Really?!

Tottenham Hotspur’s search for their new head coach has taken a sudden twist with talks ending with Paulo Fonseca and instead switching to Gennaro Gattuso.

Gattuso left Fiorentina on Thursday and that played its part in a series of events that saw talks with Fonseca, which were at an advanced stage, suddenly broken off.

Those in Fonseca’s camp told football.london that everything have been agreed between Tottenham and the Portuguese this week.

On Wednesday, the 48-year-old’s visa and administrative work had been being processed for his move to the UK and earlier in the week Fonseca held face-to-face talks with Spurs‘ new managing director of football Fabio Paratici in both Milan and in Como to prepare for the season ahead and discuss potential transfers.

Fonseca then travelled for a short break in Ukraine, where his TV presenter wife Katerina is from. She told her Instagram followers this week that she had “butterflies in my stomach because the new page begins”. Fonseca and his family were preparing to fly over to the UK before the end of this month.

Then Fonseca was suddenly informed that that deal was off. There were believed to be some Italian tax issues involved in hiring the former Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk man but both sides of the deal claim that finances were not the reason behind the dramatic withdrawal.

It believed that the about turn is more to do with Gattuso leaving Fiorentina just 23 days after he was appointed there.

It is understood that Paratici is an admirer of Gattuso, who led Napoli to win the Coppa Italia in 2020 but was sacked this season after the club missed out on Champions League qualification on the final day of the campaign.

When word came that Gattuso could suddenly became available, and that proved to be the case on Thursday, that forced a sudden change in direction and Spurs broke off the talks with Fonseca and instead switched to the fiery former Milan boss.

Italian reports claim that Gattuso and Fiorentina parted ways due to a dispute over transfers with his agent Jorge Mendes having recommended targets that the club were not keen to move on this summer.

There is some talk in Italy that Fonseca could be in line to take over at Fiorentina to complete a crazy turn of events.

Tottenham have faced a mess of a search for their new head coach and it is now two months since Jose Mourinho was relieved of his duties in April.

The club attempted to get Mauricio Pochettino back to the club but could not prise him away from PSG.

Then they held talks with former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan boss Antonio Conte only for those to suddenly collapse amid what was believed to be unrealistic demands from the Italian.

Paratici’s arrival then saw the original list of candidates drawn up by Spurs’ technical performance director Steve Hitchen, replaced by the Italian’s and led to the talks with Fonseca.

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.

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’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. 

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

Is it Too Much to Expect More?

Earlier this week a video clip emerged from a recent Tottenham training session. In it, Tanguy Ndombele has the ball in a practice game. He feints to the left, then the right. Then he flicks the ball out of reach with a deft toe, leaving his hapless opponent – a certain Harry Kane – lunging awkwardly at thin air.

Look. Maybe it was pure coincidence that just a couple of days after having his ankles humiliatingly twisted by one of his own teammates, Kane limped off at half-time against Liverpool with an ankle injury. Who can say? In any case, the reason for bringing this up here is to underline the silken, indiscriminate talent of Ndombele, a player who – even in defeat – seems to hold the key to Tottenham’s future.Firmino and Mané rip Tottenham apart to reignite Liverpool’s title defenceRead more

“Some of them had a very positive performance, punished by individual mistakes,” said José Mourinho of his players afterwards. Of course, Toby Alderweireld hadn’t left himself on the bench. Matt Doherty hadn’t autonomously decided to station himself at left-back. But the thrust of his analysis was correct: this was a performance of light and shade, particularly from Tottenham’s midfield two, the restless Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and the ruthless Ndombele.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides here was not in terms of possession but penetration. Tottenham actually attempted more passes than Liverpool (586 to 584), but significantly fewer into the final third (85 to 149) or the penalty area (5 to 18). There may be a lesson for Tottenham here, if only they are shrewd enough to learn it.

Højbjerg may be the lungs of this team, Kane and Son Heung-min the ticking heart. But Ndombele, their bewitching £60m midfielder, has been the soul, and was in supreme form here, despite being hounded by what seemed at times like half a dozen red shirts. It was he who began the move for Son’s early disallowed goal, and sending Thiago Alcântara for a Fanta and chips with an outrageous body feint.

The phrase often used to describe Ndombele is “press-resistant”: he picks up the ball in the most crowded area of the pitch and somehow manages to use it. In doing this, he has the full bag of tricks: deft technical skills, the strength to hold off challenges and the vision to get rid at the right moment. As we saw against Sheffield United and Wolves, he also has an unerring eye for goal. A more ambitious club, with a clear commitment to attacking possession football, would surely look to build a team around his unique technical gifts.

But this is Tottenham and, more pertinently, this is Mourinho’s Tottenham, a team whose reactive tendencies already seem hard-wired, even in situations where you would expect them to take the initiative. In recent weeks Fulham, Wolves, Crystal Palace and Stoke have all been allowed back into games that Spurs were comfortably leading. Whether this is by accident or by design is largely irrelevant: when a team is drilled to be fearful of an opponent’s threat, this is the approach to which they will default in times of stress. Often it manifests itself in the subtlest of tics: the defensive line that drops just a couple of yards, the ambitious through ball eschewed in favour of a safe sideways pass, the little cues that alert an opponent that the momentum is shifting.Mourinho’s firing of darts shows he believes Spurs can win the titleRead more

Now consider this from Ndombele’s perspective. Ideally you want him receiving the ball on the half-turn, attracting the opposition press but with enough space to manoeuvre and plenty of movement ahead of him. But Mourinho is famously resistant to “first-station” passes – short balls from defence into midfield – against good pressing teams. And so much of the possession Ndombele got here was poor possession: loose balls, 50-50 balls, facing his own goal in deep, useless positions. The point being that when he won the ball, Spurs were rarely in the sort of shape that would allow him to do anything with it.

Maybe this is why Mourinho’s tactical shift at half-time, switching from a 3-4-3 to a 4-2-3-1 to get Ndombele further up the pitch, worked so poorly. Harry Winks arrived to bolster midfield but with none of the structural issues addressed, this was simply a limp pretence at attacking football, the art of moving players around while still getting them to do largely the same things.

Partly this is a question of personnel. Mourinho isn’t wrong: Tottenham have serious problems that go beyond tactics. They need at least two defenders, another midfielder and a wide forward (and as heartwarming as it was, perhaps it’s fair to say Gareth Bale’s return isn’t really working out).

Even so, this is a squad of such rich attacking talents, a squad capable of playing articulate, thrilling, imaginative football. You just wish they showed it a little more often.

Jonothan Lieu: The Guardian.

De Ja Vu

All rather predictable

Tottenham Hotspur fans could have at least earned some money to balance their frustration had they placed a bet on the incredibly predictable outcome of their club’s latest match.

As Jose Mourinho’s men failed to build on their first half lead on Wednesday night, with Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola pulling off a couple of reflex saves and Son Heung-min hitting the right-hand post, this result was only heading in one direction.

Tottenham’s defence would eventually flick off the concentration switch, as they have done on numerous occasions this season.

Only Brighton and Sheffield United have dropped more points from winning positions, 12 and 11 respectively, than Spurs, with 10, in the Premier League this season.

Mourinho’s teams are known for being able to fall back upon their solid defences, safe in the knowledge that even if they aren’t firing up front so they can rely on the backline to hold firm at the other end.

This Mourinho team cannot do that. The only surprise about Ivan Cavaleiro’s 74th minute goal was that it came from open play.

Spurs have only conceded four goals from open play in their 17 Premier League games, the other 12 coming from set pieces.

Tottenham still have the joint second best defensive record in the English top flight but much of that has come from the defensive set-up employed by Mourinho to protect the defence.

Once the backline has been exposed to danger it has struggled, set pieces proving that point in particular.

Against Fulham, Mourinho would have been left shaking his head as Serge Aurier was caught out of position, Davinson Sanchez turned too easily and Eric Dier out-jumped as if he wasn’t there.

There was a certain irony in the fact that Mourinho filled his team with central midfielders, four of them taking to the pitch or five if you count the former man in the middle Dier, yet Spurs looked more open than ever.

Sergio Reguilon and Aurier were unshackled somewhat in the system and meant to provide the width, but also left plenty of space in behind them, particularly down the Ivorian’s flank.

Hugo Lloris only made a couple of saves but much of that was to do with the visitors not having real firepower up front in the absence of Aleksandar Mitrovic. A team with more attacking threat would have gratefully accepted Tottenham’s open and giving nature.

“I understand that in the first half we had chances to kill the game,” said Mourinho.

“Some of them are Areola’s responsibility. In the second half we had the biggest chance to kill the game but when you don’t do it you cannot concede goals the way we did do it.

“This is the same story basically since the beginning of the season. We can talk about not killing the game yes, we can speak about that, and today was a clear situation where we could and should have killed the game in the first half but then you go back to the goals that we concede and it’s not also easy to assimilate that.”

Mourinho must be bored of saying the same things and the fans are growing tired of hearing them.

Mourinho and the fans

The relationship between Jose Mourinho and Tottenham Hotspur fans will likely always be a fragile and turbulent one.

Some will never forget that he managed their London rivals across two spells and some of the things he said. Some don’t like the way his teams play football. Some don’t like the way he acts or speaks.

Others simply see a winner who knows what has to be done and can bring a silverware-starved club what it has craved for far too long.

When Spurs are winning games and Mourinho is coming out with zinging one liners in his press conferences, the reservations about him can be ushered into a dark corner.

When Tottenham stutter and stumble and bore, so those grievances come out to play.

You can’t help but wonder what 62,000 fans inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would have made of some of the home matches this season.

On one side the players might well have been more inspired by the roar of the crowd, not least that south stand, and pushed on in their efforts.

Spurs won both matches 2-0 in front of just 2,000 supporters last month before fans were locked out again, so you can only imagine how they might have performed with 30 times that number behind them.

However, there would have also been 62,000 groans and sounds of frustrations at some of the football on offer, likely boos at some of the halves of football.

On Wednesday night the fans would have witnessed their team share almost the same amount of possession and have the same amount of shots on goal as a promoted team in the bottom three of the Premier League.

“Not good enough, but good enough to win,” the Spurs boss told football.london afterwards.

“Not good enough because I think we have to play better in a more consistent way, but good enough to create four or five big chances, good enough to give Hugo in a very quiet evening.

“Good enough to win the game but not good enough because we have to play better than we did.”

He’s right of course, in that had Tottenham taken some of their chances they could have had the game won by half-time.

They didn’t though and the blame must fall somewhere between Mourinho and the players.

The players were all fresh and should have had no tiredness. Only Sissoko started on Sunday at Marine and he played just 45 minutes that day.

Yet they huffed and puffed and struggled to impose their game on Fulham, with Scott Parker letting everyone know that his team only had 48 hours to prepare for the match.

On Mourinho’s part he put out a team lacking inspiration and creativity, with too much pressure placed on Tanguy Ndombele to create and just two players able to finish in Kane and Son.

All of which brings us to the bench.

Dele, Bale and the wasted bench

Look at Tottenham’s bench on Wednesday night and you have to wonder what’s going on.

Gareth Bale, a player Tottenham have been desperate to bring back to the club for years and a four-time Champions League winner, left unused.

Dele Alli, a player who has scored goals from midfield at a rate that outstripped the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes, left unused.

Even Lucas Moura, a man known for his ability to bag a late goal on the biggest of stages, left unused.

On the night, Mourinho brought on just two substitutes, Erik Lamela and Carlos Vinicius. Lamela made a slight impact, Vinicius barely touched the ball.

Right now, the Bale deal is looking like an utter dud. More than £200,000 a week spent on a player who either doesn’t trust himself to fully let loose on the pitch or doesn’t have the trust of Mourinho to do so.

That the Portuguese choose to play Moussa Sissoko as a right winger ahead of Bale and then brought on two other players instead of the man long heralded as one of the world’s best players is not a good look and makes a mockery of a transfer deal his chairman Daniel Levy longed for ever since the Welshman left for Madrid in 2013.

Bale could yet come good, if the 31-year-old can restore some confidence in his body and get a run of games under his belt. Against Fulham, he didn’t even warm up down the touchline until the latter stages of the game.

Spurs have an option for a second season of the Bale loan, having expected him to take some time to get back to full speed following a season marked by injury and inaction, but now back from his most recent injury he needs to start showing what a man at the top of the earnings ladder at the club should be.

As for Dele, the 24-year-old posted a caption-less image on his Instagram Story on the journey back from the match, looking simply bored and frustrated, with his hand on his face.

Mourinho’s lack of game time for the young midfielder can be explained away when things are going well for Spurs.

When he’s left unused once again in a game like this, when Spurs needed to create more chances and they needed to put them away, it raises questions over his Premier League exile, especially after being praised for his attitude and professionalism just days earlier in the FA Cup match at Marine.

Dele Alli makes goals happen. Even last season, when his form was questioned, he scored eight goals and laid on four assists in the Premier League, meaning a direction involvement in 12 goals in 25 matches.

Spurs are reluctant to let him leave permanently because all he needs is to find his mojo again and a player who might not fetch a big price now could be worth mega money again within a year.

Right now Kane and Son need help. Kane’s headed goal from Reguilon’s perfect cross was from the top drawer and it was his 25th headed Premier League goal, making him just the third player to score 25 or more goals with his left foot, right foot and head, netting 34, 94 and 25 respectively in the English top flight.

Son had an off day in front of goal, a rarity in a clinical season for him but it shows that if the duo are not firing then neither are Tottenham.

Kane’s goal meant the pair have now scored 23 of Tottenham’s 30 goals in the Premier League this term.

A two-man team is better than a one-man one but Spurs cannot afford to be so reliant on them.

Others need to step up and help out, but they have to be given the chance to do so first.

Mourinho’s message to Levy

Jose Mourinho has made it very clear that he does not expect Tottenham to make any signings during the transfer window.

That’s not because he doesn’t want them but because he doesn’t “feel the right to ask for something” after the club’s efforts during the summer in bringing in seven players amid a financial mess of a year.

“One thing is to analyse, which of course I do, one thing is to analyse and commit to that analyse and to write a report and be committed to that report, which of course of which I did as I have to be professional,” he said this month.

“Another thing is to demand something which I never do. Another thing is to ask for and I’m not going to ask for anything because I respect the effort the club makes.”

However, when asked what he would say to his defenders after another poorly conceded goal on Wednesday night, Mourinho’s frustrations with the ability of some members of his backline shone through in what seemed like a message to Levy and the powers that be.

“I think there are things that have to be with the characteristics of players. There are things that are difficult too,” he said.

“There are some things they have to do with organisation of the team, but other things they have to do with individual skills, individual ability, and its as simple as that.”

The problem for Mourinho is that finances for transfers have not improved. Clubs still have no idea when they might get fans back in stadiums, and with them the accompanying gate receipts, food and drink and merchandise sales. Tottenham are losing millions as their state-of-the-art home remains empty.

They are not alone in a transfer window that is expected to be a quiet one for most of the Premier League clubs, particularly for many of those in the top half of the table.

Spurs are furthered hampered by their problems with foreign players and their squad size.

Their Europa League squad is bloated, with Paulo Gazzaniga, Gedson Fernandes and Joe Rodon outside of the 17 non-locally trained players already registered in the 25-man squad.

In the Premier League, Rodon took up the final spot in the 25-man squad when he joined from Swansea. Just to get the Welshman into the Europa League squad for the knockout stages, Mourinho would have to leave out someone else other than than Gedson and Gazzaniga.

Whether they are homegrown or foreign, ultimately a Premier League club can only have 25 players in their squad, although they can have as many U21 players as they like in a separate list. In the Europa League, any young player needs to have been at the club for two years to get on a similar bonus list.

So for Tottenham to bring anyone in, they would need to move someone on.

Gedson has been linked with a return to Benfica, but cutting his loan short changes nothing really for Spurs, with the young Portuguese outside the Europa League squad and on that separate U21 list in the Premier League squad. His exit would not affect the main squad numbers in either competition.

Tottenham need to sell non-vital squad players at a time when nobody is looking to spend decent sums of money.

Selling while values are low is also not the best way to operate from a business point of view and most clubs are only looking at loan deals.

football.london understands that unless something unexpected happens, this window is set to be one of simply moving out players on loan, such as Jack Clarke’s imminent move to Stoke City.

Links with Real Madrid defender Eder Militao, who turns 23 this week, are wide of the mark for all of the above reasons, a good player but also not believed to be near the top of Tottenham’s list of targets should money or squad places magically free up.

The situation makes it difficult to move for someone like RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer.

The versatile 26-year-old Austrian is a player Spurs like but, on top of the other restrictions in their ability to sign players, it makes more financial sense to go for Sabitzer in the summer window when he hits the final years of his contract, similar to how they moved for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg last year.

Mourinho’s only slim hope of bringing in a new face in the next fortnight or so would be if someone came in with an offer for a squad player that was just too tempting to turn down.

In that scenario Spurs would move for a like-for-like replacement, but clubs are not queuing up for the players Mourinho would allow to leave.

For now Mourinho must work with the squad he has, one with plenty of depth after the summer transfer work done, and then look to further refine it in the summer when the income in football may have returned to something nearer its previous norm.

Mourinho praised the squad and the tools he was provided with following the summer business. Now he needs to work out how to get the best out of it and that might just involve trusting more of the players within it.

It’ll all End in Tiers.

Exclusive 360˚ view of tomorra’s game.

When were you first made aware about the possibility of playing Spurs on Wednesday night?

The possibility of playing Spurs came at the weekend, Saturday afternoon. Obviously, didn’t think that would be realistic to be fair. Then got told Monday morning at 9.30 that we now fill in for Aston Villa.

As you can imagine from my point of view, I think I realise and we all realise we live in an unpredictable time and you will have to move things that you’re used to. Certainly as a manager, we live in that climate everyday and I probably speak for a lot of managers, it’s not ideal.

I’m normally the last one to moan or whine about anything because I realise that it’s tough out there and it’s the way it is. What has happened to us, to confirm the game, a Premier League game, one of the best leagues in the world. To confirm that at 9.30 on Monday morning is scandalous.

It’s not about the fixture, the fixture, that’s fine, I accept we have to play. It’s the notice. Maybe the people in these places don’t understand how you manage teams or how you manage players. You’re constantly working out well in advance. The decisions I would have made, whether that’s against QPR or players that are just coming back. We’ve had it tough with COVID, we’ve not been out there with numbers publically but we’ve had it tough. Working those players over a weekend thinking you’ve got six or seven days to get them up to speed – that’s quickly changed on Monday morning. Madness really.

What do you think of Jose Mourinho’s comments? Do you think this wouldn’t have happened to the big boys?

To answer your question, regarding being told the game is being called off two hours before, it’s really an irrelevance. It’s disappointing you’ve had it called off but to have a game called on with 48 hours notice… I don’t want to get into that regarding Jose but I think he’ll know to well you plan physical elements for the players, what you do in the week or play a game.

Tottenham knew they had this fixture in, Jose team’s selection at the weekend suggested that he’s probably planned for however many games they’ve got, they’ve got a lot of games granted.

Do I see this would happen if it was a top of the title clash with two of the biggest teams and managers who are constantly here speaking? Probably not, and rightly so. For me this is not acceptable, the integrity of the game, teh welfare of players. We’re putting them into a position after two days of training.

You haven’t got to work it out – we had a game called off with Spurs 13 days agao and the reason that was called off is we had numerous outbreaks of COVID. In 13 days, we now sit here and with two days notice you have to put some of these players in the position to play the game.

Did you have a say in the matter?

I had a say over the weekend. I was initially told this was a thought process, this was something in the pipeline of what may happen and from Saturday to Sunday, people in this football club spent numerous hours trying to explain surely this can’t be feasible. It gives us hardly any time in terms of what we’ve done.

My frustration is I can’t turn back the last five days, I can’t turn back the weekend and then officially told by my CEO at 9.30 on Monday morning that the game was official.

The next stumbling block was that maybe we would have to play on the Friday against Chelsea, at which point I thought there was a chance they would do that as well. That game has now been moved.

Some people feeling the after-effects of the virus or fully recovered?

None of my players are feeling the after-effects but we all know the protocols. 13 days ago the game was called off, the protocols are 10 days. Three days and there are players that are coming back who have been stuck in their houses for the last 10 days and done no work and now we sit here.

A week, say this game doesn’t exisit on Wednesday, even a week is some ask really. To think we chuck a game in the middle of the week when it wasn;t there initially is another story.

My players are fine and will be fine. I sit here angry because I don’t think it’s right and that’s the reason. Do I believe we’ll go tomorrow as best prepared as we can? Yeah I believe we’ll give Spurs a game. I’m disappointed and angry because I think this is wrong, I don’t think it’s right for numerous reason.

He’s no Pusk’over no more!

(Here’s a nice little 30 second read, and now you don’t have to see Wednesdays scoreline in the title anymore! What’s not to like?)

Tottenham midfielder Son Heung-min won the Puskas Award for best goal of the year on Thursday at the Best Fifa Football Awards, for his stunning solo effort against Burnley in December 2019.

The South Korea international received the ball on the edge of his own box before running through almost the entire Burnley team and finishing past goalkeeper Nick Pope.

The goal came during a 5-0 Premier League victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Son beat out goals from Luiz Suarez – during his time with Barcelona – and Flamengo’s Giorgian De Arrascaeta to win the prize.

The award, first established in 2009, is named after former Real Madrid striker Ferenc Puskas.

Son followed in the footsteps of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mohamed Salah in claiming the award.

Son beat out goals from Luiz Suarez – during his time with Barcelona – and Flamengo’s Giorgian De Arrascaeta to win the prize.

The award, first established in 2009, is named after former Real Madrid striker Ferenc Puskas.

Son followed in the footsteps of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mohamed Salah in claiming the award.

DOH!!

Amid reports of interest from Tottenham, Adam Bate analyses Matt Doherty’s unique role as a wing-back and a goal poacher for Wolves. Assessing how he would fit in under Jose Mourinho and why he would be a difficult player to replace at Molineux… 

Last Updated: 27/08/20 10:21am

Wolves' Matt Doherty is a wing-back unlike any other in the Premier League

Matt Doherty plays as a right wing-back for Wolves but he interprets that position in an unusual way.

He does not just hug the touchline and provide width but acts as a genuine penalty box threat. Freeze the frame and he can appear to be Raul Jimenez’s strike partner at times. Doherty is reinventing the role. He is Wolves’ defender-turned-poacher extraordinaire.

This is not news to any fantasy football aficionado. Doherty has scored eight goals for club and country in each of the past two seasons – numbers that owe little to good fortune and lots to the Republic of Ireland international’s ability to raid forward from the right flank.

In fact, four Premier League goals was a slightly underwhelming return last term given his threat. Doherty’s expected goals tally, based on quality of chances, was closer to seven. That was more than every Wolves midfielder combined. He was almost twice as likely to score as Adama Traore – the man ahead of him in the line-up graphic but rarely so on the pitch itself.

Doherty has more touches in the box than any other Premier League defender

The key to Doherty’s success is his willingness to drive into the box like no other so-called defender in the Premier League. He has had over 200 touches in the opposition area over the past two seasons. Among defenders, that puts him out on his own, but it is rarefied air regardless. Doherty has had more touches in the box than Kevin De Bruyne in that time.

For Wolves, in particular, the importance of his appetite to push forwards cannot be overstated given their otherwise rigid structure. Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves rarely make it that high up the pitch. Traore prefers to stay wide to isolate the full-back. It is essential for Nuno Espirito Santo’s system that Doherty provides that option in the box.

Doherty's run was the catalyst for Daniel Podence's goal against Palace

Consider Daniel Podence’s opening goal against Crystal Palace in Wolves’ final home game of last season. Much of the focus in the immediate aftermath was on Moutinho’s exquisite lofted pass through to Doherty that set up the goal. But the ball could not happen without the run from the 28-year-old Irishman – expertly timed to break the defensive line.

Watch Wolves regularly and it is noticeable how often the ball does not come. Doherty, head bowed, returns to his position with that languid stride of his and prepares to go again. It is a routine more akin to that of a striker trying to beat the offside trap than a wing-back.

He summed up his thought process in a recent interview in which he discussed his 94th-minute winner at Newcastle in 2018. “It was the last minute of the game, give it one more run and see what happens. If it came out and I wasn’t there, I would have regretted it.”

Doherty was Wolves' most advanced player when scoring against Man City

Doherty had his reward again in the closing stages of the dramatic win over Manchester City in December. Again, it was the final moments of the match. Again, it was Doherty with the decisive impact, rushing forward to score. At the moment that he struck the ball left-footed into the net, he was Wolves’ most advanced player – the only one inside the penalty box.

He is not the only wide defender in the Premier League with a pivotal attacking role to play but, as the numbers suggest, his is unique. The principle offensive threat provided by Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson is from their crossing. Doherty makes underlapping runs instead. He is less of a creator, much more of a goal poacher.

Doherty's shot map for Wolves for the 2019/20 Premier League season

Examine his shot locations since Wolves returned to the Premier League and they help to tell the tale. There are some impressive finishes in there but the most obvious point is that there have been plenty of tap-ins too. The opportunities that come to those who find themselves in the right place at the right time.

His equaliser at Tottenham in March was a prime example. Japhet Tanganga’s clearance from Ruben Vinagre’s low left-wing cross was a poor one, but who was there to slot home from six yards out? Doherty had little right to be there. It was a counter-attack. But there he was, nevertheless.

It is natural to wonder how much of that skill is learned and how much of it is down to Doherty’s own instincts. “He never says no to a challenge,” says Nuno. But is this just a man exploiting his licence to attack or is there an innate ability to sense where the ball will drop?

Perhaps the best clue to the answer comes on the other wing for Wolves. Jonny Otto and Ruben Vinagre are players with gifts of their own. The former is a tidy and diligent defender, the latter has the tricks to beat his opponent. Neither has the scoring record of Doherty. Neither has been able to find themselves in the positions that their counterpart takes up.

Doherty's touch map for the 2019/20 Premier League season with Wolves

As Wolves reflect on their first two seasons back in the Premier League, thoughts inevitably turn to how they might be able to improve. Given the top-class players elsewhere in the team, there could be a temptation to think wing-back offers the potential for an upgrade.

But the three years of work that Nuno has done with Doherty – converting him from the left side of defence, remember – should not be underestimated and would certainly not be quick to replicate. How do Wolves even begin to scout for the replacement?

The relationship that Doherty has forged with Traore has been just as important to the team’s success as the more celebrated one between Traore and Jimenez. His understanding with others such as Conor Coady provides the basis for plenty of Wolves’ build-up play.

Wolves' passing networks under Nuno Espirito Santo in the 2019/20 season

The Wolves captain is credited with completing more long-range passes than any other outfield player over the past two seasons, but he needs a target to hit. Doherty is the outlet, making the most of those passes with a sure touch or by competing in the air. It is worth noting that he also won more aerial duels than any other wide defender last season.

“It is not just about me practising the pass,” says Coady. “It is about knowing where your runners are going to be. I have to make sure that I know what run Doc or Adama will do to make sure that the pass lands in their path. Sometimes they can drop back or sometimes they can go forward with it more. Everybody knows their role and how to play it.”

In Doherty’s case, that is especially significant because his role is truly unique right now in the Premier League. Wolves’ wing-back-cum-poacher has made the position his very own.

How would he fit in at Tottenham?

On the face of it, Tottenham might not seem an obvious fit given Jose Mourinho has favoured a nominal back-four for much of his career. However, in practice, his deployment of Serge Aurier as an advanced right-back means that his attacking responsibilities have been more akin to that of a wing-back than a full-back anyway.

Mourinho has preferred an asymmetrical formation with Ben Davies sweeping to provide greater defensive cover on the left side. This has given Aurier licence to go forward.

The result is that the majority of Tottenham’s openings originate from moves on that right flank. The threat has been high but the end product from Aurier has not always been there.

Tottenham have been more threatening when attacking down the right flank

His effectiveness in that role has been a subject of much debate among Spurs supporters.

The statistics show Aurier he puts in a lot of crosses – the fourth most of any Premier League defender last season, behind only the Liverpool duo and Everton’s Lucas Digne. The statistics also reveal that he has one of the worst cross completion rates of any defender in the competition – failing to find his man with 85.4 per cent of his deliveries into the box.

Aurier actually succeeded in provided more assists than Doherty last season. But there is still the suspicion that another player could have used the time and space more efficiently. Perhaps it is time for another way.

Doherty’s off-the-ball movement and aerial ability in both boxes would appeal to Mourinho. There are prettier players but few in his position who can impact the game quite so much. A move to London in this transfer window would solve a problem for Spurs – and create one for Wolves.


We don’t do Stubbed Toes…

Modern day footballers aren’t just natural athletes; they are assets, they are vessels, ready to be filled up and poured out, they are specimens.

Premier League players are engineered to hit the heights, fill up trophy cabinets and etch smiles onto thousands of faces every time they do their day job.

And they certainly aren’t left to their own devices. The future direction of a club does not merely lie in its current stable of talent, it is dependant on an environment designed to unlock potential and optimise the function of every cell – literally – in a player’s body to succeed.

That’s where The Lodge comes in.

RadioTimes.com was invited along to The Lodge for a behind-the-scenes taste of life as an elite Premier League footballer to witness first-hand the processes a player must enjoy and endure in equal measures to achieve footballing glory.

We were put through our paces in a gruelling workout session led by Jose Mourinho’s right-hand man, fuelled up by a crack team of nutritionists and chefs, before expending those calories in a training session led by Spurs legend Ledley King.

Work hard

All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur

Carlos works his subjects hard in fitness sessions Tottenham Hotspur

A whisper of the name ‘Carlos’ around The Lodge is always greeted with the same reaction, a smile, a grin, a intake of breath.

Carlos Lalín, Venezuelan-born, Madrid-educated. He has followed Mourinho from Real Madrid to Chelsea, from the Bridge to Manchester United, from Old Trafford to Tottenham.

He is a demanding figure, the type of man who feeds on the look of fear on your face as he outlines his plans for the next hour.

Whether you’re a collection of the world’s finest footballers or a rabble of less-than-shredded sports writers fresh from five months on the sofa, Carlos does not make concessions.

He name-checks every individual in the room, you are not one of many, you are a student of his regime, his infectious enthusiasm fuels a series of drills ranging from press-ups to lunges.

That was only the warm-up. He is a muscle-clad smiler whose goal is to end you.

Carlos’ routines are quick, sharp and logical. His latest plan – approved by Mourinho himself – involves a series of short, intense bursts designed with footballer movements in mind.

Every movement is crafted to replicate a natural position a player is likely to find themselves in during a game situation. No time is wasted, no drop of sweat oozed in vain. His job is to stretch his subjects to the limits.

Once that has been achieved, The Lodge itself becomes more than a building, it becomes an environment in which to grow.

Rest well

Upon leaving Carlos’ underground abode, players have the option of sliding into hot or cold pools, a session in each is the preferred routine.

A range of jets and gizmos will automatically massage players in targeted areas to prevent seizing up or soreness in the aftermath of a fitness session.

A theme from the day is that absolute rest is a pillar of success.

The Lodge building is centred around a main farmhouse in which Mourinho himself occupies the upstairs quarters, his zone for the most confidential discussions between his most trusted inner circle.

Downstairs, a cosy living room complete with a resplendent fireplace, a space befitting of the most luxurious cottages.

It’s a world away from the rest of the state of the art facilities, but there’s a purpose. And the purpose is simple: rest.

There are just two Tottenham badges in the entire Lodge complex, purposefully so. This is to put players and staff at ease, to take their minds away from the rigours of the day job, and to simply allow them to switch off. Recovery is crucial.

Each player is assigned a bedroom in a two-floor wing of the complex. Each is designed down to the microscopic details.

Bedroom phones cannot reach other bedroom phones to cut down on prank calls and unexpected disturbances, while lights automatically dull or brighten to a certain percentage depending on the schedule of the day. (Immediately post-workout the light is ambient to inspire rest.)

A sofa is included in every room to provide protractor-perfect angles so that a player’s posture isn’t ruined by a Fortnite binge. The rooms are also equipped with 100 per cent noise cancellation to avoid waking others up when a player actually does win round of Battle Royale.

The club don’t want their assets crumpled in half binging on a PlayStation in bed. Downtime is for recuperation, not further stress on the body.

Bedding is bought to replicate a player’s bed at home for consistency purposes. In some cases, players have conversely ordered training ground beds to be installed in their own homes, thus is the level of comfort.

The beds themselves don’t even come with legs or bases to prevent a toe-stubbing injury. Every detail, every inch, every millimetre of a player’s bedroom is designed to enhance the chances of beating X, Y or Z on any given matchday.

The corridors are dimly lit, restful, and adorned with constellations. Only on a third or fourth pass did the true meaning behind the star map become apparent.

Small touchscreens at the start of each wing contain a selection of 37 goals cherry-picked by former boss Mauricio Pochettino.

The installation is named ‘The Universal Game’. Each constellation is a visual representation of a goal, the lines between ‘stars’ represent passes between players and the eventual strike.

First on the list? Maradona’s 1986 wondergoal for Argentina against England. Pochettino had also included clips of Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney, Paul Gascoigne, Lionel Messi, former Arsenal star Robin Van Persie’s header against Spain and Erik Lamela’s outrageous rabona effort against Asteras Tripoli.

The Lodge is more than a hotel, it’s an immersive world designed to wrap its arms around you and keep you from looking back out into the world. You’re there to rest, relax, recover and go again.

Fuel up

All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur

The food is designed to fuel, energise and revitalise players at all times Tottenham Hotspur

Before we go again, it’s fuel time. This is where The Lodge really does feel like a return to its farming heritage.

Food is not lazily served up, it is considered down to a molecular level and portioned up to the optimum amount required for a footballer to find the balance between gaining energy, battling fatigue and keeping the fat at bay.

Players burn up to 5,000 calories on a matchday, that’s double the recommended intake for an adult male.

Head chef Ted Turner is tasked with overseeing the preparation of food under the orders of Performance Nutritionist Craig Umenyi.

Umenyi has experience behind the scenes at Everton, Arsenal and now Tottenham, and his entire role revolves around making sure every cell in a footballer’s body is in the best shape possible to win.

“With the intensity of the Premier League and different cup competitions, recovery is so much more important. You really have to focus on the stuff a lot of people overlook, like micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, other compounds and properties in food. We’re fortunate science has really progressed,” he said.

“We’re aware of how things work at a cellular level, we have that knowledge of exercise and biochemistry so it’s quite nice to think of it as science but then actually be creative with food.

“The big thing for me is the longer-term well-being of the players. If we can help players healthy and fit and available for selection or if they are injured help with their rehab process and reducing those recovery times, that to me is the big thing.

“Of course we always want to see them perform because that’s the name of the game, we like to think we do that as standard, but I take a lot of pride from allowing players to maximise their training and playing availability.”

Craig speaks as though he and the team are fuelling a car, fine-tuning their engines to perfection with each passing day, or developing livestock, as The Lodge did once upon a time.

A range of green juices, collagen – usually found in cosmetic surgery, and even the humble banana bread are all given a place in the dietary schedule of players, each with a specific purpose, deployed at a specific time.

Like a parent trying to feed a reluctant child, small bite-sized snacks are created to provide vast quantities of nutrients with minimal effort of actually eating the things.

After defeats, traditional meals are scrapped in place of ‘finger food’ as players won’t be in the mood to sit at a table with tensions boiling hotter than the meal they’ve been served.

Fuelled up and ready to roll, we actually saw our first football of the day.

Train hard

All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur

Ledley King leads a training session Tottenham Hotspur

It speaks volumes that the actual ‘training with a football at your feet’ part of the day took up a relatively small portion of the Premier League footballer routine.

These elite athletes have played with a ball at their feet for as long as they can remember, they will not simply lose their touch, but the various luxuries and lavishness of The Lodge haven’t been known to many for long.

Football has moved on from being simply about the game itself, and Tottenham are deeply invested in priming their stars throughout every minute of the day.

Fitness regimes are designed to develop players’ mobility, core, strength and explosiveness.

Rest is designed to reduce stress – both physical and mental – to promote and build on the platform laid by working out.

Nutrition plans are crafted to further advance on the previous steps, to energise, fuel and activate players’ potential.

And then it’s time to play.

Spurs legend Ledley King – who has since been appointed to the club’s coaching staff – was on hand to inspire a session.

(Taking a deep swig of indulgence here, splitting two defenders with a backheel pass to the approval of King felt like some form of life goal completion.)

The coaches’ logic is simple. They want the ball at the players’ feet as much as possible, to be an extension of the body, not a separate entity.

The grass carpet is kept in typically sublime condition, another nod to the world-leading base Tottenham Hotspur now call home.

Success may have been muted, even backtracked, in 2019/20, but in The Lodge, the north London side have a facility that will engineer success in the long-term.

You woz only Supposed to blow the bloody doors off!!

What is the point of having FFP when club losses can be wiped out by pumping money into a club via personnel loans. Why doesn’t the PL and UEFA stipulate that personnel loans must be approved (on a case by case basis), and subject to certain conditions before being allowed. If there is a genuine need to inject money into a club, that club should be required to show why (via financial records) it is eligible for such a dispensation.

I find it difficult to see how Chelsea can afford the players they have signed so far, not to mention the other players they are linked with this summer, despite supposedly saving money due to the clubs recent transfer ban.

Accounts for the year ending 30/06/19 showed Chelsea made a loss of £96m, which means they would have been in breach of FFP, therefor they would have needed to sell players to balance the books which they did by selling Hazard (not that it was their choice to do so though). It also highlights the clubs need in the longer term reduce the clubs turnover to wage ratio (64%) in order to run the club in a sustainable manner. But instead Abramovich is free to pump in an additional £247m (last summer) into the club to cover the clubs inability to operate within its means.

It appears we have the same scenario as it was before FFP was introduced, with clubs being able to spend heavily on players, and no doubt offer considerable wages without facing the consequences most businesses have to deal with, which is operating within financial means.

It seems unrealistic to think Chelsea’s finances haven’t been effected due to the pandemic, yet they appear (if reports are true) to be willing to spend big, which could potentially allow the club to challenge for honours where it may have otherwise struggled to do so without recieving an injecting finances into a club via personnel loans.

My objection isn’t with Chelsea or Abramovich in particular, he and other owners are just taking advantage of a system which currently permits owners to continue to run a football club beyond it’s economic means, but it does have a knock on effect of potentially denying other clubs who operate within their means the opportunity to gain relative success, whether that be final league position or winning silverware, it effectively further distorts an already lopsided (the big clubs) playing field.

Everton are another club where it’s owner Farhad Moshiri has put in £350m since 2016 in a bid to return the club to the top of the league. in addition to Moshiri’s injection of money, the club has seen it’s revenue to wage ratio rise to a staggeringly dangerous 85%.

Allowing wealthy club owners such as Abramovich at Chelsea to inject money into a club only serves to add pressure to clubs with aspirations of somehow reaching the top four joining the lucrative spoils on offer. Getting their is easier said than done, with clubs (the big six) being able to pump in cash to already wealthy clubs, that goal can be even more difficult and potentially dangerous (financially) to achieve.

There is nothing wrong with having provisions for clubs to receive personnel loans from wealthy owners, but surely the onus must be on the club and it’s owner to demonstrate a legitimate reason for needing to do so.

Simply because a club has chosen to operate (financially) beyond its means by overpaying players should not permit an owner to prop up the club, nor should owners be allowed to provide clubs with additional funds merely to sign new players. depending on the circumstances of each case, clubs should have to agree to a realistic repayment plan to ensure a club doesn’t benefit at the expense of others.

FFP made a great song and dance about how it was shutting the door on reckless spending by clubs, yet they conveniently left the back door (personnel loans) wide ajar. Go figure?

Sorry chaps, it’s been a bittova slow day…

The Parrott has flown the Coop

Parrott: “I want to be a part of something at Millwall”

Troy Parrott is ready to “work hard and give everything for the fans” after signing a season-long loan deal with Millwall.

The 18-year-old striker will spend the 2020/21 campaign in SE16 after making the temporary move from Tottenham Hotspur, and has bolstered The Lions’ attacking options ahead of the new season.

After the signature of Ryan Woods, Parrott becomes Gary Rowett’s second summer signing – and the Irishman credited the club’s fanbase as one of the reasons behind his decision to make the transfer from North to South London.

“I’m buzzing to get straight into things, I’m really looking forward to it,” Parrott told millwallfc.co.uk. “The crowd, the club itself – I’ve heard a lot of good things. When I’ve watched games, the littlest of things gets them going, and I want to be a part of something like that.

“It’s not hard to see from the outside that all [the fans] are looking for is someone to give 100% every game. When I was growing up playing football, that was the player I always was, so I feel as though I can fit it very well. I’m really excited to get going, work hard and give everything for the fans.”

Parrott hopes to follow in the footsteps of successful former Lions loanee Harry Kane, who spent time at The Den in 2011/12.

“I’m really grateful to Spurs for letting me go out on loan and get some regular football. Hopefully I can improve a lot whilst at Millwall.”

Rowett on “important” Parrott capture

Gary Rowett has expressed his pleasure at getting a season-long loan deal for Troy Parrott over the line – and is looking forward to the striker showing “a little bit of everything” on the pitch during the 2020/21 campaign.

The exciting prospect arrives at The Den with Premier League and international experience and adds to the manager’s striking options ahead of the new season.

Speaking to millwallfc.co.uk, the boss explained how securing the signature of the youngster was an important one “for a number of reasons.”

“I’m really happy to get the deal over the line,” he said. “It took a lot of work, and Alex [Aldridge] and Steve [Kavanagh] have worked really hard to get it done.

“There were a lot of clubs in The Championship, and beyond, who wanted Troy – that’s how highly he is regarded. We’re pleased that Tottenham, and Troy himself, chose us as the preferred option. I think that shows what we think we’ve got to offer, a) as a club, b) with fans, when they’re back, and c) the way the team is developing.

“For a number of reasons, it’s a really important signing for us and I’m pleased to get it over the line.”

When describing what the frontman will bring to The Lions’ squad, Rowett explaned Parrott’s attributes, but also added caution to the age of the loanee and subsequent dips in form.

“He’s got lots of ability, that extra bit of quality we’re looking for – especially in his finishing – and he is mobile, hungry, aggressive and athletic. I think he’s got a little bit of everything. But, he’s a young player, and like any, you might not see that straight away.

“We’ll have to work with him throughout the season. He can play anywhere in the front three areas, which is important to us to add goals, flexibility and options in those types of positions. We’ll have to be patient with him, though – he’ll have some really strong parts but also some dips. We’ll do our work and see him through it. Hopefully he can have a real impact.”

Good luck to Troy Parrott, I hope he has a fantastic season in Bandit Country!

Lo Celso ready to kick on after topsy-turvy beginning at Tottenham

: The Guardian

For Giovani Lo Celso, it is difficult to imagine what could possibly have made the experience sweeter. But there has been something. The Tottenham midfielder made his Argentina debut against Russia at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in November 2017 and he now has 21 caps. The something was the person playing with him and in and around him on many subsequent occasions. It was the symbol of his hometown. Lo Celso is able to call Rosario’s own Lionel Messi a teammate.

“It was a unique experience; a beautiful feeling,” Lo Celso says. “I’d dreamed of playing for the national team since I was a boy and to have been alongside Messi in training and to have played with him was a wonderful thing. He’s admired across the globe and we know he was born in Rosario. That’s wonderful for kids from there who idolise him. We know the class of player he is and that he’s from Rosario makes it even better.”

Even if he is from the opposing side of town? Rosario is split along football lines with the different barrios painted in the colours of either Rosario Central or Newell’s Old Boys. You are one or the other in this football-obsessed place. Lo Celso is Rosario Central; Messi, Newell’s. “No, no, there were no problems with that,” Lo Celso says. “He’s a Newell’s fan but that’s fine.”

Lo Celso came through the youth ranks at Rosario Central and the 24-year-old played two and a half seasons for them before moving to Paris Saint-Germain. He arrived at Spurs last summer, via a productive season at Real Betis, and is now preparing for Sunday’s derby at home to Arsenal.

Derby day is mayhem in Rosario. Messi never played in one, having left Newell’s for Barcelona as a 13-year-old, but Mauricio Pochettino did and so did Lo Celso.

The former Spurs manager, who brought Lo Celso to the club in a deal worth around £57m, is fond of telling stories of how, as a Newell’s player, he would have “bricks, radios, phones, everything” thrown in his direction on forays into enemy territory. Lo Celso, who was involved in four such occasions, never tasting defeat, describes it as “one of the most heated derbies in Argentina”. It is so volatile that away fans have been banned.

“People are really passionate about football in Rosario – the majority of the city talks about football, whether it’s Rosario Central or Newell’s Old Boys,” Lo Celso says. “When you go out to play, you feel all of that passion. The fact you only have home fans makes it special. I got the chance to play in the away game and it was a wonderful feeling.”

Lo Celso had his first taste of the north London derby last September when he came on as a late substitute in the rip-roaring 2-2 draw at Emirates Stadium but Sunday’s return will be another story – no fans, no feeling from the stands. Everything is upside down at the moment and Spurs must find the answers to the issues that are holding them back and making it seem as though José Mourinho is already in third-season mode.

The manager called out his players for a lack of fight after the 3-1 defeat at Sheffield United and he has had cause to lament more broadly their absence of direction and sharpness in the final third. Before lockdown, Spurs were without a win in six. Since the return, it is two wins out of five.

“We spoke after the Sheffield United game,” Lo Celso says, a comment that rather skates over the details of the inquest. “We needed to show a different side to us against Everton [last Monday] and the reaction in the 1-0 win was good. At times, we’ve needed to be stronger as a team but at other times we’ve done well.”

Lo Celso’s season has been topsy-turvy. He had an extended holiday last summer after his involvement with Argentina at the Copa América, which finished on 6 July and having signed for Spurs on 8 August and made three substitute appearances he injured his hip on international duty and was out for seven weeks. Lo Celso did not start for his new club until their 4-0 Champions League win at Red Star Belgrade on 6 November, when he scored and played well. One game later, Pochettino was gone and replaced by Mourinho.

“I wasn’t worried but when I came to the club Pochettino was manager,” Lo Celso says. “At that time he’d contacted me to come here. But a new top-class manager and coaching staff have come in.”

At first, Mourinho did not rely on him, starting him twice in 13 games. But Lo Celso dug deep, showing his mental toughness and when opportunity knocked in mid-January he took it.

He has since been a regular, displaying a comfort and security in possession, an awareness of time and space. His numbers have not been eye-catching – two goals and two assists – but that sort of thing never seemed to trouble Tottenham fans with Mousa Dembélé. Then there is Lo Celso’s slightly cynical edge. He has come to look made for English football.

He is a smart bet to win Spurs’ player of the year award – the field is not a deep one – and says he wants to finish with a place in Europe; mostly likely the Europa League. After a season finding his bearings, Lo Celso is ready to kick on.

Tottenham’s second season ends like the first – with Jose Mourinho blaming someone else

Richard Jolly: The Independent

The last goal of Mauricio Pochettino’s reign at Tottenham Hotspur was scored by George Baldock which, it is safe to say, was not what he had in mind when he mused about depart in the glow of making Tottenham officially Europe’s best team. Eight months later, it felt as though Sheffield United had provided further finality for Spurs and dashed more dreams. Last season concluded in a Champions League final. This, surely, will not end with Tottenham in the Champions League places.

It would amount to a year of failure. In particular, it would reflect badly on the ultimate short-term manager who has proved incapable of executing his short-term objective and a normally hard-headed chairman, in Daniel Levy, who seemed blinded by stardust in appointing him. He did not pursue a project or a philosophy. He appointed a manager who came with the promise of a good time, not a long time.

Jose Mourinho inherited a team in 14th and his return of 31 points from 20 games is an improvement on Pochettino’s record this season. It is not Mourinho-esque, however, not in the way we knew it. It is Mourinho-esque in that he took 30 from his last 20 in charge of Manchester United. He left them in sixth and Chelsea in sixteenth. Now Tottenham are ninth. He has never finished a season that low down the standings.

A 3-1 defeat at Bramall Lane had the hallmarks of many a late-period Mourinho loss. There was the sense his team were less than the sum of their parts and that, in some cases, they had performed more for other managers. There were the pointed snubs in selection, with Dele Alli and, predictably, Tanguy Ndombele overlooked so the winger Steven Bergwijn could play as a No. 10. There was the lack of intensity and identity. There was the porous defending overseen by a man who constructed the most watertight rearguard in the history of English football.

They were unlocked by underdogs: Chris Basham got his first Premier League assist for nine years. Enda Stevens, a graduate of the League of Ireland and League Two, set up Sheffield United’s second. Oli McBurnie, formerly of Chester and Newport and Barnsley, scored the third. Chris Wilder assessed his starting line up and noted four of them were free transfers.

Mourinho was beaten by a younger manager but it is not merely the ageing process that means he often is. Wilder is only four years Mourinho’s junior, but his career is on an upward curve and the Portuguese’s is on a downward trajectory. The Yorkshireman has traits Mourinho used to exhibit. Wilder has the capacity to take players to new heights, the evident bond with them, the feeling his tactics are very topical. Like Julian Nagelsmann and Ralph Hasenhuttl and Jurgen Klopp, others to have beaten Spurs in 2020, Wilder has captured the Zeitgeist. It comes in part from mood. United feel a band of brothers, Mourinho a bitter grandfather complaining he doesn’t understand the youth of today.

He was critical of his team’s mental strength at Bramall Lane; in particular for their inability to respond to the disappointment of seeing Harry Kane’s ‘equaliser’ controversially chalked off. “We have to be mentally stronger, to cope with what happened during the game,” said Mourinho.

Not for the first time, it was someone else’s fault; once again, he compared others unfavourably with himself. “It is very easy to motivate myself because it is my nature,” he said. “When a professional player needs an external motivational source then he is in trouble. Motivation is directly related to professionalism: respect for the club, for the fans, for the job. Clearly if these boys don’t care about the results and the end of the season, there will be big trouble for the future.” It was a tacit admission a campaign is in effect over.

Mourinho is paid £15million a year to organise and galvanise, not deflect the blame but, at a third consecutive club, he gives the sense he feels the players are letting him down. The common denominator, at Chelsea, United and Spurs, is him, seeking to recreate his past and escape from it.

He cited the attacking line-up he named – with Kane, Bergwijn, Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura, Giovanni Lo Celso and Moussa Sissoko all starting – yet they mustered two shots on target, plus Kane’s three disallowed goals. The one that stood was made and scored by players, in Son and Kane, who might have missed the remainder of the campaign had it finished on its scheduled dates. It highlights how football’s sudden break afforded Tottenham a second chance to salvage their season. They failed to take it. In February, when he was feeling sorry for himself, Mourinho said he wished it could be 1 July. Perhaps he does again because on 2 July, Spurs’ campaign came an anticlimactic end.

When England played Germany at White Hart Lane in 1935

Guardian Sport
John Harding

 

The Germany players give the Nazi salute before their match against England at White Hart Lane on 4 December 1935. Photograph: PNA Rota/Getty Images

When it was announced in October 1935 that England football’s next home match would be against Germany, there were misgivings; when the venue for the match was confirmed as White Hart Lane, home of Tottenham Hotspur, a club noted for its significant Jewish following, there was consternation. In September that year, Germany’s Nuremberg race laws had prohibited intermarriage and criminalised sexual relations between “Jews” and “persons of German or related blood” effectively turning Jewish Germans into second-class citizens. What was the Football Association thinking? Not much, was the answer

There was, it was explained, no underlying malicious intent. The choice of venue had been made on purely utilitarian grounds. Between the wars, England matches were not played at Wembley but at prominent league grounds, almost always in London. Arsenal had already hosted three such games and Tottenham one. It was simply Spurs’ turn.

As the FA considered politics to have no place in sport, the match had been arranged without involvement or discussion with the government. The club itself appeared to harbour no misgivings. In fact, it immediately hiked admission prices. As for Jewish sensibilities, the Weekly Herald for Tottenham reported: “The extent of the Spurs Jewish following has often been discussed. Someone within the inner councils of the Spurs told me this week that the size of this following was not nearly so large as was popularly imagined.”

There were protests, the Herald acknowledged. On 18 October it admitted: “Apparently, 50-odd letters had been sent to Spurs from individual Jews and Jewish organisations, protesting against the match. A boycott is suggested and protests on the day threatened. Spurs simply sent them on to the FA and reminded the latter that it was their responsibility to keep order.” As far as direct action was concerned, at the forthcoming Spurs versus Burnley match “a bugle would be sounded and 6,000 Jews would walk out of the ground as a protest against the England-Germany match.” Elaborate police precautions were taken to prevent disturbances but nothing happened.

The Swastika flies over White Hart Lane.
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The Swastika flies over White Hart Lane. Photograph: Fox Photos/Getty Images

The controversy prompted an outpouring of letters to the Weekly Herald whose football correspondent concluded: “The Jews complain of the Nazi treatment of their compatriots in Germany and demand that the match be cancelled! The Jewish protest has received little sympathy amongst the general football public who resent the introduction into sport of such a controversy.”

To prove the point, the News published a score of letters from “fans”, the vast majority of whom were against any sort of protest and a number quite openly racist. Under the heading “England For England”, one read: “As one of the oldest season ticket holders of the Spurs it greatly amused me to read of the Jewish proposed boycott of next month’s match. I am in every way with them that they should walk out at a given signal but with a one way ticket and not come back … It is up to the English boys to turn up as many as they can; it will be very nice to watch an English match with only English supporters.”

But it wouldn’t only be English supporters standing on the terraces. Close on the heels of the fixture’s announcement came the news that upwards of 10,000 – perhaps a many as 20,000 – German supporters would accompany the team, something quite unprecedented.

The Jewish Chronicle understood the implications: “It is idle to suppose that the great German descent on London has been organised and encouraged – even to the extent of providing cheap travel – out of pure love of the game … there can be little doubt that the ulterior purposes in the present instance is to present to the world the spectacle of mass Anglo-Nazi fraternisation, to blanket the protests against Nazi tyranny by English churchmen and others and to create the impression that this country is reconciled with Nazism and all that it implies.”

In fact, it would be the invasion by thousands of German supporters that would arouse the most intense media interest. The football, by contrast, paled into insignificance. The preparations for the trip – the feeding, accommodation and travel arrangements for such a large number of people – took up swathes of newspaper space. On the day of the match, 4 December 1935, the Daily Express revealed beneath a headline “Hans Across The Sea!” that a score of cross-Channel steamers had already disgorged up to 16,000 Germans and that airliners, trains and coaches were now relaying them into London.

Crucially, the visitors were polite, they didn’t wear Nazi badges and they praised everything they saw. Germany captain Fritz Szepan extolled “wonderful London” and said: “I am a footballer. I know nothing about politics. After all, the game is the thing, is it not?”

The only note of scepticism in the popular press came in the Evening Standard, where David Low’s cartoon appeared beneath the caption “Germany Discovers Sportsmanship”. It depicted a football team of Jewish East Enders striding out to play surrounded by Nazi Storm troopers hurling abuse. The accompanying text read, “Berlin press appeals to British sportsmanship to give the German footballers fair play. That’s the way to talk. Berlin of course will respond when we send a team of Whitechapel boys over on a return visit.”

Fans watch the game at White Hart Lane.
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Fans watch the game at White Hart Lane. Photograph: PNA Rota/Getty Images

As kick-off approached, it was clear that fair-play or not, the authorities were taking no chances. According to the Daily Worker, “The concentration of police and plains clothes detectives was one of the largest yet organised in London with scarcely a turning or side-street left uncovered.” Police were stationed every 10 yards along the road leading to the ground and inside they were positioned every eight yards around the pitch perimeter. Almost 1,000 officers were on duty in and around the ground. A temporary police station with cells was provided in one of the out-buildings in the Spurs car park, while reserves of police were secreted in the pavilion on a neighbouring school ground.

Two hours before the match, an anti-Nazi parade left Bruce Grove station and proceeded towards the ground handing out leaflets and carrying posters proclaiming “Fascist Sport is Jew-Baiting”, “Our Goal, Peace: Hitler’s goal, War”, “Hitler Hits Below The Belt” and “Keep Sport Clean, Fight Fascism”.

Close to the ground, police moved in on the march, tore down the posters and arrested those shouting slogans. Leaflets were grabbed and torn up. Undaunted, protestors handed out leaflets at Manor House and Stamford Hill while others showered leaflets from the open windows of buses onto the crowds below. Men with sandwich boards proclaiming “Stop the Nazi Match” chanted at the visitors; there were regular scuffles with lone pro-Nazi sympathisers.

Inside, the vast German contingent was accommodated in the New Stand where they waved little flags bearing the swastika. When the band struck up the German national anthem, they gave the familiar Nazi salute. Above the ground, two flags were displayed side by side: the Union Jack and another bearing the swastika – although the latter would experience a brief moment’s absence.

Of the match itself, little need be said. England ran out 3-0 winners, although it was not a vintage performance. Forwards Stanley Matthews and Raich Carter endured poor games, with Matthews uncharacteristically missing three good early chances. Szepan, interviewed afterwards by the Daily Express declared it an “honourable defeat”. He praised the English players’ “clean play and fine sportsmanship” and said his abiding memory would be the “enthusiastic cheering from the spectators”.

While the two teams and officials gathered for a post-match banquet, thousands of German visitors were swiftly hustled back to their coaches and on to trains for the return journey. By 11pm that night, they had vanished from the capital, sent on their way by a flurry of protests at Victoria Station, where more leaflets were distributed and large banners proclaiming “Free Thaelmann” displayed. Ernst Thälmann, the leader of the German Communist Party leader had been imprisoned since 1933. He was murdered in Buchenwald on 18 August 1944.

George Camsell opens the scoring for England, who went on to win 3-0.
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George Camsell opens the scoring for England, who went on to win 3-0. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

The day after the game the people who had been arrested were dealt with at magistrates courts in Tottenham and Westminster. They were, for the most part, veteran Communist demonstrators. Sid Elias, William Morris, Barnie Bercow and Herbert Ettlinger had all served prison sentences for various offences connected with anti-Nazi demonstrations in recent months. The Westminster contingent were charged with scattering “offensive and insulting” literature at Victoria Station and hurling insults such as “Down With Hitler”. All were working-class, including a labourer, a hairdresser and a carpenter.

At Tottenham the charges were mainly of obstruction and refusing to take down banners. The star, however, was Ernie Wooley, a 24-year-old Shoreditch turner. Wooley was charged with maliciously and wilfully doing damage (to the amount of 3/6) by cutting the lanyard which held up the Nazi flag over the East Stand.

In evidence, detective sergeant Wilkinson explained: “I was near the turnstiles at the main entrance. I saw prisoner walk to the end of the stand and after loitering about for a few minutes he clambered on to the gutter at the end of the stand and edged his way along the gutter towards the lanyard supporting the German national flag. He produced an open knife from his pocket and cut the lanyard causing the flag to fall on to the roof of the grandstand. He was seized as he climbed down. Upon being arrested, Wooley remarked: ‘You’ve got thousands of police about the ground but no one to watch the flag.’ Wooley claimed: ‘I did not maliciously cut the rope. I was merely going to unfurl that flag by untying the knot of the lanyard. That Nazi flag is hated in this country.’”

A Spurs official present said there was no evidence that the rope was worth 3/6 nor was the rope produced in evidence. There followed some confusion concerning the exact knife used (the police had lost the original) and the case was dismissed. Wooley apparently smiled broadly as he left the dock.

Why Mauricio Pochettino leaves behind a complicated legacy at Tottenham Hotspur

The Independent

Article by Alex Fynn and Martin Cloake.

Why Mauricio Pochettino leaves behind a complicated legacy at Tottenham Hotspur
One year on from the Champions League final in Madrid, how do we quantify the impact Pochettino had at Spurs?

A year ago, Tottenham Hotspur were preparing to play in a European Cup Final in Madrid. In the time since 1 June 2019, everything has changed.

Tottenham Hotspur’s run to the 2019 Champions League final was the culmination not only of an extraordinary campaign, but an extraordinary five years under manager Mauricio Pochettino. When Pochettino was appointed, many Spurs fans – and, it was rumoured, club chairman Daniel Levy – had been casting admiring glances at Louis van Gaal. But Van Gaal took the reins at Manchester United on 19 May 2014. When, eight days later, Pochettino was appointed by Spurs, many were underwhelmed. Sure, he had a reputation as an up-and-coming manager, but many wondered if his ability to nurture up-and-coming players, rather than demand big buys, was the deciding factor in his appointment.
The reality in 2014 was that the idea one of the world’s biggest managerial names would take over at Spurs was, let’s say ambitious, at best. Yet by the time Pochettino left Spurs just five months after leading them out in Madrid, not only was he being touted for the top jobs in world football, but Spurs were able to secure the services of the most successful manager of the age to replace him.

Pochettino did indeed develop young talent, forming a team that for two seasons at its height played what was acknowledged to be the most attractive, exciting football in the English top flight. He made Spurs into Champions League regulars, the team challenged for the league title for the first time in decades and, perhaps most extraordinary of all for a club the rest of football seemed to delight in disliking, he made Tottenham Hotspur likeable again.

When I was a kid, growing up during the 1970s and watching the team of the early 1980s, it wasn’t unusual to find fans of other sides naming Spurs as their second team. Spurs had a glamour about them that even the decline of the mid-70s didn’t quite rub off. Attractive football, a bit of swash and buckle, entertainment for the eye and the heart, likeable characters. In a time before the combination of commercial hype and social media platforms meant every rivalry was ramped up to the nth degree, people didn’t mind admitting they liked teams other than the one they supported. Even if they hated them. Hate wasn’t quite such a literal accoutrement then. One of Pochettino’s achievements was to make the Spurs team genuinely likeable.

Pochettino was able to make Spurs likeable again (Getty)
More importantly, he struck a chord with the club’s own fans. He connected with the best of the past, playing the kind of football the fans loved to see. His teams not only entertained, they thrilled. There was genuine excitement among those lucky enough to watch the team regularly – especially those who remembered the days under Alan Sugar and George Graham where turning up was a chore at best.

In our book One Step from Glory, Alex Fynn and I examined Pochettino’s years at Spurs and told the story of the Champions League run that was to prove the beginning of the end for him. The run is fascinating for two main reasons.

The night Spurs stunned Ajax to reach the Champions League final
It brought the conflict that defines Spurs into perspective. The tension between success and style had been there even before Danny Blanchflower’s famous but much misunderstood quote about winning with glory, and the longer Pochettino’s stylish side went without lifting a trophy, the more pronounced the tension became. And if you really knew your history, you knew in the weeks leading up to the final that winning would not only put Spurs firmly into the elite group of just 22 clubs who have lifted Europe’s premier trophy, it would once more connect the two components of the conflict into what has always been the point – stylish victory.

The run is also fascinating because it signalled the beginning of the end for Pochettino’s Spurs – and retrospect allows us to see this even more clearly. The truth is that for most of the 2018/19 season, Spurs did not play that well. The Premier League campaign was a shadow of what had gone before, away form in particular was awful. In the Champions League, the club stumbled through the group stage, then turned in a surprisingly thorough and accomplished demolition of Borussia Dortmund.

What followed were two of the most extraordinary ties in the competition’s history, culminating in dramatic second legs at the Etihad Stadium and the Amsterdam Arena. Both matches seemed to encapsulate the season, with victory snatched after self-inflicted defeat seemed certain.

In the three weeks of joy that preceded the club’s first final in Europe’s premier competition, there was a feeling that it was the club’s year. But the falling apart had already begun. Pochettino’s tendency to issue odd statements at key moments had started to grate on even his most devoted supporters, and the bombshell that he may leave the club if they lifted the cup was the oddest and most disruptive of the lot. What was the purpose of it? And come the final, Poch made another decision that will forever be debated. He picked Harry Kane instead of Lucas Moura. Kane had been injured and out of sorts. Moura had scored the hat-trick that secured the Miracle of Amsterdam and was in form. But Kane was fit, and had proved himself one of the top strikers in world football. Moura’s brilliance had more often flickered than illuminated. The decision will be debated as long as people are still interested in debating football.

Pochettino’s decision to start Kane backfired (Getty)
On the day, Spurs lost after a lacklustre performance against lacklustre opponents. The penalty in the opening minute was debatable. Less debatable was the fact that – as Liverpool fans admitted – their team had turned in one of its worst performances of the year. A Poch team in its prime would have swatted that evening’s Liverpool team aside to lift the trophy. But Liverpool won. End of story.

Pochettino retreated in the weeks after the game. When the following season started, the sense of togetherness was not there. Results and performances were poor. The usual rumours about the backing the club’s board was or wasn’t prepared to give in the transfer market began to swirl. There was a palpable sense of drift and, in the end, Poch was gone. Just like that. Within hours, Jose Mourinho was in his place. An appointment less in tune with what Poch had created or, in the minds of many Spurs fans, the character of the club would have been impossible to make.

Whether or not that move for something different succeeds, only time will tell. And time, as we now know all too well, has been slowed almost to a standstill. Everything seems both so long ago and so far away.

Spurs may yet achieve the success that opens up new vistas. But for now, the first day of June in 2019 remains an iconic moment. Because it was the culmination of a journey, a celebration of an era, a beacon of hope and a confirmation of despair… a mishmash of emotion and a reminder, now, of better times, of crowds and togetherness and joy and atmosphere and noise and bustle and, well, life.

Things were not the same for Pochettino at Spurs after the defeat (Getty)
There are some who want to forget. Others who aggressively dismiss any significance, because the day did not deliver a trophy for Spurs. They miss the basic pleasures, the essential joys. In these most challenging of times, the need to recognise and embrace the simple and pure joy of the moment is clearer than ever. It is possible Spurs may have their chance again. It is also possible they won’t for a very long time. But to dismiss the quality of the moment, to deny the treasure such moments constitute, seems even sillier now that reminders of the need to appreciate the good times are so much greater and more prevalent.

One year on and the very concept of glory is in question. But better to have lived and loved the moment than never to have loved at all. Losing the game was one thing, losing the ability to saviour the experience not just of one night in Madrid but of a thrilling five-year journey, seems a longer-lasting pity.

One Step from Glory by Alex Fynn and Martin Cloake tells the story of Mauricio Pochettino’s time at Spurs, the club’s European pedigree, and the extraordinary run to the 2019 Champions League Final. It is published by Pitch Publishing.

PL wage stand-off showS the worst of football as players stand defiant against owners

Miguel Delaney: The Independent

The 20 Premier League captains were at first stunned, and then apoplectic. The mood has not changed much since, and could have significant repercussions.

When the Premier League issued a wide-ranging statement on 3 April that said they may ask the players for a 30 per cent wage cut or deferral, the assumption from many – and even some of the most prominent figures in the game – was that this had at least been run past the captains, or the Professional Footballers’s Association (PFA).

That actually hadn’t been the case, which makes it all the more remarkable that the clubs talked themselves down from an initial figure of 40 per cent in that Friday videoconference.

The wonder is how the players would have reacted to that. It was bad enough with 30 per cent. They went “ballistic”, in the words of one source. The same individual describes it as a “spectacular failure” in communication on the part of the Premier League clubs, which really “alienated” the players.

It could yet mean the various parties keep failing to strike an agreement on this issue for some time, and that it gets very ugly.

The picture isn’t all that good right now. A time of international crisis has seen the national sport descend into disagreement between millionaires and billionaires, over money.

It just looks like the worst of football, at the worst of times, summing up a supposed moral bankruptcy in the game.

The true picture is naturally more complicated than that, but thereby all the more difficult to sort out. The key difference is not financial status, and that between millionaire players and billionaire owners.

It is actually one of outlook and objective for this, that is not solely motivated by greed or self-interest or any of the other loaded words thrown around.

It really comes down to this. The players are perfectly willing to give up significant money, as they have made clear, but want it all to go to the National Health Service or other charitable funds.

The clubs say they badly need the money to stay within their businesses – in order to survive. This is the principal problem, that has so far not seen even the suggestion of a solution. Making the situation even harder is that, within those differences, there are the sort of decisions that could yet make a huge difference in so many other lives – above all whether club employees can be paid. It is this that has seen the player pay issue sometimes unhelpfully rolled into that of staff going on furlough, that has thereby further irritated the captains.

To be fair, they should be under no illusions. The issue of regular staff pay is inherently connected to that of player pay, especially at clubs outside the big six, but also some within that group.

It’s also true that a series of missteps have fostered a worsening distrust, which is where this threatens to really get ugly.

The players were already annoyed at how Tottenham Hotspur’s plan to furlough staff prompted that entirely unhelpful comment from health secretary Matt Hancock. The understandable feeling was they were typically being made the most convenient of targets, in evident diversionary tactics. They were resentful they were being put under unfair pressure, and singled out.

Liverpool’s initial decision to avail of the furlough scheme only made this worse, especially given it came on the day the captains held a videoconference with the Premier League, but what really did the damage was that Friday statement.

The captains were simply aghast it could be made without even consulting them. One source went on to say that, “of all the parties involved in this, the Premier League have been by far the least useful”.

It means the player view of the hierarchies remains as low as ever. They simply believe the clubs will “use any chance to screw them”, and that the billionaire owners have more than enough to just solve any issues by putting money back in. It’s also been pointed out that the clubs haven’t actually lost the hundreds of millions in broadcasting yet.

This is why the players want any cuts to be on their terms. They are currently completely hardline on this.

Many officials see this as hopelessly naive, however, but fear it may take the harsh reality of a Premier League club going into administration to snap them out of it.

While there is an acceptance that some of the wealthiest clubs – like Manchester United, like Manchester City, like Liverpool – should be able to weather whatever happens for some time, and thereby not expect cuts, that is very far from the case for most outside that core.

One executive privately argues that outfits like Bournemouth and Watford just don’t have access to money like that, and badly need to adjust their economics now. The primary problem is that most are break-even cash-flow businesses like airlines, who have had that flow of income stopped.

Games have stopped, which has cut off match-day income, and devastated commercial income, with so much uncertainty over the third pillar: TV.

Even if a deal is struck on broadcasting, the issue is that clubs are missing out on so much incremental revenue related to the other pillars that it’s creating a “massive financial black hole”.

To pick the most prominent example, clubs are worried that finance companies for season tickets won’t be there going forward, which could mean thousands not being renewed.

The same climate is likely to see businesses do away with non-essential expenditure, such as corporate boxes and premium seats. One big-six club has 40 boxes up for renewal this summer, and are increasingly concerned they won’t be taken up. There is then all the connected expenditure like money on food and restaurants, and force majeure clauses preventing sponsorship bonuses getting paid.

Even in the case of clubs like Tottenham, it will slow the moves with the NFL.

“There are going to be huge shortfalls which simply can’t be made up,” one source says. “It is why they have to go back to the players, and why mere deferrals are meaningless. Player wages are the current biggest expense, but that was from the pre-coronavirus economics. It’s unsustainable now.”

It’s going to cause an upending of the structures of the game, as more and more prominent figures talk of “unprecedented” financial problems they couldn’t have foreseen, and that the current systems just aren’t able to cope with. It’s that bad. “The dominoes are falling.”

The expectation is thereby that the clubs will go as hardline as the players. That is even likelier to be the case given the hardline view of some in the game.

“This is why the whole issue of player deferral is a disgrace,” the same source says. “They and their agents don’t want to cut.

“Too many pundits are praising players when they’ve actually done very little. Remember, if a player donates £30,000, they write it off against tax, so it isn’t really costing them anything. But it’s great PR.

“Deferrals actually cost a player nothing. For a club, though, it’s just debt down the road. Players simply need to have their salaries cut.”

“This is just going to lead to many of those out of contract not getting renewed, and they won’t be able to get anything like their current money elsewhere… Players need a reality check.”

That reality check may well be a club going into administration.

The players, however, evidently aren’t the only people that require such a realignment. There badly needs to be some agreement between the side soon, some conciliatory gestures.

That’s how severe the situation is. That’s how far apart the sides are. That’s how ugly this could get.