Spurs on the up?

If you ever find yourself in the canteen at Tottenham Hotspur’s resplendent Enfield training base and your phone rings, do not answer it and if you are about to enter someone’s office, make sure you knock on the door first.

Respect is the order of the day at Spurs, courtesy of Mauricio Pochettino, and is one of many reasons why the club has gone from perennial underachievers to a seat at English football’s top table.

The manager demands it from every one of his staff, not least himself.

When I was fortunate enough, along with a couple of journalists, to sit down with Pochettino in a Melbourne hotel this summer, we took no issue when he stopped the chat to greet a physio as he walked by and enquire over his wellbeing.


The fact that we were even there, drinking coffee with the bleary-eyed, jetlagged manager, was because he recognised the time and effort we had made, not to mention the money our employers had spent, for us to be Down Under.

Such an attitude was also why the 44–year-old took the club’s staff to Christmas lunch during his first year in charge and why, when we had finished interviewing him, he took us into the temporary analysis room to teach us a thing or two about the way Spurs play.

All of this is music to Daniel Levy’s ears. When the chairman replaced Apprentice boss Alan Sugar in 2001 following his and friend Joe Lewis’s takeover, he probably did not envisage saying ‘you’re fired’ as often as he has.

That was not Levy’s way. The Essex-raised Cambridge graduate had three aims. The first was to provide a pathway for academy players into Tottenham’s first team. The second was to turn the perennial mid-table underachievers into a club consistently challenging for top honours and the third was to build a new stadium to almost double the White Hart Lane capacity and take revenues to a new level.

It may have taken the best part of 15 years, but he is almost there.
Spurs have a youthful team loaded with homegrown products that now appear set to become perennial top-four challengers. At the side of White Hart Lane, the girders of their 61,000-seat future are rapidly being put into place.

The long-suffering souls of N17 will want you to whisper it quietly, but their club is finally, finally on the verge of the next level.

It all seems a long way from where Tottenham were in 2014 when Tim Sherwood departed. Not long previously, in a spree that would make Dale Winton wince, a splurging Spurs had spent the best part of the Gareth Bale money on seven, high-earning new players. While Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela remain, such extravagance was a move away from the club’s principles.


Levy wanted to go back to his original plan, which was a squad made up of one-third academy graduates, one third exciting young English talent taken from elsewhere and one third established professionals.

He knew that highly regarded academy chief John McDermott was continuing to work his magic with the youngsters but needed a manager who would embrace that culture.

Levy had not only heard great things about what the Pochettino had done at Espanyol he had seen it himself at Southampton.

Pochettino immediately made his presence felt. In came his famously intense training sessions, out went some of the top earners. Extra focus was placed on the kids. Every day Pochettino speaks to McDermott. It is not uncommon to see the manager out on the balcony watching an Under 14s match, let alone the Under 23s.

The English spine, in particular the likes of Harry Kane, Delle Ali and Danny Rose, prospered.

New signings fit a certain profile. When it comes to bringing players in, the system is relatively simple. Pochettino identifies positions he feels need strengthening or will need strengthening in the near future and goes to head of recruitment Paul Mitchell, with whom he worked on at Southampton.

Mitchell asks for recommendations and then goes to work identifying potential targets. His track record is a fine one and when he leaves next year, following his unexpected decision to do so, Levy will have to get it right again when he appoints his successor.


He will make the decision after much interaction with Pochettino. It is a key move and the pair will strive to find the right man.

Tottenham know their level and whoever takes the job will need to know it too. White Hart Lane’s size, and the revenue it generates, means they currently cannot compete with the likes of the Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Saido Mane was a target last summer but when the Merseysiders got involved it was game over. The expectation, rather than hope, is that the new stadium, set to open in 2018-19, may change this. Not that they will abandon their philosophy of thirds.

Levy, meanwhile, remains Levy. The chairman has spent the last few months locking up the talent. One former chairman at another club joked that Levy once had him over a barrel for a player he was trying to sign from Tottenham. ‘I wouldn’t mind, but we found out his legs had gone when he got here,’ he added.

Try luring the likes of Kane, Alli or Eriksson or any other of the platoon who have just signed long-term contracts away from Spurs. It will cost you.

Earlier this year flashbulbs were lit, alarm bells rang and Spurs Nation, an understandably neurotic bunch, went into meltdown when Pochettino was spotted having lunch with Sir Alex Ferguson, a known admirer, in a London restaurant. The manager had already agreed a new five-year deal verbally and put pen to paper not long after. Like his players, Pochettino is under Levy’s lock and key.

Next to the new stadium sits the impressive Lilywhite House, a sleek modern building housing a huge Sainsbury’s (which employs dozens of locals) and Tottenham’s administration offices.
The meeting rooms are named after years the club won trophies. They may be adding a few more in the coming seasons.

(Daily Mail)

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