Disclaimer: Yes, I know, it's a bloody long article.
Tapestry Part V
Redknapp - The Messiah
Dear Mr Levy,
I've had my moments. My attempt to parachute onto the pitch at White Hart Lane in protest of our early season form backfired when I mis-calculated the wind factor and my resulting trajectory took me onto the North Circular. My demonstration in protest of the West Stand bourgeoisie also ended unsatisfactory. I guess wearing an actual suit made of bagels was a major oversight on my part. I still have the scars from the pigeon attack. But nobody can ever doubt my commitment. I've put myself out there and will continue to do so. As soon as the court injunction ends.
But perhaps there is no urgency to be on the front-line thanks to the current equilibrium bestowed upon us by your good self. The appointment of Harry Redknapp was a masterstroke of a decision. Nine years into our five year plan to turn us into a Champions League outfit and you finally use the Batphone.
You’ve tried it all during your tenure, your predecessor too. Ex-legends, an up and coming manager, PE teacher, international tactician, promoted assistant, experienced continental mastermind. None of it has worked. Apart from that flirtatious 2006 season which ended with a chorus from Johnny Hates Jazz.
It never quite comes together, does it? Usually because of the itch to jump forward three steps when only one step is required. It's all a bit John Sergeant giving it the Fred Astaire. A comical mess of an embarrassment.
So when Ramos and his ketchup ban was shown the door we all fell into any abyss of confusion, nervously eating away at our fingernails trying to work out who the next victim of the White Hart Lane guillotine would be.
I clearly remember the evening when we all found out. I was watching a remake of Debbie Does Dallas, which in essence I believe to be superior to the original thanks to some sparkling camera tricks and shrewd re-working of the plot. I didn't discover the appointment until an hour or so after it had happened. Sky Sports News was in a giddy meltdown that resembled a club terrace in Ibiza, with churning smiles all over the place as the presenters all bounced up and down with joy, repeating the news over and over and over again with the ticker at the bottom of the screen working over-time.
And then it got surreal. Harry himself on the blower telling us he had accepted the job.
I was numb. And the Kleenex was firmly pushed aside.
"Is Harry likely to fulfil the dream that Levy champions? Does he have the tactical ability to outsmart his peers at the top of the table? Can we see him achieving Fergusonesque empire building success with us fighting it out with Wenger, Rafa and <insert current Chelsea boss here> in the midst of battle for a top 4 place?"
As the questions bounced around my head, the numbness faded, and the hefty kick of reality landed on my backside.
"When have we ever sustained such a challenge anyway? In fact, isn't this form of out-stretched ambition the reason why we never get things right, always eager to change things? We are bottom – all that matters is getting off it"
You don't need me to tell you this is Tottenham Hotspur. But I feel the need to run through recent history. I guess it's a statement of fact. Lessons learnt.
We are ambitious by nature, longing for glory days and nights. Like any other fan who supports a club that has the resource to compete with the top sides, you know you are a little closer to the dream than others less fortunate. But instead we are kept in a perpetual ground-hog day where the same promises are made and mistakes repeated. And yet we never learn from any of it. You must know this already considering the sharp rise of frozen shit pellet attacks on your car over the past few seasons.
Juande you will be able to drive down the road without incident.
Pre-Redknapp, Ramos was obviously still dizzy from the offer and although we will be forever grateful for that day at Wembley, nothing else actually worked.
During the summer in came some key signings and the removal of all deadwood along with some quality additions. You know, like selling Berbatov. To Utd. In the final minutes of the transfer window. At the death. Sold. And bringing in a right-winger, to go alongside the other right-winger we have. Because two right-wingers is better than one especially when one of them costs £15M and can star-jump. On camera. In the background. It was funny. The star-jump. Jumps like a star.
A new age was upon us. It lasted as long as the opening credits to Match of the Day.
What we were left with in the aftermath was a disjointed squad of players who lacked self-belief and pride and two measly points from 720 minutes of football (that's eight games to the common man).
How did we get here? Let's go back even further and work our way back to the present.
Once upon a time, in a simpler world, we were the glamour club. Remember those days? The 1980's were good to us. Shirts tucked out, bit of swagger and a couple of Argentines. Proper Cup finals too. It wasn’t sexy football. It was tantric.
Happy days. But nothing stays still forever. Keith left. Scholar made a mess. Venables v Sugar. We slowly degraded whether it was down to in-house politics or financial meltdown.
The lust we have (it's just part of our genetic makeup) meant we always over-extended when attempting to re-claim past glories. We stagnated. But around us, others began to move on. Arsenal went from winning things in a boring fashion to playing football with the type of revered football that was once bestowed on us. Chelsea stole our glam. And while others (Liverpool) were dethroned (Utd) we jumped from one manager to the next, all failing to claim any concept of consistency.
- Pleat's experiment almost worked.
- Venables saved the club in '91 and then that spoon full of Sugar saw him swap the bench for the High Court.
- Ossie, bless him, was over ambitious and out of his depth, an appointment that stemmed from Sugar's aim to appease the locals.
- Francis got the team working hard but then it all faded into mediocrity.
- Gross was Sugar's attempt to do what Arsenal did with Wenger and how we laughed.
- Graham was another attempt at something that we didn't quite fathom and then the Levy era truly kicked in with the return of the King of the Lane.
- But Hoddle's ego devoured itself, sandwiched in-between Pleats caretaker responsibilities and ‘technical director’ meddling.
Then came Santini, Jol with Arnesen.
This was the master plan in full effect - the Director of Football structure - one that allowed for failures. Santini didn't work so off he went, taking with him the keys to the bus. But no need to fret. The DoF was the guardian of the dream allowing the vision to never lose focus, whilst others around did. Managers are appointed based on what the DoF believes to be the right man for the job, a man who can work hand-in-hand with him.
Jol was promoted and then we watched Arnesen quit for the grand challenge on offer at Chelsea (had nothing to do with money that).
So in came a new DoF. Might have different views and policies than the departing one but the ambition remains the same, no? The ambition based on your directives as chairman. Welcome Damien Comolli, the new keeper of the vision. Safe hands please, don't drop it.
The tranquillity did not last long.
Jol was meant to be the one. Comolli and Kemsley thought otherwise. Many agreed that Jol lacked the edge that was required, with the choking in big games syndrome. So when Ramos took over this was seen as the natural logical step in the master-plan. The final piece of the progression puzzle to elevate us towards the promised land of Champions League.
"Down to bare bones, two points from eight games, triffic"
But just how many mistakes can we afford to make? Up until and just after the Ramos appointment, you built in a nice little safeguard, stating that if Juande didn't work out - Comolli would be responsible. Shock horror, it turned to shit again and not even you and your PR machine could save the infamous DoF from certain doom.
Straw. Camel. Back.
The faith you had in this awkward system was as mystifying as the unnecessary plastic surgery the Leslie Ash of mascots had done to his face. I’m talking about that piece of work Chirpy and that ridiculous face-lift.
We needed an English-can-hit-the-ground-running coach who could lift us up and out of the mire by sorting out the fundamentals. Back to basics was the only way to kick-start things again. The future vision, for the first time, was irrelevant. The immediate future the priority. The plight we were suffering, the only thing of consequence. No messiahs need apply.
Hence Harry, the only viable available option, one born out of desperation due to the predicament. Sure you dropped a sound-bite or two about how you had spoken to Harry in the past about offering him the position and that he is someone the board respect and yadda yadda yadda.
Two or three years ago, appointing him as manager would have been seen as a negative backwards step. And why? Well because, Harry is like, ex-West Ham and what's he ever done/achieved to warrant the job at the Lane? You know, cause we’re such a big club, innit.
Ouch. Another reality kick to arse: Bottom. Two points. Relegation fodder. Damage limitation. Anything after that is a bonus, and anything after that can be something a little closer to that vision we have cradled for so long.
It's no longer 2006. The French do not fear the English. The big bloated ambitions of cracking the Prem’s elite led by a director of football structure has imploded and left us in a perilous position miles under the foundation of hope we would usually start at.
So in some ways having Harry Houdini take the helm was a master-stroke. One or two people pulled out their calculators and worked out that based on the fixtures left in the season we could still go down. Countless Facebook Relegation Party invites does not mean it's a dead cert the champagne corks will go flying for opposing fans.
We were never going to get relegated. Far worse teams in the Prem. But because of the start we had and the fact that we had a squad of players epically under-performing.
Which is why the publicity shy Harry Redknapp had the midas touch with our powder-puff millionaires. It must have been a little gut wrenching for you Daniel. Deep down, you must have felt a little empty that we had come to this. But come to this we had.
And it split Spurs fans, had West Ham fans laughing even harder. But then sometimes, things fall into place accidentally. The less obvious turns out to be the more pleasing. And soon enough the doubters became believers.
- Harry has got the players playing for themselves and the team
- Players starting in positions they are comfortable in
- Playing to their strengths. In a formation that makes sense and works
- Got the best out of BAE and Lennon where Ramos failed miserably
- Palacios signing was inspired and yet a perfect illustration of the failures of previous DoF's and managers who never got close to filling this gap (apart from Carrick who worked well for us in a different kinda way)
- Defoe just had to come back home
- Keane, did have a positive impact on his return, even if he has run out of gas a little in what has been a roller-coaster season for him
- Points accumulated has been impressive. We got to a Cup final, again. White Hart Lane is currently a fortress
Only concern is the re-signing of Pascal Chimbonda who has hardly figured for the first team. Although I have sources close to the club who believe him to be one of three people employed to wear the Chirpy costume on match-days. The other two are currently in hospital due to accidents outside of the work place. Apparently. So they tell me.
Sure, he shows a lack of instinctive quick-thinking changes to turn the course of the game if things are not quite working and sometimes is late in making key substitutions. But we knew this already. He's no genius.
So does make Harry unofficially a stop-gap? Get the team consistent and up to 6th/5th place and make us steady and reliable enough to not only attract players (which we don't tend to have a problem with anyway) but to also attract a glamour manager? If that's what we need. Considering that hasn't worked before. But then nothing really has since Keith.
But thinking that far forward is the exact type of mistake we are so prone to making. One step at a time. That's for you Daniel AND some of our fan's who take a few wins on the trot to mean that glory is waiting round the corner with her skirt over her back and panties down at her ankles.
So, Harry? It all looks good thus far doesn't it? But I refuse to get giddy. History reminds me to stay firmly on my feet.
There is no doubting that going into the summer, we are looking in great nick. Two or three additional players and we are set. Not for 4th spot. Regardless of what Harry or anyone else in the media will no doubt spout in their predictions for next season. 4th is completely unrealistic, unless Arsenal implode. Winning silverware and finishing 5th is not so ridiculous. An FA Cup would be nice. But continued progression and strength in depth would be even better. We just need to compete. And we've shown glimpses of doing just that against Top 4 opposition this season.
This isn't a deluded outlook. It's just based on the fact that the teams just outside the top 4 are - all on form - about equal in class and effort. And all have the chance to edge in front if they get their summer planning spot on.
It's a realistic ambition.
We've done nothing for years and years in the league if ever tbh (apart from those two 5th spots). And rushing into it has never worked, so instead of assuming we are X amount away from being a top 4 club, how about just working hard from one season to the next until we are actually good enough and its obvious we are within touching distance by the virtue of points in the bag.
Stating the bleeding obvious, aren't I?
See the disease at Spurs is one that has engulfed everyone from the board to the fans to the media and even opposing fans. Because we are so hungry for success, we find ourselves not so much expecting it like it’s a God given right, but always believing we are on the right path in a very over excitable manner that tends to blind us from the harsh truths.
It's the money, the support, the signings. Always positive, always with intent. And the warning signs are pushed aside until it’s too late for recovery.
We put ourselves out there like a cocky boxer who knows he's forgotten his gum-shield but fights on regardless.
No matter what anyone might say about us, we might not be perceived as a big club in comparison to the Top 4, but we are a big club compared to one or two others simply on the basis of what I've stated already - cash, big name signings. It makes failure all that more bitter because the resource to compete is actually there.
Delusions of grandeur!! Delusions of grandeur!! I guess when you have this type of intent constantly, without success you'd think we would learn something. But alas, no. That's us with hearts on sleeves. We might have the intent, but it's nothing without assured focus. And not the type that Comolli displayed when he courted Ramos.
Everton strive for the same thing, but there is no urgency to chop and change. But there isn't half as much money. And they were winning titles back in the 80's, whilst we only ever claimed two in the 60's. Are they less ambitious?
Chelsea, before Romans money, were a Top 4 club. Something they worked towards and have now consolidated, and then gone further because of the money they came into and the Jose appointment.
You make your own luck.
We are a proud club, with a rich tradition. And we are stuck between the past and a vision of the future.
Harry's job should be simple. Change the culture of the team, the players. Instil a winning mentality. Start at the bottom and work our way up. Which, ironically, is exactly what we've done.
There is far too much trauma on the pitch for a club that does almost perfectly off it. Leave the football to the manager and let things progress naturally.
We need to get better than the Villas and Evertons and Citys. And then we can look up at the remaining four.
Consider this a warning shot across the bow. A statement of history we all know inside out, but needed to be stated for reference. Don't make me come back to this for the wrong reasons Mr Levy.
It's in your hands.
Buck the trend.