The Tottenham Hokey Cokey

Let’s be clear, it is perfectly reasonable and perfectly sensible for two parties to end a negotiation because a compromise cannot be reached. If one side or both sides have particular needs, requirements, values on which they will not bend, then walking away is clearly the right decision. But, allowing that to play out in public, particularly on the day of the deadline for season ticket renewals, is pretty shameful. As is allowing negotiations get as far as they appear to have got; what a waste of time and effort.

We know that Spurs can keep a lid on all of this stuff — we know that because, until the Mauricio Pochettino and then Antonio Conte rumours broke, information on who we might or might not be considering had been pretty well protected. No ITK, no ‘leaks’ aside from very generalised reporting in which multiple names were mentioned in regards to a shortlist, the types of names that we, as fans, could have (and did) already come up with. There’s no way that our beloved beat journalist, Alasdair Gold, would tweet his modest equivalent of a ‘here we go!’ unless he’d essentially got the nod from the club that Conte was a goer.

Alasdair’s interpretation of the current state of play is that Spurs and Conte both got deep into talks before Spurs realised that he wouldn’t be all that focussed on young players after all and Conte realised that he wouldn’t have bucketloads of money to spend (my words, not Ally G’s!). This is extraordinary, completely baffling to me, to the extent where I am not completely convinced that it happened this way, because it’s so unbelievably amateurish. These deal-breaker elements of their respective lists of needs and wants would surely be covered at the very beginnings of negotiations?!

Here are the possible options for what happened as I see it:

  1. We, as a club, are not only terrible at communicating to the fans, but terrible at communicating to managerial targets as well. We didn’t map out our expectations to Antonio Conte or, indeed, listen to his own set of expectations. The negotiations subsequently genuinely fell through because we reached an impasse.
  2. We decided that values were not all that important after all, went all-in on Conte and he rejected us. Maybe because he wanted a higher salary, maybe because he wanted to bring more staff than we would allow, maybe because he wanted more assurances over transfer spend or Harry Kane’s future, maybe multiple parts or all of the above.
  3. Daniel Levy got so far along the line with the deal and then had an epiphany — hang on a minute, I wanted free-flowing football and young players.
  4. Spurs played Alasdair and other reporters close to the club and used them to drive up season ticket renewals. It feels rather like a conspiracy theory but, well, it’s Spurs.
  5. Spurs are playing another candidate — Conte never got as far along the track as it seemed from the outside and, instead, we’re using this to try to put pressure on another candidate. Pochettino?
  6. A combination of some of the above — Alasdair seems to think maybe both 2 and 3.

I wasn’t all-in on Antonio Conte myself. He is a brilliantly talented and highly-successful manager, but he didn’t feel the right fit for us based on what Daniel Levy claims to be looking for. Let’s remind ourselves of what that is:

Chairman’s message, May 2021

That’s just not Conte. He plays fairly entertaining football, but it’s certainly not free-flowing — rather, he drills players to within an inch of their lives and creates a series of mechanical automations and rules to get the ball from A to B to C effectively and, as I say, not unattractively. I think the football would have been an undeniable improvement on what we saw last season, we would have built from the back in possession structures, but ‘free-flowing’ is pushing it. He’s also just not a coach who would be focused on using young players; he would expect significant outlay and he would want proven, Premier League-ready quality; he needs near enough immediate success because he only tends to stay around for relatively short spells, as we can see from his managerial record.

Antonio Conte’s managerial record; Wikipedia

And he’s a pretty abrasive character who is often outspoken and both challenging to and demanding of his superiors. Let’s be honest, he’s a bit of a dickhead. I’m sure we’d have accepted him as our dickhead, but a dickhead nonetheless.

So, from the outside at least, we appear to be back to square one, albeit a slightly different square one. Because it does appear that we are about to hire Fabio Paratici as a Director of Football or Sporting Director or whatever title we decide to give him. He’s a man we tried to hire in around 2018 when Pochettino was in charge.

One must assume that Levy has already spoken to Paratici about his own managerial shortlist and wouldn’t have approached Conte were he not on it because, well, that would be insane. So, I guess, now some if not all of the negotiations will be delegated to Paratici and he picks up the baton. Perhaps the club goes back in for Pochettino and pays whatever it takes to prise him away from Paris Saint-Germain. Perhaps they move on to a different target.

It is really important that Spurs get their man sooner rather than later, as we have a very fulsome summer of business ahead of us with a lot of deadwood to flog and some key positions to fill. Perhaps some of that can be done before an appointment is made but it would seem very wrong to start buying and selling players en masse without a coach in place, albeit having a Director of Football makes that slightly more palatable.

As it stands, we appear to be a club that has become very disorganised when it comes to on-pitch matters and that’s exactly why the appointment of a Director of Football is a good decision.

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Released and retained players

The Premier League Released and Retained lists have been published this evening. There are no great surprises for Spurs, but some news:

Elliot Thorpe and Jeremie Mukendie have been offered professional contracts. Reporting suggests that Thorpe is in demand and my view is that he’s ready for a loan next season, so I would hope that we could get him to sign a contract with the commitment that we get him a loan move.

Kallum Cesay, Jeremy Kyezu and Timothee Lo-Tutala have had their scholarships extended into a third year and Kacper Kurylowicz and Rafferty Pedder have now been offered pro contracts after they completed the third year of their scholarships. Lo-Tutala was a slight surprise – I would have expected a pro contract for him, particularly given that he has been linked with other clubs.

In other news, I was on the Wicked Spursy podcast – great people, great show, give it a listen.

I am the host of The Extra Inch; a Spurs podcast that delves into the analytical side of Tottenham games. Check us out! If you already follow the podcast, consider becoming an xSub for additional content.

I recently added a Donate button to this site. It’s on the ‘About‘ page. I explain why on there. Cheers!

Never go back?

I think the reason they say ‘never go back’ – to an ex, or to the coffee shop that got your order wrong that time is that you’ll likely just revisit the mistakes of your past, replay them and cause pain and hurt to everyone all over again. I ASKED FOR SOY MILK*, IS IT REALLY THAT DIFFICULT?

So, the point is, for it to work this time when it didn’t before, something has to change. And I don’t think that this means that one side concedes that they were wrong and the other continues as before (although it would be nice to at least to get an apology for milk-gate**, ‘the customer is always right’ after all); there needs to be some sort of contrition from both sides and a commitment to changing behaviours in the future.

The problem we have here is that whilst Daniel Levy is one of the smartest football chairmen around, he’s also one of the most stubborn. And, if I’m honest, I don’t think Mauricio Pochettino is too different in that regard.

For each of them, their stubbornness can be a virtue, for sure. For Levy, it has led to him getting some incredible deals done over the years, and his renown for being difficult to deal with is, I’m sure, a badge of honour to him. But, equally, having multiple chairmen wearing t-shirts that say ‘I went to sign a player from Tottenham Hotspur and all I got was this lousy shirt’ is not so great when you’re releasing Danny Rose, a once £50m-rated player, at the end of his contract having played precisely zero minutes the whole of the year. There does, more often than not, need to be compromise.

And, as for Pochettino, well I watched him play a Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko midfield more than 30 times in his last season and a half. Whilst it *appears* to have been a fever dream, I definitely saw this happen with my own eyes, so don’t even try to convince me that it didn’t. It did, and it was horrible every single time and I hated it and then he ruined Dele by trying to get him to drop in and help fix it and… bad bad bad bad bad bad bad. And stubborn, very stubborn.

Both will need to have reflected on the way things ended and what they might have done differently to stop things going that way. They will then need to be self-aware enough to change their behaviours to stop history repeating. I would say, though, that I see Pochettino coming in and starting pretty much from scratch again rather than picking up where he left off, and I think that’s a good thing. Sure, he’ll have a lot of preset connections with people around the club and the way that it operates. He’ll also have a lot of coaching to undo, a lot of latent fitness to build and a new system to implement. And, whether it feels like it or not, the squad has actually moved on quite a bit since he was last in post. Not just in terms of new signings, but in terms of players who are now more established/integrated as well as those who have stepped up from the Academy. And we are hopeful that there will be several leaving this summer…

The reporting this morning suggests that Pochettino wants ‘full control over key decisions’. I cannot see a way that this could happen under Levy, the man who literally follows his employees into the canteen to poke his nose into their day-to-day work. But, besides that, I’m not entirely sure I’d want it to. I think, as Head Coach, Pochettino should have complete control of his remit. Anything on-pitch (including the training ground) is his domain. I also think Levy needs to finally give in and re-appoint a Director of Football/Sporting Director to conduct the non-coaching football business, including transfers and including working with the Academy Manager, Dean Rastrick. Hopefully Ryan Mason will want to continue as Head of Player Development, Under-17 to Under-23 to enable the management of players post-academy; this was a major critique of mine of Pochettino the first time around.

I am very hopeful that we will re-appoint Mauricio Pochettino. I see him as, objectively, the best coach we could appoint for what needs to be achieved and for delivering on the values that Daniel Levy outlined in his latest Chairman’s Message. But I hope that if this comes to pass, but parties have learnt to compromise. If that happens, I am convinced that it’s a winning formula. The good news is that, in appointing him, Levy would be making a big step in the right direction.

And to any baristas reading, I apologise. I appreciate you and I appreciate your memory skills. Please don’t spit in my drink.

*Soy boys unite.

**This is entirely fabricated, I am disgusting and drink cows milk.

I am the host of The Extra Inch; a Spurs podcast that delves into the analytical side of Tottenham games. Check us out! If you already follow the podcast, consider becoming an xSub for additional content.

I recently added a Donate button to this site. It’s on the ‘About‘ page. I explain why on there. Cheers!

Released players

It’s the time of year where we find out which young players have been released. This year, those leaving the club are:

Development Squad players Enock Asante (19), Chay Cooper (19), Keenan Ferguson (20), George Marsh (22), Rodel Richards (20), Jack Roles (22), Aaron Skinner (19), Kazaiah Sterling (22) and Shilow Tracey (23).

Under-18s players Eddie Carrington (18) and Tarrelle Whittaker (18).

Amongst this group there are two slight surprises for me -– Richards and Whittaker –- though there are a couple of other names that people might be interested in a comment on.

Jack Roles is a talented midfielder who has the (rare) ability to time a run into the box which has led to him being a regular goal-scorer across all stages of his career. He was pushing for loans for some time before he was allowed to go out and, personally, I feel this delay held him back. He then had a brilliant loan spell at Cambridge United in League Two and subsequently moved to Burton Albion in League One this season. It didn’t work out for various reasons and he moved to Stevenage, where he struggled to make an impression on their manager. Roles is a good player and I think Spurs have ultimately missed out on a reasonable fee for him by mismanaging his development. I would expect him to have a lot of offers this summer and for him to then work his way back up the pyramid.

Keanan Ferguson was picked up at the start of the season having been released from Sheffield United. He has suffered with an injury for much of the season and leaves after just a year which, on the surface, seems a failure. But I liked this signing –- it’s a signing that was pretty low-risk and, in theory, it allowed us to send TJ Eyoma and Jubril Okedina out on loan, two players who might otherwise have played right-back for the Under-23s. I like the concept of identifying and signing young players released by other academies both in terms of providing Under-23 cover but also having a closer look at them to see if they can be developed. For example, Marcel Lavinier was picked up from Chelsea and found himself making a first team appearance this season.

Onto the two that surprised me a bit, Richards is a buzzy little attacking midfielder/forward with strong technical skills who scored 3 in 9 for the Under-23s this season, and I thought there was something there worth working with for longer. I actually thought he could be one that could get a loan next year. I would suggest that lower league recruiters should take a look at him for their clubs.

Likewise Whittaker, a versatile forward who I thought would get another year. The problem for Whittaker, I guess, was the amount of quality forward players he was competing against for game time.

Another slight surprise is that Jeremie Mukendi has been retained, as he has barely played, which normally implies that the player isn’t fancied. But hopefully we’ll get to see a bit of him in the Under-23s over the coming season.


I am the host of The Extra Inch; a Spurs podcast that delves into the analytical side of Tottenham games. Check us out!

I recently added a Donate button to this site. It’s on the ‘About‘ page. I explain why on there. Cheers!


All a bit much, isn’t it?! So much to say, but I’ll wait and see how this pans out first…

In the meantime, thanks so much for all of the messages and comments about my previous article. I intend to respond to all comments on my day off tomorrow.