead the games. Last year he had the ability to compact the environment with the many injuries. He didn’t manage to put his work into practice in full, but he deserved to be reappointed. 

“He’s a modern coach, he doesn’t focus on a single idea, he tries to make the most of what he has available. I still think Roma are very strong. They’re well built.”

Fonseca also enjoys developing younger players, having given Diogo Jota his debut as a teenager at Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira, and he has never been afraid of using younger talents at any of his sides, which could bode well for the likes of Oliver Skipp and Ryan Sessegnon next season.

With Tottenham’s finances hit hard by the pandemic, the Portuguese’s ability to make the most of what he has will appeal to Levy.

That Fonseca comes without the need to pay any club compensation for his services will also catch the eye in a week when the Premier League announced that Spurs and the other five English clubs involved in the Super League will collectively pay £22 million, which will go towards “the good of the game”, on top of their financial commitments to UEFA after a similar decision.

The fans are underwhelmed by the potential appointment, with many struggling to see how this potential new arrival will convince Harry Kane that his future is best served at Tottenham.

If Fonseca is appointed, it will certainly be a huge test for not only him to adapt quickly to a very different league than he has been used to, but also Paratici to make the environment around him the best possible in order for him to succeed with funds brought about through sales.

All eyes will remain on Levy though even if this appointment has been driven by Paratici. 

One hope to cling to for the fans could be that Tottenham’s managerial appointments in the past 20 years have been most successful when Levy has not got his man or that man he wanted has not succeeded.

In 2014 Pochettino himself was second choice behind Louis van Gaal only for the Dutchman to turn down the job. Years before him, assistant manager Martin Jol enjoyed success after taking over from the mess that came from the long wait for and then resignation of Jacques Santini.

Then Harry Redknapp hauled Tottenham up the table after the man Levy had controversially gone behind Jol’s back to get – Juande Ramos – failed in the Premier League.

Pochettino, Jol and Redknapp all advanced Spurs’ cause during their originally unlikely eras in north London and there will be hope that Fonseca can make the most of being down the initial pecking order.

Tottenham chased their dreams in Pochettino and Conte but the time was not right for either to return to London and the club and its fans must hope that Fonseca is the reality they require.

Who is Fabio Paratici and what Tottenham can expect from him


Fabio Paratici will soon sign his contract with Tottenham and Lorenzo Bettoni, Football Italia explains what Spurs can expect from the former Juventus director.

“Paratici arrived here as a lad and left as a man, above all as a winner.” Andrea Agnelli summed up quite nicely the path taken by the former Bianconeri director who arrived in Turin in 2010.

He followed Giuseppe Marotta from Sampdoria and, together with Antonio Conte, built one of the most successful teams in Italian football’s history.

The Old Lady finished the first season of the Marotta-Paratici era in seventh, missing out on a European placement. However, the Bianconeri returned to winning ways the following season.

And what a journey it was for Paratici, who won 19 trophies in 11 seasons in Turin.

He was first reporting directly to Beppe Marotta, the club’s CEO and the man who brought him to Sampdoria.

Paratici had played in Italy’s lower divisions as a footballer. He was a central midfielder but didn’t have a remarkable playing career.

However, his time in the third division helped him to develop a unique quality to spot talented players at all levels and at any age.
He is regarded as the man who was able to bring Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid, but the signing of the Portuguese star is not the one he is most proud of.

“If I have to pick one, I go for [Andrea] Barzagli,” he said in his farewell press conference at Juventus, when he had to fight back the tears several times.

“He spent many years with us and he was massively underrated by many. We all know how important he was and what he gave to this club.”
The former Italy defender had joined the Bianconeri from Wolfsburg in January 2011 for just €300,000 and was one of the main protagonists of Juventus’ domestic domination over the years.

During his last few years in Turin, Paratici became a specialist for big-money transfers. He signed Cristiano Ronaldo for €112m in 2018 and Matthijs de Ligt for €84m in 2019. But it hasn’t always been this way. Juventus pulled off some of the best value signings in Europe during Paratici’s tenure. Just think about Paul Pogba’s free transfer in 2012, followed by those of Dani Alves and Patrice Evra.

He didn’t get everything right, but as he said in his farewell press conference, ‘the best one at this job is not the one who makes no mistakes, but the one who makes the fewest’

The Italian director is the right man to begin a long-term project. Again, during his last press conference in Turin, he admitted he gets ‘really angry’ when he fails to land the signing of some 15-year-old players. Which says a lot about him.

Paratici is not just a man to build ‘instant teams’, he is a director who cares about the future of the club he is working for and focuses on the club’s academy, trying to bring in the best players at any level.

Paratici is like a chief scout who is also able to wrap up terrific deals, but the environment where he feels more comfortable is on the sidelines of football pitch rather than an office.

During his first years at Juventus, he travelled all around Europe to watch games, but it wasn’t just the pandemic that stopped him from doing so.

In 2018, Marotta left the club and Juventus tasked him with keeping the books in order while remaining in charge of transfers. He always got the job done, but you had the feeling he wasn’t always at ease with his new role.

His relationship with the media has improved over the years, but we can assume he won’t miss talking to Sky Sport Italia or DAZN before every Juventus game. He prefers remaining in the background rather than taking centre stage.

He indeed had difficult times in Turin too. He was under investigation over false claims to the prosecutor in the Luis Suarez case, which was a mess from the very beginning.

The at-the-time Barcelona striker offered his services to vice president Pavel Nedved, but it was Paratici who carried out talks with his agent and with Barcelona and when the deal seemed close, he found out the Uruguayan’s EU work permit in Spain was not valid in Italy, so the striker needed to take a citizenship exam prior to moving to Turin.

The story became a proper scandal as the rector and some professors of the University of Perugia, where Suarez took his exam, were already under investigation for different reasons and had their phones tapped. Therefore, investigators immediately found out Suarez had known the questions in advance.

However, Juventus President Agnelli ruled out Paratici is leaving the club because of the consequences of the scandal.

Paratici was also fined three times for disrespecting referees in 2020-21 and had had arguments with former Juventus’ CEO Beppe Marotta who, back in May, admitted being on very good terms with Juventus directors, except Paratici.

Therefore, it is quite unlikely to see Tottenham sign an Inter player soon unless someone else negotiates in place of Paratici.

Perhaps, Spurs fans should keep an eye on Mauro Icardi who Paratici admires for a very long time. It was Paratici who brought the Argentinean to Sampdoria in 2011 and with Harry Kane on his way out of North London, you can bet Paratici will try to sign the former Inter captain to replace the England star.

Overall, Tottenham are getting the best Italian sporting director of the last ten years and if Paratici is able to sign the right players at the right price and build a solid bond with the new coach, who won’t be Antonio Conte, Spurs can hope to return to winning ways, just like Juventus did.

Antonio Conte holds Tottenham talks and is leading contender for job

Terms discussed with Conte, who quit Inter last week
Spurs trying to recruit Fabio Paratici as sporting director


David Hytner, The Guardian
@DaveHytner
Wed 2 Jun 2021 15.41 BST

Tottenham have opened talks with Antonio Conte about becoming their manager. Daniel Levy has overseen an extensive search to secure a permanent successor to José Mourinho, which has not been without its frustrations, and Conte is now considered to be the leading contender.

Levy has discussed personal terms with Conte, who left his job as the manager of Internazionale last Wednesday, three and a half weeks after leading the club to their first Serie A title in 11 years.

Spurs are also trying to recruit the former Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici as Levy considers going back to a two-tier management structure, raising questions over the future of Steve Hitchen, effectively the head of recruitment. Levy has previously employed Damien Comolli, Frank Arnesen and David Pleat in the role of sporting director.

Juventus announced last Wednesday that Paratici’s contract would not be renewed, ushering him away after 11 years. Conte worked with him between 2011 and 2014 when he won three Serie A titles with Juventus.

Conte, who won the Premier League with Chelsea in 2017, would be an exciting appointment, if a little at odds with the profile of manager Levy has prioritised. There is scepticism in some quarters as to whether a deal will be concluded.

Conte left Inter because he was unhappy at their plan to sell about €80m of players to plug holes in their balance sheet. He had wanted backing for signings and a greater chance to build on his title win. The 51-year-old would reasonably expect to be offered something similar by Levy but it is unclear where the money would come from, with Spurs having suffered big losses recently.

Levy wrote in his end-of-season programme notes that he wanted a manager whose “values reflect those of our great club and return [the team] to playing football with the style for which we are known – free-flowing, attacking and entertaining – whilst continuing to embrace our desire to see young players flourish from our academy alongside experienced talent”.

In many respects, the template was a figure in the mould of Mauricio Pochettino, the manager before Mourinho, who worked wonders on a relatively small budget, developing a host of young players as he secured Champions League qualification in four successive seasons.

Pochettino joined Paris Saint-Germain in January and Levy has explored the possibility of bringing him back. PSG have indicated they are not willing to let him leave; he has a further two years on his contract.

Levy has previously spoken to Ajax’s Erik ten Hag, who remains a contender, despite his club having triggered a one-year extension to his deal. Hansi Flick was also in the frame, only for him to leave Bayern Munich and agree to take over from Joachim Löw as the Germany manager after Euro 2020. And there have been talks with Ralf Rangnick, believed to be over a director’s position. Spurs’ interest in Julian Nagelsmann and Brendan Rodgers came to nothing, as the former went from RB Leipzig to Bayern and the latter said he was committed to Leicester.

The Sting

A Brief Interlude

Brentford are taking over the bloeug today due to the incontrovertible fact that they are our my/your/second team. *

Brentford FC Logo

Nine times Brentford have tried and failed to gain promotion via the play-offs either to tier one, two or three of the great English football pyramid and nine times they have failed. Today against Swansea, the 10th time, must be the one where they finally crack it as it starts in a one!

1946-47 was the last time the Bees graced the top tier in the old first division, the first season after the Second World War. They’ve bobbed about interminably between the old fourth division and the new Championship ever since, and of late they’ve made a couple of real tries at breaking back into the top level falling to Middlesbrough in 2014/15 and Fulham in 2019/20. They’ve been preparing diligently for their inevitable seat at the top table with the building of the new 20,000 capacity Brentford Community Stadium replacing the grand old Griffin Park which was famous for being the last stadium to have a pub at each corner.

The 17,250 seat Brentford Commuunity Stadium

Between two of those pubs their is a little two-up two down at 50 Braemar Road; a modest abode where I lived very briefly in the mid-70s with my mum my parents separation.

The 12,300 seat Griffin Park Stadium. Our lil ol’ house was roughy where the arrow indicates!

Brentford became my second team after the mighty Lilywhites as a result and it was great seeing both clubs getting promoted in the 1977/78 season. It would be greater still to have the Bees hosting Spurs on their patch in the same division for the first time in my life.

COYF🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝🐝

K/O 3pm!

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Harry Kane: The factors that will decide Tottenham transfer saga

By Miguel Delaney, The Independant.

To get a sense of the kind of stance Harry Kane is facing, it is worth knowing Daniel Levy’s approach to one of the first major deals he was responsible for. It was, of course, a sale.

Michael Carrick was in a similar position to Kane in the summer of 2006 and felt that he needed to leave Tottenham Hotspur to fulfil his talent. In the end, the midfielder became so frustrated with Levy’s obstructive responses to Manchester United that he decided to call the Spurs chairman himself. The repeated message back was simple. “Well, they need to pay the money,” Levy said.

“It was all about the money for Daniel, just driving the price up and up,” Carrick wrote in his autobiography. “Arguing with Daniel was pointless. I would have got more joy talking to a brick wall.”

Carrick appealed again, and got the same response again. “Well, they need to pay the money.”

With Kane, it is now believed around the club that money “starts with a two”. Numerous sources say Levy would want at least £200m to even consider selling. That’s how important Kane is to the club. That’s the value of his goals, right down to how much they improve chances of regular Champions League qualification. It is way beyond even Gareth Bale in 2013. It is almost simple maths. But it isn’t that simple a situation.null

Levy’s stance isn’t as sure-footed as it was in any of his previous big sales. Tottenham are still paying off a £1.2bn stadium, having also taken out a government loan. Some financial figures around the game feel the club are in a much more stretched economic position than is perceived, “the worst of the big six”.

They still don’t have a manager. The squad is in need of a refresh. That was true when Mauricio Pochettino left, and one reason for his final-season downturn. The tough reality to consider is that a significant sale could instantly solve a few problems – even if it comes with other costs of its own.

A squad without Kane may even affect that manager search. Some figures at the club are now seriously suggesting it could be worth returning to Pochettino. There is a feeling that he has found the nature of Paris Saint-Germain more of a headache to manage than expected, and may be open to it. Levy also feels the need for an exciting appointment, as a gesture to unhappy supporters as much as anything.

It says something, however, that not even Pochettino’s appointment would change Kane’s thinking. He now desperately wants to go. One of the juncture points in this entire saga, however, is how desperately any potential buyer wants him.

All would love him in the team, of course. That goes without saying. Chelsea are said to be the most willing buyers, but are aware of the political problems with any deal. Manchester City are preparing a proposal. United are monitoring the situation.

A problem, unlike pretty much all previous big Spurs sales, is that it’s not like the buyers are behaving like David Gill with Carrick in 2006 and telling Kane “we’re not going to run away”. They’re perfectly prepared to walk away.

The current United don’t have the same need for a striker since Edison Cavani re-signed, and will prioritise other positions. Chelsea and City are both prioritising Erling Haaland. Kane is not first choice for either, because of his age, against that six-year contract.null

The uncomfortable truth for the striker is that it just doesn’t make that much sense in the modern market to pay that much for a player about to turn 28. They’d love him in their team, but not at that price, at that age. The market has significantly changed. There’s still too much of a huge gap between what any buyer would pay and what Levy would want.

It is why it remains remarkable that Kane signed that six-year deal. Many football representatives believe it is even more remarkable – and actually “staggering” – that he has not appointed one of the “super agents” to get this over the line. Using a figure with real leverage, who Spurs could greatly benefit from being owed favours from, could make an immense difference to the deal. It would certainly go further than fanciful notions about gentlemen’s agreements.

Spurs also know that Kane isn’t a “natural rebel”. He would be highly unlikely to invoke the Webster ruling, which could make things very messy. “If Spurs say no,” one source wonders, “what is he going to do? They know he’ll do nothing, other than stay and score 25 goals again next season.”

 

As appealing – and almost inevitable – as that sounds for Spurs, it is somewhat undercut by the same logic that may ultimately see buyers walk away.

Even before you get to the specific financial situation at White Hart Lane, there is at least a fair argument that selling Kane is the intelligent move – one that even makes more business sense for Levy. There is an inherent risk to a club anchoring so much of their medium-term future to a player in their late 20s.

They could drop off form. They could get injured. They might very quickly lose value. Some coaches have privately noted how Kane’s scoring has dropped off after the hour-mark of games this season, although that may have as much to do with the questions over Spurs’ conditioning under Jose Mourinho. That situation alone shows how quickly things can change.

This may be a rare chance to bring the funding that allows an overhaul, that can see Spurs become the fluid and smart club that it had looked for so long at the start of Pochettino’s time.

In the modern market, the most logical move of all may be to sell Kane for over £100m, and bring in a series of players under the age of 24 – that also allow a more fluid game. A fair counter-argument to that is what happened in 2013, and questions over the club’s recruitment.

Then again, they have brought in some good young players, and had earmarked Ruben Dias before he went to City. Some around the game feel the only realistic possibility for a sale is a buyer offering £100m and a “significant” player in return.

There are fair questions about what City or Chelsea player, say, would want to go to Spurs right now. That alone is why Levy’s stance isn’t as strong as usual. There are, for once, bigger factors in this whole saga than just paying the money.

And it Can’t Come Quickly Enough…

Levy awoke before dawn. He put his boots on. He snapped the key to the ancient trophy cabinet. And he sloped on down Tottenham High Road…

So yet another season ends at yet another crossroads, following more lows than highs and leaving more questions than answers. Like just about every club on the planet, ever, we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again, but it does seem to have been an over-common and over-recurring theme in all the years I’ve been enduring an allegiance to Spurs.

Continue reading “And it Can’t Come Quickly Enough…”

Harry Kane delivers update on his future: ‘Definitely a conversation to be had with Daniel Levy’

By Alasdair Gold: Football London

Harry Kane has admitted that he will have a conversation with Tottenham Hotspur about his future.

The 27-year-old has been the centre of plenty of speculation this week surrounding his future, with reports claiming he has told Spurs that he wants to leave.

football.london understands that Kane has not yet directly told the club he wants to depart this summer but would be willing to consider a move should an offer come in for his services.

Now in a newly released interview with Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, for The Overlap, a new YouTube channel from the former Manchester United full-back in partnership with Sky Bet, Kane admits he will need to have a conversation with chairman Daniel Levy about his future when asked whether this is a crossroads moment in his career.

“I think so. I think it’s definitely a conversation to be had with the club,” he said in the interview conducted during a round of golf last week. “Yeah, like you say, I want to be playing in the biggest games. The biggest moments.

“Like, this season I’m there watching the Champions League, watching the English teams in there doing amazing. They are the games that I want to be involved in.

“I want to be in them games. So for sure, it’s a moment in my career where I have to kind of reflect and see where I’m at and have a good, honest conversation with the chairman. I hope that we can have that conversation.

“I’m sure that he’ll want to set out the plan of where he sees it but ultimately it’s going to be down to me and how I feel and what’s going to be the best for me and my career this moment in time.”

On Levy, Kane added: “He’s been great with me if I’m totally honest .I mean, he’s always rewarded me with contracts. Like obviously I signed maybe a 4 or 5-year deal when I was 21 but I’ve done well so he’s added to that. He’s been great with me.

“He’s been fair with me. He’s never kind of just held me on to a contract and said ‘No, I’ve paid you that. You’re going to stay on that’.

“So, we’ve always had a good relationship, but yeah, I’m not sure how that conversation will go if I’m honest, but you know what it’s like as players you don’t know what the chairman is thinking.

“I don’t know, I mean he might want to sell me. He might be thinking ‘If I could get 100 million for you, then why not?’

“Do you know what I mean? I’m not going to be worth that for the next two or three years.”

When it was put to him that the transfer fee might be more like £200m than £100m, Kane laughed and said: “But erm, but yeah. It’s going to be. I hope we have a good enough relationship. 

“I’ve given the club…well, I’ve been there for 16 years of my life. So, I hope that we can have a good honest conversation and see where we are at in that aspect.”

Kane made it clear that he does not want to finish his career without achieving everything he wants to.

“For me it is, I don’t want to have come to the end of my career and have any regrets,” he said.

“So, I want to be the best that I can be. I’ve said before, I’d never say that I’d stay at Spurs for the rest of my career. I’d never say that I would leave Spurs.

“I’m at that stage where you could say, you know. People might look at it as ‘He’s desperate for trophies, he needs trophies’.

“I still feel like I’ve still got almost another career to play. I’ve got another seven or eight years. Kind of what I’ve had so far in the Premier League.

“So I’m not, I’m not rushing anything. I’m not going to, erm, I’m not desperate to do anything, but yeah, I just want to be the best version of me. I feel like for sure I’ve got so much more to give. I feel like I can be even better than what I’ve been. I can produce better numbers than what I’m producing at the moment.”

He added: “I feel like I can. I’ve said before and people. I’m not afraid to say that I want to be the best. I’m not afraid to say I want to try get on the level that Ronaldo and Messi got to.

“You know, that’s my ultimate goal. That’s my aim, to be winning trophies season in, season out. Scoring 50, 60, 70 goals season in, season out.

“That’s the standard I want to set myself because I feel like if I give myself anything lower then I might get to the end of my career and be like ‘Actually, I could’ve maybe done a little bit more, I could’ve scored a few more goals’.

“So, that’s my drive. The pressure for myself is always bigger than what anyone else can put on me. Like I said, I feel like I’ve almost got another career to go and achieve what I want to achieve.”

Kane admitted that it does get to him when people call Spurs ‘bottlers’ in big moments because they have failed to win silverware.

“It’s hard to hear if I’m totally honest, you know. Like you say, we’ve been so close and things could’ve been a lot different, but I understand that obviously we haven’t got over the line as a club,” he said.

“We haven’t won things, we haven’t been dominant when you could say we’ve probably had the best team we’ve had for a very, very long time.

“But yeah, for sure those comments, you hear them and they kind of eat at you a little bit inside.

“They almost get you going a little bit, you know. It’s almost trying to prove people wrong and that’s kind of been me and my whole career in all aspects really. Whenever, like my first season getting called a “one-season wonder” and all stuff like that.”

He added: “For me, obviously, you’ve known me through England and stuff. I almost, not like that pressure, but you know it gets me going and it brings out the best in me.

“When you hear stuff about your club it’s never easy. Of course, I know what it’s like working day in, day out. Playing with the players. Working hard in the gym. In training to try and win stuff. To try and win trophies. 

“Of course, it hasn’t happened but it don’t mean we’re not working as hard as anyone else. As a club we just haven’t been able to, to get over the line, but, I mean, look, it’s been some amazing moments.

“Some amazing years for the club. So, there is some positives there, but of course, my profession is about winning. I want to win. So, for sure it grates at me that we haven’t done that.”

Harry Kane’s Tottenham Transfer Wish Isn’t So Straightforward

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Jonathan Wilson: Sports Illustrated

It was the news that everybody at Tottenham or who supports the club must have been dreading, but it can hardly have come as a surprise. Harry Kane had made clear earlier in the season that he wouldn’t necessarily want to continue at Tottenham if the club failed to qualify for the 2021–22 Champions League. Spurs are not mathematically out of the race yet, but it would take unexpected collapses from both Chelsea and Liverpool in their final two games for Tottenham to finish in the top four, and so, on Monday, came the reports that Kane had told the club he wants to leave.

It is not just the prospect of losing the England captain, a player who has scored 165 Premier League goals over the past eight seasons, that should worry Tottenham. It’s what Kane symbolizes. He came through Tottenham’s youth ranks. Other than some loan spells when he was developing as a player, he has never played for anybody else. He embodies the modern ambitious club, the side that got to the Champions League final under Mauricio Pochettino and had the self-confidence to build a state-of-the-art new stadium. With the departures of the likes of Kyle Walker, Christian Eriksen and Kieran Trippier, the process has already begun, but if Kane leaves, it would feel like a return to the old Spurs, when they couldn’t hold onto their best players.

But the situation is perhaps more complex than it may at first appear. Kane’s frustration is understandable. He turns 28 in July and has so far won nothing in his career. It’s entirely natural that somebody of his talents would want not only to land some silverware but to test themselves against the very best—not just as an outsider but as a member of the elite. He should be playing regular Champions League football.

His problem is that he is three years into a six-year contract signed at the height of Pochettino-era optimism. Spurs are under no pressure to sell and chairman Daniel Levy is notoriously stubborn in such cases. Dimitar Berbatov, Luka Modrić and Gareth Bale all had to battle to leave, in some cases effectively threatening to go on strike. How badly behaved, really, would Kane be prepared to act toward a club that has nurtured him, where he remains loved? A sulking Kane is still likely to score 20 goals a season.

And yet selling for a huge fee may not be the worst idea. This is a Tottenham squad that requires rejuvenation and has ever since before Pochettino left. The move to the new stadium, for all the opportunities it should open up once pandemic restrictions are relaxed, has severely reduced funds available for investment in the squad. So tight is money at Tottenham, in fact, that the club last year had to apply for an emergency loan from the Bank of England.

Tottenham has been burned in similar situations before, effectively wasting the Bale windfall after his move to Real Madrid, but if Kane could be sold for over £100 million, then the arrival of four or five promising young talents would probably be what the squad demands.

And that perhaps is the key factor. Who might pay £100 million or more for a player who will be 28 at the start of next season? All across Europe, belts are being tightened. Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Juventus are all heavily in debt. Chelsea, Manchester City or, perhaps, Manchester United could afford him, and Pochettino would welcome him to Paris Saint-Germain, but even if a club did think a nine-figure transfer was worth it in the present climate, the likelihood is it would go for a younger star whose benefit will be longer-term: think Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappé or Jadon Sancho. Were Mbappé to leave PSG, that could perhaps open a pathway for Kane to rejoin Pochettino, but, given Inter’s financial problems, Romelu Lukaku may also be available, and has the advantage of being able to speak French and having proven his adaptability to different leagues. It is being reported, too, that Kane prefers to stay in England.

It may be that Levy finds himself in a strong position. He can listen to Kane, accept his concerns and agree to sell if a certain price is met by, say, the end of July. If it is met, he can then go on a spree picking up young talent, prices reduced by the fallout of the pandemic. If it is not, then he has been fair to Kane and will still have his best player at the club next season ready to go again under a new manager.

And that, really, is the biggest issue. With an inspirational coach and some new investment in players, the situation at Tottenham could rapidly be transformed and Kane could find belief and motivation returning. Or the fee he raises could fund a new generation. But, really, it all depends on getting in the right manager.

Tottenham v Wolves

TEAM NEWS

Tottenham remain without defender Ben Davies, who is unlikely to feature again this season.

Interim head coach Ryan Mason has no fresh injury concerns as Spurs seek to improve their European prospects.

Wolves have Willy Boly and Marcal back in training but this weekend may come too soon for them.

Adama Traore could be in line for a return to the side following his goal as a substitute against Brighton last weekend.

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

  • Tottenham have lost half of their Premier League home games against Wolves. They only have a higher percentage of home defeats against Nottingham Forest (60%).
  • Nuno Espirito Santo could become the first manager in Premier League history to win his first three away matches against Spurs.

Tottenham Hotspur

  • Tottenham have won five of their past six home league games.
  • Spurs have scored in 12 successive league games, the longest current run in the competition.
  • They haven’t lost at home against a team starting the day in the bottom half of the table in 19 attempts since a 1-0 defeat by Newcastle in August 2019 (W15, D4).
  • Harry Kane has 21 goals and 13 assists this season. In terms of overall goal involvement, it’s only bettered by his 29 goals and seven assists in 2016-17.
  • Gareth Bale has scored all nine of his league goals this season at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium.
  • He has now scored in seven successive home league starts spanning two spells with the club.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

  • Wolves have won three of their past five matches in the Premier League, as many as they had managed in their previous 17 attempts.
  • They have lost just twice in their last 10 away matches in all competitions (W3, D5).
  • Since returning to the top tier in 2018-19, only Manchester United have won more points from losing positions than Wolves’ 51.
  • Adama Traore has two goals and two assists in his last six league games following a run of 35 matches without being directly involved in a goal.
  • All seven of Traore’s Premier League goals have been scored in the second half.

BBC Sport

Juan Foyth, Skipp, Parrott, Sessegnon and the future plans for Tottenham’s 15 loan players

By Alasdair Gold, Football.London

Tottenham Hotspur sent 15 players out on loan this season but which of them have a future at the club in the years to come?

Spurs players young and older were loaned out across not only the Football League but also to Germany, Spain and the USA during this campaign.null

Some of the loans were a roaring success, some at least gave the players some important experience to develop, while others had a difficult time away from the nest.

What does the future hold for them all though, particularly with a new manager set to walk through the door in the weeks ahead?

Let’s take a look at what next season will bring for all 15 of them.

Oliver Skipp

Oliver Skipp is the poster boy for Tottenham’s loan operations this season.

He will return to the club this summer as a title winner at Norwich as they won the Championship and promotion back to the Premier League.

Skipp was a vital cog for the Canaries and is likely to end up in plenty of Championship teams of the season.

Spurs fans who might judge him on his youthful displays in their own shirt last season will have missed out on an incredible season of development in the Championship for the 20-year-old central midfielder.

following campaign with them after his tremendous progress.

Ultimately the new manager will decide and hopefully the England U21 international will return earlier in pre-season in order to get the chance to impress.

Many within Tottenham believe he can step up and become a regular starter for the club in the Premier League.

Juan Foyth

Another player who finished a promising season on loan with an injury is Juan Foyth.

The news coming out of his homeland is not great with ESPN Argentina reporting that the 23-year-old could be out for a minimum of a month with a torn hamstring in his left leg, suffered in the first leg of the Europa League semi-final against Arsenal.

Foyth’s future is not in Tottenham’s hands.

When he was loaned out to Villarreal it was with an agreed £13m option to buy if the La Liga club and the young Argentina international agree to it.

He has impressed manager Unai Emery, who suggested that if it was his decision, he would bring the defender to the club permanently.

After a slow start, Foyth made 31 appearances for Villarreal, showing his versatility at right-back, centre-back and in a defensive midfield role and £13m is likely to be seen as a bargain for the young defender.

Ryan Sessegnon

Another player who has had an important season in their development is Ryan Sessegnon.

Spurs deliberately chose Hoffenheim above the queue of clubs in England and across Europe who wanted to take the 20-year-old on loan because the Bundesliga club promised him plenty of game time at left-back and wing-back.

They have been true to their word and other than an injury absence for a month and a half at the turn of the year, Sessegnon has got plenty of game time and development under his belt across 27 appearances.

Sessegnon’s immediate future will depend on the left-back situation when he returns and how much he can impress the new manager, but with four years left on his contract, another loan season = and the fee Spurs would get might end up suiting all parties.

Troy Parrott

Troy Parrott had a tough year out on loan, but that’s probably exactly what he needed to get a true experience of life in the senior game.

The talented 19-year-old striker managed to net just two goals across two loan spells, but coming after his drop down a division from Millwall in the Championship to Ipswich in League One.

Parrott admitted that things don’t always go to plan but that he got “plenty of learning experience and game time” at both clubs.

He certainly did with 32 appearances to his name across his time at both clubs.

This is a big pre-season for Parrott as he looks to put what he has learned on to the Hotspur Way training pitches in front of the new man.

He may find that 17-year-old Dane Scarlett gets the young striker on the bench role at times next season and that may free Parrott up to get another season on loan starting almost every week, which might be better for his development.

There’s no rush for the teenager and Harry Kane is the perfect proof of that.

Paulo Gazzaniga

Gazzaniga, 29, went to Spain looking for game time but had to be patient as Edgar Badia retained his spot in Elche’s goal in his first couple of months.

He has now started the past five games in an incredible tight relegation battle at the bottom of La Liga and Tottenham will be hoping that his performances gain some interest in his services.

The club were looking to sell the Argentine and that is unlikely to change this summer with just 12 months left on his contract.

Jack Clarke

Jack Clarke’s season also ended in an injury with ankle ligament damage but he had a much more promising campaign, making his Spurs debut in the Europa League and FA Cup.

After a January loan move to Stoke he got a further 14 appearances under his belt in the Championship, with two assists to his name before that ankle injury last month.

Clarke impressed Jose Mourinho in pre-season last year and he will be looking to do so again but the likelihood is that another loan to help the 20-year-old’s development might beckon.

Cameron Carter-Vickers

Carter-Vickers’ loan at Bournemouth initially looked like being a disaster as he didn’t play a game in the Championship in 2020.

However, a return to fitness and the arrival of Jonathan Woodgate as boss until the end of the season changed his fortunes and he’s started the past 21 matches as the Cherries took their place in the play-offs.

Spurs are believed to have taken up an option to extend the 23-year-old’s contract by a year so they can get some money back for his sale this summer rather than lose him for nothing and Bournemouth are expected to be interested.

Brandon Austin

England U21 goalkeeper Brandon Austin will miss most of next season because he has been loaned out to MLS side Orlando City for the entirety of their season.

The MLS regular season runs until November 7 and then the play-offs take place from that month until the MLS Cup takes place in December.

Austin will return ahead of the January transfer window and the 22-year-old will likely be given another loan if one is forthcoming.

Harvey White

White has racked up the appearances in an important loan spell with Portsmouth after making his Tottenham debut in the Europa League and FA Cup.

The 19-year-old got plenty of time from the bench with Pompey and scored his first senior goal with a match-winning header against Oxford United.

Portsmouth boss Danny Cowley has already asked Tottenham if the central midfielder can return next season and with the Spurs midfield set to be packed again, it could be a loan move that suits all parties.

Malachi Fagan-Walcott

Another young player who made his Tottenham debut under Jose Mourinho, coming on late in the Champions League defeat at RB Leipzig last season.

Fagan-Walcott has had a tough year this time around, requiring knee surgery in the summer and then after getting a loan to Scottish Championship Dundee in January he got two starts under his belt before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury.

The aim next season will be to get the 19-year-old, who has a contract until 2022, more game time on loan to help his development.

TJ Eyoma

Another big loan success for Spurs this season has been Eyoma, who has made 49 appearances for Lincoln as they have reached the League One play-off finals.

The 21-year-old, who made his debut for Spurs in an FA Cup game at Tranmere during Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure, began his loan spell playing mostly at right-back for Lincoln, but has switched to the centre of the defence during the campaign.

With a contract until 2023, Spurs have given Eyoma plenty of time to develop and the young defender is likely get another loan deal this summer after the success of this one.

Jubril Okedina

Okedina got his first experience of senior football in the second half of the season as he helped Cambridge United gain automatic promotion to League One, making 15 appearances.

With a contract until 2022, the club will look to get the 20-year-old centre-back out on another loan next season.

Shilow Tracey

Tracey was also at Cambridge for the second half of the season, following a spell at Shewsbury.

The 22-year-old’s deal is up this month and it could be that his five years at the club comes to an end.

Jack Roles

Jack Roles has had a season to forget, barely getting any playing time at either Burton Albion or Stevenage during his two loans.

The 22-year-old could also be heading towards the exit door after coming through the ranks at the club.

Kazaiah Sterling

Another who is out of contract this summer and has struggled, often through unfortunate injuries, to make a mark on his loan spells.

He was unable to score during his time with Greenock Morton in the second half of this campaign.

Tottenham’s Double 60 years on: conquering ‘soccer’s Everest’

By Rob Bagchi The Telegraph

The road to Tottenham’s 1961 Double, the diamond anniversary of which supporters commemorate today, May 6, began in the Soviet Union. It had its roots in other places, too: Bill Nicholson’s native Scarborough, where the manager inhaled a terse style of Yorkshire stoicism with his mother’s milk; in Musselburgh, birthplace of Dave Mackayand John White, Nicholson’s two most audacious transfer coups, and on the streets of Cheshunt near Tottenham’s training ground where the players undertook ‘Bill’s Road Run’, essentially a brisk five-mile walk followed by a one-mile dash devised by their manager as their regular conditioning routine. 

But it was in Moscow, during a post-season tour in 1959, where individuals forged a bond that would turn them into a team, transforming them from a side that finished 18th in 1958-59, the season Nicholson took over, to one that would miss out on the title by only two points in 1960.

They went to the circus, too many times for even the most diplomatic members of the squad, saw Rudolph Nureyev dance at the Bolshoi, visited the Kremlin, queued to see the embalmed bodies of Lenin and Stalin in the Red Square mausoleum, and played three friendlies in front of packed stadiums in the capital, Kiev and Leningrad. “It was neither an education nor an adventure,” Mackay wrote. “[But] I shall always believe we laid the foundation of the team spirit and genuine friendship which has since played a notable part in the success of Tottenham Hotspur.” 

Because the League and Cup Double has been won nine times in the past 60 years, it has been forgotten that for most of the last century it was often called “the impossible Double”. Aston Villa were the second team to have achieved it in 1896-97, finishing top after a 30-match First Division campaign and winning the FA Cup, which had only four ‘proper’ rounds before the final. 

Yet teams were edging closer to the impossible towards the end of the Fifties. The Busby Babes won the title in 1957 and were only denied the FA Cup in the final, coincidentally by Villa, in large part by virtue of Peter McParland bulldozing the United goalkeeper Ray Wood after six minutes and shattering his cheekbone. In an era before substitutes, let alone substitute goalkeepers, 10-man Manchester United, with centre-half Jackie Blanchflower in goal, were defeated 2-1.

In 1960 Wolves had led the league on Saturday night after completing 42 games only to be pipped by Burnley on the Monday, winning their game in hand to take the title by a point. Wolves had the consolation of winning the Cup five days later but their manager, Stan Cullis, refused to congratulate Burnley for ruining his dream. “I am disappointed and do not wish to make any comment,” he said.

Those near misses persuaded Jackie Blanchflower’s elder bother, Danny, the captain of Tottenham, that far from being inconceivable, the Double was possible and that Spurs were just the team to prove it. Danny was 34 in the summer of 1960 and remains one of the most influential British players in the long history of our national game. The right-half was elegant, erudite, radical, waspish, astute and the author of pithiest of homilies, one of which, “the game is about glory”, has become part of his club’s branding. 

Tottenham Hotspur Double Winning Season. FA Cup Semi Final v Burnley. Danny Blanchflower leads the team out followed by goalkeeper Bill Brown.
Danny Blanchflower leads Tottenham out for the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park CREDIT: Daily Herald/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Blanchflower came to believe it could be done on his return from the USSR, saying there should be no bashfulness about it. The Double had to be an explicit goal to which the whole club must subscribe. “It couldn’t be done with a weak heart and the team which might do it would have to really believe it could do it,” he said. First, the “impossible” prefix had to be banished. Nicholson, usually so hard-boiled it was said he laboured under the belief that “smiling takes up precious time”, surprised his captain by agreeing: “I think it can be done too.”

The captain was a season premature with his announcement when, after beating Newport County in the third round of the FA Cup in January 1960 with Spurs at the top of the league, he told the press that the Double was on. They were still in first place when they demolished Crew Alexandra 13-2 in a fourth-round replay but the balance of the team, particularly at inside-right, and the fact that White was still serving his final year of National Service in Berwick-upon-Tweed, making a couple of games unreachable after a full day’s duty, undermined their progress. Blackburn Rovers beat them in the fifth round and mid-April home defeats by Manchester City and Chelsea, who would finish 16th and 18th respectively, ruined their title bid. Had they won either of those games, they would have won the league championship on goal average instead of missing out by two points. 

Fred Bearman, the Tottenham chairman, had joined the board in 1909 and must have heard it all during his 51 years’ service. But instead of taking an unsentimental tone when his romantic captain told him on the eve of the 1960-61 season, “We’ll win the Double for you”, he replied: “All right, my boy. I believe you will.” 

“We started – as Robb Wilton used to say – like a house on fire,” wrote Blanchflower in his autobiography, quoting the late, droll star of music hall, radio and film. It was like a palace on fire, in truth, as they won their first 11 games, a record that still stands, putting six past Aston Villa, four past Manchester United at the Lane and hammering Wolves, champions in 1958, 1959 and runners-up in 1960, 4-0 at Molineux.

With the barnstorming, buccaneering and deceptively skilful Bobby Smith at centre-forward, the far more mobile and elusive White replacing Tommy Harmer at inside-right, and the prolific, tireless grafter Les Allen at inside-left, plus the dynamic Terry Dyson, also a son of Scarborough, on the left wing, the blisteringly quick and mesmerisingly skilful Cliff Jones on the right, Spurs simply overwhelmed opponents. In 42 games they were scoreless in just two, scored more than one goal in 32 matches and ended the season with 115, a post-war top-flight record.

For all the verve of their forward line the half-backs were the chief ‘glory’ of Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur. With the creative prompting of the fulcrum Blanchflower at right-half, Maurice Norman in the centre, with his heading prowess at both ends, his uncanny gift for interceptions and forays up front when all four limbs would seem to work independently of one another, like an octopus on speed, and the imperious Mackay, one of the ten greatest British footballers, in the No6 shirt, Spurs were irrepressible. Mackay’s talent is too often demeaned by overplaying the fierceness of his competitive zeal and physical aggression. He was a fine passer, long and short, had a thumping left-foot shot, which hammered in a 35-yard screamer at Goodison in December, and a mastery of the ball the equal of any fancy Dan. 

Dave Mackay
The incomparable Dave Mackay CREDIT: PA Photos/PA Wire

Frank McLintock, who would become the century’s second Double-winning captain with Arsenal in 1971, recalled how Mackay, Scotland’s injured captain, used the sureness of his touch and his indomitable, gallus spirit before a match against Spain at the Bernabéu in 1963 when Francisco Gento, Alfredo Di Stefano and Luis Del Sol tried to intimidate the Scots in the warm-up with their skill and swagger. “We all knew Dave Mackay’s party-piece,” said McLintock “and Jim Baxter decided now was the right time to unveil it. Jim called over and shouted, ‘Hey Marquis, see if you can catch this!’” 

With that he tossed a coin 20ft in the air and Mackay “thrust out his right leg, bent at the knee, and caught the coin on his toe. He stood there for a second then flipped it back up in the air, caught it on his forehead, knocked it back up and caught it in his left eye socket then rolled it down his shoulder into his open blazer pocket and waltzed off back to the dressing room to thunderous applause.” Scotland won the match 6-2, a victory most of the players put down to Mackay’s capability to fight Spain’s psychological warfare in kind.  

Spurs lost only once before Christmas, defeated at Hillsborough by Sheffield Wednesday who would run them closest in the title race. But it was the way they responded to a couple of draws and back-to-back defeats in March, which whittled their 10-point lead down to three, that proved their mettle. They hammered Chelsea 4-2, Preston North End 5-0 and edged Chelsea (again) 3-2 on Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday. Three crucial wins in four days. Given that Tony Marchi deputised for the injured Mackay in the first two of those victories, it also proved that they were a fine enough side to cope with the loss of their brightest talent.

The Easter resurrection followed by a 3-2 victory over Birmingham City meant that beating Sheffield Wednesday on April 17 at White Hart Lane would clinch the title with three games to spare. Sixty-two thousand fans packed into the ground to watch a fiery, exacting match in which Tottenham fought back from 1-0 down to win 2-1, Smith and Allen scoring in two late first-half minutes before Blanchflower punctured the intensity by shrewdly slowing the tempo after the break. Ten years after their first title in 1951, when Nicholson and his assistant Eddie Baily were in the side, Spurs were champions for the second, and to date final, time. 

Bobby Smith, Terry Dyson, Cliff Jones, John White, Bill Brown, Maurice Norman, Ron Henry, Front row, l-r, Dave Mackay, Bill Nicholson (Manager) Danny Blanchflower, Peter Baker (hidden), Les Allen 
‘Bill Nick’ and his players toast the league title in the White Hart Lane dressing room after beating Sheffield Wednesday CREDIT: Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images

“Five thousand crazy fans, drunk with success, brushed police aside and rushed to join the gigantic chorus in front of the directors’ box calling for Danny, Danny, until I felt my ears would split,” wrote Peter Lorenzo in the Daily Herald.  For once, a tearful Blanchflower was almost lost for words, but rallied to say something that was drowned out by the roars. Part one of their quest had been achieved and that was creditable enough. But scores of teams had won one of the two trophies in the preceding 64 years. Part two would come at Wembley 19 days later in the FA Cup final against McLintock and Leicester City.  

Bobby Smith, Terry Dyson, Cliff Jones, John White, Bill Brown, Maurice Norman, Ron Henry, Front row, l-r, Dave Mackay, Bill Nicholson (Manager) Danny Blanchflower, Peter Baker (hidden), Les Allen 
‘Bill Nick’ and his players toast the league title in the White Hart Lane dressing room after beating Sheffield Wednesday CREDIT: Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images

Tottenham’s toughest encounter on the road to Wembley came at Roker Park in the sixth-round tie against Sunderland who had at last found some form in the Second Division after a precipitous slump since relegation in 1958. “The great Roker crowd, starved of glory for so long, could not contain itself,” wrote Blanchflower, a multi-talented man with a notable blind spot in theology, going by his description of the Roker reaction to the home side’s goal in the 1-1 draw: “They shot over the fence on to the field, hundreds of them, like mad Hindus waving their arms to the glory of Allah for the equaliser.” It was but a minor inconvenience, they beat them 5-0 in the replay back at the Lane in front of 65,000 and defeated the champions, Burnley, in the semi-final 3-0 at Villa Park. 

The night before the final against Leicester City, the only side to beat them at home while the title race was still alive, Nicholson took the players into the West End to see The Guns of Navarone. Smith, frightened of his manager finding out how severe his knee injury was, crept out of the Hendon Hall Hotel the following morning at the crack of dawn to have two painkilling injections in his knee administered by his GP. 

Tottenham Double
Blanchflower lifts the FA Cup as Tottenham’s player celebrate winning the ‘Impossible’ Double in May 1961CREDIT:  Barnard/Fox Photos/Getty Images

The greatest occasion in the English football calendar, the FA Cup final, had been rendered a turkey in recent years by injuries and the prohibition on substitutes. Forest’s Roy Dwight broke his leg in 1959, Blackburn’s Dave Whelan fractured his the year after and both the 1952 finals – when four Arsenal players were hurt and limped on as passengers – and the 1953 classic, in which Bolton’s Eric Bell hobbled gamely out on the flank and even scored a goal, were distorted. The same was true of 1961 when Les Allen caught Leicester’s Lenny Chalmers with his studs and the right-back retreated on one leg to the wing for 70 minutes. 

It turned the match into a dull, attritional affair, Leicester understandably cautious, Tottenham lacking the usual fluency. It was settled by Smith, who scored the first and set up the second for Dyson in the 2-0 victory. When Blanchflower went up for the Cup there was a feeling of relief as much as elation. Nicholson, of whom one newspaper wrote “he shaves in ice water”, barely cracked a smile. “If anything, I felt a slight sense of dissatisfaction,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I had wanted us to play well and show how good we were, but the match had not been particularly entertaining.”

It was left to the mercifully more ebullient Cliff Jones to put it in proper perspective: “The Double – the Everest, the four-minute mile of soccer – had been done. And I was a member of the team that achieved it.” And as such, to Tottenham fans, his name will be immortal. The following afternoon the team gathered at Edmonton Town Hall for the open top bus parade down Tottenham High Road. The players had been doubtful, asserting that no one would turn up on a Sunday to see them. But the streets were packed and, as they passed the Royal Dancehall, the band was stationed on the balcony and serenaded them with the players’ anthem, Macnamara’s Band

Tottenham Hotspur football club celebrate from the roof of an open top bus on their way to Tottenham Town Hall for a reception given by the Mayor, after winning the League title and the FA Cup 'double'
Much to the players’ shock (and delight) Tottenham High Road was rammed the day after the Cup finalCREDIT: Fox Photos/Getty Images

Brown, Baker, Henry, Blanchflower, Norman, Mackay, Jones, White, Smith, Allen and Dyson will always trip off the tongue of football supporters of an advanced age. Nicholson and Baily, too, and some will recall the contributions of those who also served: Marchi, Terry Medwin, Frank Saul, John Hollowbread, John Smith and Ken Barton. That’s what a ‘legacy’ is, not a dismissive slur on the dedication of generations of supporters from the places these clubs and players represent. Those who sing “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Cups at White Hart Lane” will not forget the men who brought them there. 

Danned if we do, Danned if we don’t

A long, long time ago… I can still remember…. how Tottenham used to make me smile…

That’s been a fun couple of weeks. I think the last bloeug I did was in preparation for the Manchester United game. We whimpered out of that one, had Harry Kane to thank for not being well beaten against Everton, had our first second-half comeback in who knows how long against Hassenhuttl’s underwhelming Southampton, dozed through another underwhelming cup final defeat against City and now welcome another manager-less slump of a club (with apologies to Mason and Heckingbottom) with Sheffield United making their first visit to the empty temple since Pochettino and Wilder teams stalemated themselves in a 1-1 draw way back in November 2019.

Oh, and Levy sacked Mourinho.

So let’s talk about the European Super League and the future of this once great club.

Continue reading “Danned if we do, Danned if we don’t”

Toby Alderweireld confident ‘positive’ Ryan Mason can deliver silverware

By David Hytner, The Guardian

It has only been a matter of days but, to Toby Alderweireld, it is already plain. After the turbulence of the José Mourinho era, the reservations about his style that built to a tipping point, Tottenham have gone back to the future with the appointment of Ryan Mason. “You can see the similarities between Ryan and Mauricio Pochettino, how he wants to train, how his sessions are,” Alderweireld says. “It feels very familiar. He will bring his own view of football and his own ideas but we can see the similarities, for sure.

“Everyone knows he played at Spurs under Pochettino, he has a lot of ideas from him and we only can agree that’s very good. Everyone was performing very well under Pochettino and so Ryan’s mind in football is positive – it’s going forward and everyone is seeing his ideas. Even though it’s quite early, it’s a positive vibe he brings.”

It is often the case in football – and certainly during Daniel Levy’s 20-year chairmanship at Spurs – that when a managerial change is made, the new man is a reaction to the old one. Levy, for example, has bounced from Glenn Hoddle to David Pleat to Jacques Santini; from Juande Ramos to Harry Redknapp to André Villas-Boas.

Pochettino to Mourinho in November 2019 was quite the shift, with Levy betting on the latter’s CV and his proven ability to deliver silverware quickly, even if he tends to burn the house down shortly afterwards. The feeling at the time was that it was an uncharacteristic Levy hire with the potential for conflict, particularly over transfer business, but it might be worth it to harden the squad’s mentality, to help them to win something. And it was definitely a box-office move.

Mourinho’s tenure followed a familiar course. A charm offensive; initial difficulties giving way to a firm identity; substance over style; momentum created. And then it unravelled. The low-block approach stripped of its justification when results turned; players frustrated with Mourinho’s criticisms and his chopping and changing, not knowing where they stood.

The difference, of course, was that there was no trophy and it is quite the irony – and the reflection of how keen Levy was to jettison Mourinho – that it is now Mason who has the opportunity to win one in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Manchester City. The 29-year-old, who only got the job on Monday and is the youngest manager in Premier League history, will be in charge of a senior team for the second time, having overseen Wednesday’s 2-1 home win against Southampton.

At this point, with Mason set to be in the post until the end of the season, it is a stretch to say that he could “do a Solskjær” and go from caretaker to permanent choice at the club for which he previously played. But he feels like an easier fit for Levy and a gentler transition to whichever manager will lead the club in the longer-term.

It is as if Levy has been reminded of what he had with Pochettino – a believer in a project and the development of young players, in front-foot football, who did not necessarily need expensive signings – because he is understood to be seeking the same characteristics in his next appointment.

Alderweireld is extremely careful not to throw any shade on Mourinho. He describes how “everybody was hurt to hear when he wasn’t our manager any more”, how the timing was “the same surprise for us as for everyone else”, that “everyone was fighting and doing the best they can to change things around”.

He adds: “We have to respect his career, we have to respect how good he is. Unfortunately we didn’t get the results together that we wanted. Again, a lot of respect, even a thank you. Maybe the results didn’t go that way but 100% he made everyone better. For sure, his ways and how he looked about football … you have to respect them.”

Can Alderweireld explain how the team hit a wall after being top of the table in early December? “It’s difficult to put an answer there,” he replies. “I understand people want to know that maybe things are not going in the right direction and in the dressing room but that was not it. Again, every player gave 100% to change things.”

Alderweireld’s change in tone is marked when he discusses Mason, the shackles off. “It’s going wonderfully,” he says. “He is a big personality, how he talks. He’s only 29 but he presents himself as very mature. We played with him so we know him. There’s a lot of respect and everyone agrees with how he wants to play football looking forward. He is the boss but you can talk to him and it’s good he sees football this way. It’s not maybe like the old days where: ‘This is the way and that’s it.’ No. It’s a very positive dynamic.”

And so to the final, in which Spurs will attempt to win their first trophy since 2008. “We didn’t get silverware but the steps this club has taken in the last five, six, seven years are big,” the defender says. “Don’t underestimate that even if you get used to it quite quickly.

“We played in the Champions League, not last year but we were there four times in a row before that. You can’t say we weren’t good or say Spurs don’t have winners. You have to win to get in finals. You have to win to get into the top four. That is not silverware but maybe now we are in a moment to get everyone to just shut up and get it.

“City have unbelievable qualities but we have to go with our strengths and not only stop them but try to beat them. That is the mindset that we have to have.”

3-0

St Jude – The Patron Saint Of Lost Casuses

With Wasdan off duty tonight (huge respect and thanks to him for bloeugin throughout this season), it behoeufs me to try to cobble something together. It’s been a while, so do be gentle – or just skip this bit and start commenting.

What a week, eh?

From dwindling hope in the run-up to the Everton game…to absolutely none after it…to a classic Spurs fan’s glimmer as Wet Spam, Liverpool and Chelsea all drop points…to a raging torrent as Mourninho gets the tin tack. Top 4 is back on! Well, at least until tonight. But I’ll take a sunny Wednesday with the dastardly Super League on the back burner. How much worse than the new dastardly Champions League is it, by the way?

Anyway, back to Southampton at home, a tie with banana-skin not so much ‘written all over it‘, as indelibly tattooed deep into our psyche when we’re in a position to give us half a chance of putting pressure on those around us. But…but. Now we have Sir Ryan of Mason at the helm, a nice guy, Spurs through and through, who’s already ruled out any joshing from his previous teammates (“There won’t be banter between me and the lads.”). Could he do the unthinkable and give us the kind of bounce that only Jump4Joy Bouncy Castles could hope for in their dreams?

For me it’s implausible. These players have been so psychologically damaged by 4 years of being nearly-men under Poch, followed by the worst of Mourinho’s psy-ops, that they will stutter again at the first sight of a goal threat. I’m sure Ryan will be looking to insert Bale and Dele back in the team asap and “get us on the front foot” but scoring goals is not really my concern (even without Kaneinho). It’s what happens when a team like Southampton break into the open space we’ve left behind as the New Buccaneering Spurs™️. Walker-Peters careering down the flank. Che Adams, or just as bad, Danny Ings in the middle. Or both. Ward-Prowse able to deliver the kind of dead-ball Eriksen can only dream of. Bednarek or Vestegaard to swat Toby/Eric/Davinson out of the way. Stuff of nightmares.

After that cold bath, let me put another scenario. Ryan Mason has actually been at the Club throughout this period coaching the U17s, U18s, U23s. He either knows these 1st team players or in passing around Hotspur Way. He can lean on Harry and PEH for some ideas as to how best to set up. He can’t reasonably expect to coach anything new in 48 hours. All he needs to do is pick an attacking side, give them his trust and belief and have them run araaand a bit. Bale and Dele looked great together when given the chance. Sonny is due a proper bit of form…

And so to selections. My take is that we have 2 attacking full backs and Davies & Doherty are injured anyway. So play to their strengths. If we’re doing that we need to be solid in front of the defence but not so much so that we don’t have any creativity in midfield (ie not 2 DMs). This is the team I would like to see play (with PEH told to shield the Back 4):

Lloris

Aurier Rodon Alderweireld Reguilon

NDombele Hojbjerg (DM) Lo Celso

Bale Dele Sonny

European Super League: Uefa furious at 11 major clubs signing up to breakaway plans

By Simon Stone BBC Sport

Senior Uefa figures are furious that 11 major European clubs, including five from England, have signed up to a breakaway European Super League.

BBC Sport was told last week of plans for some sort of confirmation about a European Super League.

Uefa hoped to head off plans with a new-look 36-team Champions League set to be confirmed on Monday.

Uefa said it will use “all measures available” to stop the “cynical project” of a breakaway Super League.

The European governing body released a joint statement together with the English Football Association, Premier League Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), La Liga, and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) as well as Serie A on Sunday.

They said they will “remain united” in trying to stop the breakaway, using both judicial and sporting measures if required.

They also reiterated Fifa’s stance that players taking part in the Super League would be banned from all other competitions at domestic, European or world level and could be prevented from representing their national teams.

In a separate statement, the Premier League said it condemned the proposal as it “attacks the principles of open competition and sporting merit which are at the heart” of domestic and European football.

Juventus owner Andrea Agnelli, Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and AC Milan chief executive Ivan Gazidis would all have had a significant input into the Champions League discussions on Friday.

However, it appears those clubs are among those to have broken ranks, to the fury of Uefa, whose president Aleksander Ceferin wanted to stave off a Super League threat.

Spanish La Liga sides Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are also part of the 11-team group, as are Italian Serie A club Inter Milan.

None of the clubs concerned have responded to questions about the proposals.

The Premier League said a European Super League would “destroy” the dream of fans that “their team may climb to the top and play against the best”.

It added such a league would “undermine the appeal of the whole game” and that they would work with the FA, the English Football League, Professional Footballers’ Association, League Managers Association and fans to “defend the integrity and future prospects of English football”.

The FA said it will “not provide permission to any competition that would be damaging to English football” and will “take any legal and/or regulatory action necessary” to stop it.

Bundesliga sides are opposed to the plans because the German model means commercial investors cannot have more than a 49% stake in clubs, so fans hold a majority of their own voting rights.

It is understood French Ligue 1 side Paris St-Germain are not part of the 11-team group.

Uefa said it thanked “those clubs in other countries, especially the French and German clubs, who have refused to sign up” to the breakaway league.

“We call on all lovers of football, supporters and politicians, to join us in fighting against such a project if it were to be announced,” they added.

“This persistent self-interest of a few has been going on for too long. Enough is enough.”

Quite when the European Super League would start is unclear.

However, world governing body Fifa has already said it would not recognise such a competition and any players involved in it would be denied the chance to play at a World Cup.

Serie A have called an emergency board meeting to discuss the matter.

The Football Supporters’ Association said it is “totally opposed” to the plans, which it said were “motivated by nothing but cynical greed”.

They added: “This competition is being created behind our backs by billionaire club owners who have zero regard for the game’s traditions and continue to treat football as their personal fiefdom.”

It has been agreed the new-look Champions League will involve an initial phase where every club plays 10 matches each rather than the current group phase.

In addition there would be play-offs, followed by a knockout phase.

The most controversial aspect of the proposals surround the allocation of the four additional places, with two being reserved for the clubs ranked highest in Uefa’s co-efficient table who fail to qualify for the Champions League through their domestic competition, but do secure some kind of European football.

At the moment, Liverpool and Chelsea would be the clubs who benefited from that system if it was in place this season.

Everton Vs Tottenham Hotspur Preview

By Keshav Awasty  The Hard Tackle

Everton and Tottenham Hotspur will be desperate to keep their fading top four hopes alive when they lock horns at Goodison Park on Friday.

The games continue to come thick and fast all across Europe and in England, Gameweek 32 of the 2021/22 Premier League season will kick off this week. First-up in the latest round of fixtures will be an intriguing match-up that will pit Everton against Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on Friday night.

Everton have made definitive progress under the tutelage of Carlo Ancelotti and for large parts of the ongoing season, it looked like they could make a case for a top four finish. However, the Toffees have been quite inconsistent since the turn of the year, winning just five of their 14 Premier League games, and none of their last four. As a result, the Merseysiders have been sliding down the table and are currently 8th.

Tottenham are pretty much in the same boat as their hosts on Friday, having gone from leading the rest of the Premier League to becoming mere outside contenders for a top four finish. Ever since December, Jose Mourinho & co. have been nothing short of dismal, with Spurs winning just seven of their last 17 in the league, leaving them 7th in the standings, 6 points behind West Ham United in 4th.

Everton and Tottenham have already clashed with each other twice this season, with the Toffees winning both the games so far – 1-0 in the Premier League back in September, and 5-4 in the FA Cup fifth round. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Everton

Carlo Ancelotti has greeted a mixed bag of updates on the team news front ahead of the visit of Tottenham Hotspur. While his squad’s frustrating injury woes have eased up a fair bit, on Friday, the Everton boss will continue to be bereft of the services of as many as six first-team players.

The confirmed absentees are Yerry Mina (hip), Fabian Delph (tendon injury), Jean-Philippe Gbamin (knee), Abdoulaye Doucoure (foot), Bernard (knock) and Dominic Calvert-Lewin (hip), whose unavailability hurts Everton the most ahead of the game against Tottenham.

In some good news, though, the likes of Jordan Pickford, Allan, Andre Gomes and Joshua King are all back at the disposal of Ancelotti, who would be starting to get relieved over the status of the injuries in his squad. Pickford should be recalled to the starting lineup straightaway, with the Englishman taking his place in goal.

In front of Pickford, Everton ought to line up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, whose variants have been used a fair bit lately by Ancelotti.  The back three should see Mason Holgate line up alongside Ben Godfrey and Michael Keane, with the Englishman dropping back into defence due to the absence of Mina.

As for the midfield, the fit-again Allan should return straightaway, with the Brazilian pairing up with Tom Davies in the middle of the park, while Gylfi Sigurdsson will have the freedom to express himself higher up the pitch for the most part. Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne will be the two wing-backs, with James Rodriguez and Richarlison forming the strike partnership that will have Rodriguez playing off of the Brazilian.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Pickford; Godfrey, Holgate, Keane; Coleman, Allan, Davies, Digne; Sigurdsson Rodriguez, Richarlison

Tottenham Hotspur

Unlike his counterpart in the Everton dugout, Jose Mourinho does not have several pressing issues hampering his preparations ahead of the trip to Goodison Park. On Friday, the Tottenham Hotspur manager will only have to make do without a couple of first-team players.

Full-backs Ben Davies and Matt Doherty remain on the sidelines, with a return date yet to be set for either player. In their continued absence, Serge Aurier and Sergio Reguilon will retain their places in the side as the full-back pairing.

The duo will flank Toby Alderweireld and Joe Rodon, with the former replacing Eric Dier at the heart of the Tottenham defence following his disastrous showing against Manchester United. In goal, there is no looking past captain Hugo Lloris.

Another change to the starting lineup will see Giovani Lo Celso drop down to the bench, freeing up Tanguy Ndombele to reprise the no. 10 role, which will see him be a sort of an enforcer higher up the pitch. Ndombele’s vacated spot in the double pivot will be occupied by Moussa Sissoko, who pairs up with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in the middle of the park.

As for the attack, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min are certainties for Tottenham in most games, with the star forward pairing likely to be accompanied by Lucas Moura, who has usurped Gareth Bale, Erik Lamela and Steven Bergwijn in the final third lately.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Rodon, Reguilon; Hojbjerg, Sissoko; Lucas, Ndombele, Son; Kane

Stats

  • Everton’s 1-0 win in the reverse fixture on the opening day of the season ended a run of 15 league games without a victory against Tottenham Hotspur. After also beating Spurs 5-4 in the FA Cup, the Toffees are aiming to win three consecutive meetings with Spurs in all competitions for the first time since 1986.
  • Tottenham, though, are unbeaten in their past seven away league matches against Everton since losing three in a row between January 2011 and December 2012. Spurs have won 27 Premier League matches versus the Toffees, more than they have against any other side.
  • Everton are looking to avoid a fifth straight league match without a win for the first time since December 2018. The fifth game of that run was a 6-2 home defeat against Spurs. Meanwhile, another top-flight home defeat on Friday would be Everton’s eighth this season, equalling their record for a 38-match Premier League campaign, set in both 1996/97 and 2015/16. Only Fulham and Liverpool have earned fewer points at home in 2021 than Everton’s tally of five.
  • Tottenham have dropped 18 points from winning positions in the Premier League this season, second only to Brighton & Hove Albion’s 20,
  • Everton could become just the third side to complete a league double against a side managed by Jose Mourinho. Both instances have been since he joined Spurs: against Chelsea in 2019/20 and Liverpool this season.

In the news for all the wrong reasons the last time Tottenham took the field, Son Heung-min kicked up a furious debate between Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the aftermath of Spurs’ game against Manchester United following his ridiculous decision to draw a foul from Scott McTominay in the first half.

Quite often a player who lets his game do the talking for him, Son will be eager to do just that when Tottenham face Everton next up. With the north Londoners’ top four hopes starting to fade, it is up to Son and Kane to rekindle that attacking spark to power their side back up the table, with the games starting to run out. It all starts with the outing at Goodison Park versus Everton.

Prediction

Everton 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

This is a game that is unlikely to have a lot of goals in it, despite the last meeting between the two sides being a goal fest. For Everton, it will once again be the case of struggling in the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, having won just 25 percent of their Premier League games without the English striker this season, compared to a 50 percent win rate when he has been involved.

As for Tottenham, they have scored just 15 goals in their 14 away league games since plundering 11 in their opening two on the road. It all points towards the game possibly having just the odd goal in it, with Spurs holding the advantage in the absence of Calvert-Lewin, with Son Heung-min and Harry Kane likely to combine for the match-winning strike for Jose Mourinho & co.

Mr Gold. Enough is Enough, No more Mr Nice guy..

ByAlasdair Gold: Football.London

Boring predictability

One thing that was always difficult to level against Tottenham Hotspur was that they were boring.

That is no longer the case though with a boring predictability when it comes to how matches will unfold for the north London side.

The team’s performances will mostly start brightly, with the players creating a couple of chances and often scoring a goal or two before sitting back, wobbling in defence and then losing control of the game and therefore needing to react and create chances without success as they strive for a way back.

These performances are now expected, often whatever the opposition, and they shouldn’t be.

Some statistics released by Sky on Sunday after the defeat to Manchester United were as damning as they are ridiculous.

Spurs rank second in the Premier League for scoring first in matches, doing so 19 times – although they have actually led 22 times in all in their 31 league games.

Jose Mourinho‘s side have been ahead 16 times at half-time in those matches, again the second highest number in the Premier League.

Then the stats go from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Tottenham have failed to win when ahead at half-time on seven occasions – the worst record in the Premier League.

They have dropped 18 points from winning positions – joint 19th in the league – and have conceded nine goals in the last 10 minutes of matches and dropped 11 points from goals conceded in those final 10 minutes – both stats the worst in the Premier League.

How does Mourinho fix such a glaring problem within the club? Well we’d love to know the answer to that but he won’t tell anyone.

As predictable as the performances is the Portuguese’s unwillingness to explain how he plans to fix the issues within his team.

The longer he continues to say he won’t answer the question publicly and the longer the issues continue to seep throughout the season, the more people will wonder if he does actually have the answer or if he does, it doesn’t simply involve spending copious amount of money.

Mourinho hit out at the media this week on Friday for writing about the Toby Alderweireld situation and his criticism of players and then on Sunday further chastised journalists for not asking him a question he wanted to answer – about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s comments on TV on Son Heung-min, something most press inside the stadium would not have seen.

Mourinho believes that he often gets criticised for saying or doing things when other managers will not even get a mention for doing the same. That’s certainly a fair comment as his personality, words and previous successes throw the glare and scrutiny on him more than others.

However, the problem for Mourinho right now with the media is that if he’s not willing or able to answer the questions asked, then not only will the media have to get the answers elsewhere but they will also be less inclined to ask the questions he is hoping for.

Mourinho’s logic in swerving certain questions – last weekend it was about how to fix the late goals being conceded, on Friday it was to clarify the Toby Alderweireld situation and on Sunday it was why Spurs have a tag as being a soft touch – appears to be that he’s trying to protect his players.

However, he’s also been criticizing his players anyway in previous weeks and his unwillingness to answer, even to defend them, suggest an answer without words.

“I can’t say what I think. You know that. You know that. You sometimes want to bring me to deep questions, to deep analysis, but then when I go, I realise that I cannot go,” he said on Sunday when asked whether Spurs have always and continue to be a soft touch.

“So this is the kind of debate for pundits, journalists to have. Is much more difficult for me to go into that. I would say: that one thing is opinions, another thing is facts.

“Opinions can be discussed, but facts, they cannot be discussed. If you go to certain numbers, to certain stats, you arrive to conclusions, facts, and then of course pundits, people with experience, with vision, with knowledge, they can have the opinions they want. Many, many times I would agree, other times I would disagree, but I don’t want to go into that debate.”

The previous weekend when asked how Tottenham can fix their huge and ongoing problem of conceding those late goals he simply said: “I cannot tell you, I don’t want to tell you. I think it’s for me and not for you. It’s for me.”

It might be for him and not anyone else, but nothing is changing and the answer doesn’t seem forthcoming. 

Some might even suggest that with those frequent thrown away leads that Tottenham are more ‘Spursy’ now under Mourinho than they were before his arrival.

Broken Sonny

Few sights exemplify the mood at Tottenham more than the uncomfortable interview with Son Heung-min, conducted by the club’s own in-house media after Sunday’s game.

The 28-year-old, who scored Spurs’ only goal on the day, is one of the happiest, most popular men at the club, his smile and joking infectious among the squad.

Sunday’s interview showed a broken Son, appearing to be bordering on the edge of tears at points and so thoroughly worn down by yet another faltering performance by the team. It was not too dissimilar to Joe Rodon’s interview just moments before.

Even the experienced interviewer admitted to Son that he had never seen him like this in his six years at the club.

“I’m really disappointed this afternoon. I really don’t know what to say. I’m really sorry about it and I feel bad,” said Son.

“There’s always been passion from outside, from this stadium, and those who support us I know are really, really disappointed. I think they’re even more disappointed than us so feel really bad and sorry about it. A really sad afternoon.”

He added: “It’s a really sad afternoon because…(stops and rubs face) I really don’t know what to say. I know it sounds really crazy and it sounds really not normal that I’m down but it’s about the results.

“If we win I’m really happy and if we lose I’m really down for two or three days. So yeah, what can I say, we have to bounce back next Friday.”

Son knows that Spurs’ chances of playing Champions League football next season have in a fortnight leapt from being almost within their own control to being a distant hope.

If you’ve broken the normally ever positive Son then you know things are not going well.

He was also involved in the game’s controversial moment, as Scott McTominay’s flicked out hand caught him in the face in the build-up to Edinson Cavani scoring in the first half and the ‘goal’ was ruled out after referee Christopher Kavanagh was advised to check his pitch-side monitor.

It was an unnatural flicking out of McTominay’s hand rather than a straight arm shielding the ball and while pundits will dispute the strength of the contact made, as soon as the referee was advised to take a proper look he took little time in deciding that it was a foul.

Solskjaer’s comments about Son afterwards were bizarre and strikingly similar to those he made about Erik Lamela at Old Trafford earlier in the season after Anthony Martial’s red card.

“If that was my son and he stays down and he needs his mates to help him up, he doesn’t get food because that’s embarrassing,” Solskjaer told the television cameras. “The game’s absolutely gone.”

Solskjaer had said about Lamela back in October: “If that was my son he’d be living on water and bread for two weeks. That’s not how I want my players to act.”

The Norwegian’s odd predilection with talking about starving his children enraged Mourinho, who had been told about the comments after fulfilling his own TV and radio commitments.

He confronted Solskjaer after the United manager’s press conference and it came after one fiery encounter between the two in the first half that had already been patched up in the tunnel at half-time.

This time there was a long delay between the United and Tottenham press conferences after the game and that was due to their disagreement.

“I told Ole already this because I met him just a few minutes ago – if it’s me, telling that player A B or C from another club, if it was my son I wouldn’t give him dinner tonight, what would be the reaction of that? It’s very very sad,” he said.

“I think it’s really sad that you don’t ask me about that. It’s sad you don’t have the moral honesty to treat me the same way as you treat others.

“In relation to that, I just want to say that Sonny is very lucky that his father is a better person than Ole. I am a father. I think as a father you have always to feed your kids.

“Doesn’t matter what they do. If you have to steal to feed your kids, you steal. I’m very very disappointed. As we say in Portugal, bread is bread and cheese and is cheese. I told Ole already what I think about his comments and I’m very disappointed that in five, six seven questions you ignore the dimensions of that comment.”

It wasn’t just Solskjaer’s comments that Son had to deal with after the game as he was racially abused on social media, coming in the wake of Davinson Sanchez’s racist abuse the previous weekend.

Screenshots show some Manchester United fans, as well as some from other clubs, posting numerous racially abusive tweets about Son in the replies to Spurs’ official account’s posts on Sunday afternoon.

“Another matchday and more abhorrent racial abuse suffered by one of our players,” the club said in a tweeted statement

“This has again been reported to the platforms and we shall now undertake a full review alongside the Premier League to determine the most effective action moving forward. We stand with you, Sonny.”

Social media combined with angry criticism of players provides a vehicle for those who are desperate to use racist abuse, regardless of the context, to get themselves seen and heard. They seem to take a perverse pleasure in the actions of doing so.

The problem is holding them accountable for those as they often hide behind faceless profiles, or images of other players, safe in the knowledge that they are likely to get away with any real consequences.

While most of the posts, if not all, will have been deleted and accounts suspended, it does not take much effort for those involved to simply start another account.

The increasingly disgusted voice of powerful football clubs and the overwhelming majority of fans at all clubs who find such behaviour abhorrent is going to start putting real pressure on social media companies like Twitter and Facebook.

They will begin to lose those huge accounts that provoke the most interaction on their platforms and others will step into the breach to create new social media outlets with tougher controls. Something has to change.

The defence

Once again all eyes will turn to Tottenham’s defence and the ease at which Manchester United swept through three times.

Mourinho had made a rod for his own back before the game by once again leaving Toby Alderweireld out in the cold – he was on the bench at least this time – while Davinson Sanchez found himself the man left out entirely.

Every centre-back at the club has found himself out of the team for long periods this season, but Alderweireld’s absence when Spurs are desperately crying out for some composure is the most perplexing of all.

It seemed like the perfect time to bring the Belgian back into the fold after the confusing circumstances of his exclusion last week but instead Eric Dier got the nod.

Dier brought what he often does – some fantastic moments of defending mixed with some poor moments of positioning and decision-making.

The 27-year-old pulled off a top drawer sliding tackle to deny Marcus Rashford in the first half and then blocked a Paul Pogba backheel right in front of goal in the second period.

However, he was beaten far too easily for Cavani’s ruled out effort, then combined with Serge Aurier to completely lose the Uruguayan for his game-changing diving header before being left clutching at shadows in the build-up to United’s third, finished by Mason Greenwood.

Alongside him Joe Rodon again showed promise and is clearly a talent Spurs can work with for the future, but he needs stability alongside him.

Mourinho’s displeasure with his defence is clear, even if he expresses it by not talking about them other than the odd barbed comment about the things that turn his hair grey.

What does not make sense though is that if he does not trust the backline to sit on a lead then do the opposite – attack.

The old cliché is that attack is the best form of defence because it keeps the ball at the other end of the pitch and Spurs’ defence is set up for getting the ball forward rather than stopping it.

Serge Aurier and Sergio Reguilon love to attack down the flanks and at times on Sunday their instructions were clearly giving them issues.

Reguilon in particular looked hampered and there were plenty of occasions when he got to the halfway line and looked to pass or stopped a run short to leave Son or Ndombele in the United half without any overlapping run to look to. Instead they had to turn inside and the momentum was gone.

For Aurier, either his instructions were slightly different or he just ignores them more often but the Ivorian was all too often going to the other extreme, finding himself far out of position up the pitch and leaving the eventually knackered Ndombele or Lo Celso to run back and uncomfortably act as a full-back.

If the full-backs are to attack then two anchor men are required in front of the defence to cover or a midfielder who can sit back to split the defence as a three, as Dier used to do between Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.

Spurs’ attacking quality lies far more in the attack than in their defence, so use that. Make the most of the talent with in the team.

Mourinho’s reputation proceeds him when it comes to defensive football but he’s also no fool.

If the balance of the squad does concern him then that is a problem to be addressed in the next transfer window but for now he must just play to the strengths of the team.

No identity

The most jarring thing right now for Tottenham is that they have no identity as a football team or club – or at least not a good one.

In Mauricio Pochettino‘s prime years in N17, Spurs had pace, power and a snarling aggression in their pressing that would unsettle opponents and then they would use their attacking qualities to tear teams apart.

While the Argentine ultimately could not fix the mental fragility in the biggest of games he did solve the week in, week out problems late in matches and Spurs would often strike in the final moments or keep clean sheets under pressure during those three years they finished in the top three. They were not brittle.

This current Tottenham Hotspur side has no identity.

It’s not the team it was and it’s not a trademark Mourinho team. It’s something in the centre, awkward and it’s fallen between the cracks.

The players can certainly bear some of the responsibility, particularly those who went a similar way in their performances towards the end of the Pochettino era.

Mourinho has played his part with his confrontational management style, pulling down some of the tightknit foundations built by the Argentine.

The chairman Daniel Levy also has to take his share of the blame for appointing a manager who would need to make wholesale changes to make his methods work and then not being able to provide him with those changes.

Another major issue for Mourinho is that Spurs were once one of the fittest teams in Europe, as evidenced by their late goals, most famously seen on that night in Amsterdam near the end of a gruelling campaign.

Pochettino’s pre-seasons were infamous – Tanguy Ndombele admitted to football.london that he wanted to leave the club after his first one – but they meant Tottenham had few peers when it came to their fitness.

Spurs have certainly played a lot of matches in a compacted season this time around but they had all week to prepare for this game against Manchester United and they ended up looking out on their feet in the final 10 minutes against a side that had only flown back from their game in Granada on Friday.

United looked like they could have kept on playing for another 90 minutes while Spurs were chasing shadows for the third goal.

That lack of fitness will have played its part in not only their ability to drive on late in games but also tiredness mentally with their decision-making and that must have contributed to some of the late goals conceded.

Mourinho will also have been concerned that Solskjaer needed just to show his players some video analysis of Spurs on the morning of the game in order to outthink his opposite number and figure out their hosts.

Despite all of that, any suggestion that the players have downed tools is not true at this point and many do have good relationships with the head coach, even if there is that fear factor of not knowing whether they will be next to lose their place. Many will want to play in a rare cup final for the club.

They appear to still be playing for Mourinho and the sight of Tanguy Ndombele sprinting 40 yards to press and win the ball back in the United half towards the end of the first half, among other similar moments from other players, showed that he still has them working for him.

One problem for him will be maintaining the balance within the squad of those he has on his side and those he hasn’t, particularly once the cup final has come and gone.

Dele Alli and Harry Winks have become benchwarmers while the use of Gareth Bale has been baffling.

The Welshman was certainly flat for months as the psychological scars of previous injuries affected him, but he roared back with a month’s worth of fine displays and gave Spurs something exciting about their play during that time.

However, one poor display in the north London derby – he was not alone in that regard – and Bale looks to have paid the price for that day.

Levy is paying the price for bringing in the 31-year-old as the club’s top earner – in terms of basic salary – and yet seeing him given the odd minute here or there.

There is a dose of irony to the winger’s use under Mourinho in recent weeks. The Spurs boss appears to have no real desire to use the player but acknowledges with his actions in the final minutes that he needs him to try to save the day. The two don’t really marry up and that pretty much sums up the pairing of Mourinho and Bale.

This season will be defined for Tottenham in the next three matches.

The Premier League encounters against Everton away and Southampton at home will go a long way to deciding if Spurs have anything left to fight for in the league. Mourinho admitted on Sunday that even finishing in the top six will be difficult.

Then there is the cup final and right now Tottenham fans are more concerned about not being embarrassed at Wembley on April 25 than realistically thinking their team can win the showpiece game.

That says it all right now about not only the team’s identity but the supporters’ growing disconnect with them.

How do you sell Tottenham as they are right now to stars like Harry Kane who may be looking at England team-mates’ glittering CVs with envious eyes or to new signings the club will try to attract in the summer? 

Spurs were heading somewhere and were threatening to upset the established order in football, but a combination of factors from the very top down mean they’re now stuttering badly and they need to find their feet again.

Mourinho’s tactics look like they’re designed to absolve him of blame and put pressure on Tottenham players

Many years ago, there was a lively post-match debate on Sky Sports between Graeme Souness and Gordon Strachan.

The subject was the optimum way to defend corners, because the two Scots had just watched a team using zonal marking concede from a set piece.

Strachan was a proponent of defending zonally at corners, pointing to statistics about its increased effectiveness and explaining that it prevented attacking block-offs. Souness insisted that man-marking was a better approach. His main point, which he repeated on multiple occasions, was that “zonal marking lets players off the hook”.

Souness, whether or not he realised it, was effectively saying that his tactical preference stemmed from wanting to pin the blame for conceding on a player. If a zonal marking approach fails, the system — and therefore the manager who implements it — is considered culpable. But in a man-marking system, if someone gets outjumped by an opponent, you can point the finger directly at them.

And therefore what appeared a tactical debate was, in actual fact, nothing of the sort. It was really a debate about man-management, about the relationship between players and their boss, about the extent to which a manager must carry the can for their failings on the pitch. Strachan focused upon which was best for the team. Souness was about which was best for him.

This decade-old debate came to mind this week, in light of Jose Mourinho’s reaction to Tottenham Hotspur drawing at Newcastle United from 2-1 up with six minutes left, while permitting their highest single-game xG figure of the Premier League season so far. BBC reporter Juliette Ferrington asked Mourinho why his side keep on relinquishing leads, whereas previously his sides were renowned for hanging onto them. “Same coach, different players,” Mourinho responded.

Not for the first time, a revealing answer stemmed from a question framed in light of his previous successes — Mourinho has a habit of giving more detailed answers to questions that begin with things like “Jose, as someone who has won it all…”

It would be quite possible, though, for his players to respond in kind.
To varying extents, the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Davinson Sanchez have previously played in a stern Spurs defence under Mauricio Pochettino. That was an entirely different style of defending, based around pressure in advanced positions and a high line.

When that defensive approach got breached, we tended to talk about the high line rather than the individuals.

It’s the same, for example, for Hansi Flick’s Bayern Munich, who used an extraordinarily high line en route to European Cup success last year. It was impossible to watch them defend against Barcelona in the last eight or final opponents Paris Saint-Germain without almost jumping out of your seat, such was the bravery of their high line. Had they conceded to PSG from a through-ball and a run in behind, Flick would have been blamed. But he would probably have accepted responsibility, for he knows that a high-risk, high-reward strategy is best for his side.

Mourinho once used that approach. Watch his triumphant Porto side throughout the Champions League knockout phase in 2003-04 and you’ll be surprised by how high his defence position themselves. These days, his defences sit deeper, dropping back to their own penalty box quickly, particularly if Tottenham have gone ahead. On multiple occasions this season, that approach has cost them. While Mourinho would explain it forms part of his attacking strategy, attempting to draw the opposition forward and give Spurs space to counter-attack into, rarely have his side constructed regular breaks to justify their deep positioning.

The thing with defending deep is that you’re asking your defenders to do more traditional defensive tasks. There are more aerial challenges inside your box, more situations where you have to stick tight to a player who is in a goalscoring position, more danger to anticipate and more blocks to be made. It also means that it’s more possible to concede goals that are not, in isolation, attributable to managerial strategy.

When Tottenham lost 2-1 away to Liverpool in December, for example, the goals came from a crazy deflection, and then a late set-piece concession (from, of course, man-to-man marking).

The first goal was unfortunate, but if you allow the opposition 76 per cent of the possession and 17 shots to your eight, there’s more chance of one finding its way into the net almost accidentally. Similarly, if you allow that much pressure, you concede more corners than you win (seven to four in this case), and there’s more chance of one leading to a goal. These things add up over time.

It is sometimes said that Mourinho is antiquated tactically; that his inability to win trophies recently is because he hasn’t adjusted strategically. There’s clearly an element of truth to that, in comparison to Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, but his primary problem is surely his inability to command the respect of players over a sustained period of time, evidenced by sudden drop-offs in his pre-Tottenham stints with Chelsea and Manchester United.
It came as little surprise that, after Mourinho responded to Sunday’s 2-2 on Tyneside by blaming his players, some of them objected. It’s difficult to imagine many other current managers responding similarly.

But that’s logical if Mourinho’s tactical approach is also out of step with that of his contemporaries. The tactical development of football, particularly over the last couple of decades, is about universality, about particular tasks being done collectively. Modern sides press aggressively from the front and play out from the back, meaning defensive play starts with your attackers and attacking play starts in defence. Every concept is a task for the entire side.

Mourinho’s approach is more old-school. He works less than other contemporary managers on prepared attacking possession routines, preferring to allow playmakers to find solutions themselves. In a world of false nines, Mourinho has always liked true strikers such as Didier Drogba, Diego Milito and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He also likes proper defenders that belong in their own box: John Terry, Lucio, Ricardo Carvalho.

With that approach, it’s more viable to pin the blame on somebody when things go wrong. If a goal is conceded, a defender is more obviously at fault than the system. And this comes back to that Strachan-Souness debate, which demonstrated that tactical decision-making and man-management are not entirely separate concepts.

Mourinho’s reputation has never been lower, which is why he is determined to shift culpability onto his players and protect himself.

It’s entirely possible that his tactical decision-making is also geared towards absolving himself of blame.

Now, he’s fighting to prove he deserves to be in charge of Tottenham, rather than in his previous role: in a Sky Sports studio, nodding along with Souness.

By Michael Cox writing for the Athletic