Spurs’ biennial manager scramble has become one of Our League’s finest and least dignified traditions

·3-min read
Tottenham supremo Levy Credit: Alamy
Tottenham supremo Levy Credit: Alamy

Spurs are at it again, aren’t they?

Two years on from the disastrous and humiliating manager hunt that wasted a summer and ended inexplicably with Nuno Espirito Santo in charge for a bit, Spurs are repeating all the same mistakes.

Actually, that’s not quite fair. There has been a subtle shift in how it works, one Daniel Levy presumably thinks makes this increasingly rudderless bewildered club look less silly.

The 2021 saga was doomed by a string of top targets being missed before eighth-choice Nuno finally said yes. It was embarrassing.

Let it never be said Levy hasn’t learned from how bad that looked. We strongly suspect the word ‘optics’ has been bandied around quite wildly in the corridors of power at White Hart Lane over recent weeks.

Because the strategy this time, to avoid being turned down by any “top targets”, is simply to deny there ever were any top targets. The line between genius and madness is truly wafer-thin.

Levy must think this makes him look clever but it’s actually far worse. There would, for instance, be no real disgrace in a club like Tottenham failing to appoint a manager like Julian Nagelsmann.

But insisting you weren’t ever even really interested in trying to do so doesn’t make you look clever, it makes you look deranged. A young, highly-rated, available manager who appears to tick every box and is at the very least curious enough to think about it? “We’ve not seriously considered him, actually” isn’t the slam drunk Spurs seem to think. It is a staggering self own.

Levy wrote off this season with a quarter of it still to play and with Spurs – inexplicably yet undeniably – still in Champions League contention when he did so. Two months later he’s already had to sack the first caretaker and appears no closer to a permanent appointment.

Arne Slot, Dutch title winner with perennially underachieving Feyenoord, is the current frontrunner. Maybe he’ll be confirmed by Monday and all will be well. He would be a solid appointment. But it feels more likely that by then Spurs are feverishly briefing that he, like Nagelsmann and Xabi Alonso and whoever else, was never under serious consideration.

From the outside, Spurs seem to be far more occupied with looking like they’re avoiding 2021’s mistakes than they are with actually avoiding them.

It’s unlikely to end as badly as it did in 2021 because the calibre of available coaches this summer is higher. It makes Spurs’ apparent determination not to fancy any of them all the more baffling, but the fact many fans – and remember there are few more world-weary and pessimistic humans in football right now than Spurs fans – see someone like Brendan Rodgers as a worst-case scenario says a lot.

But whoever ends up in the job will once again have a Nuno-like air of settling. They will never feel like first choice purely because the whole thing has yet again taken so long.

Levy has a pattern now. Swift and decisive appointments in November – whatever else Jose Mourinho or Antonio Conte turned out to be nobody could say they weren’t first-choice – followed by endless and damaging dithering 18 months later. Protecting what’s left of The Brand appears to be taking priority over actually appointing a new manager.

Running around insisting with a sly grin that you don’t have any top targets actually two long, painful months into a manager search really isn’t better than failing to land them, and in any case the result is much the same.

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