The blueprint still requires ink
An excellent read from David Conn via the Guardian here about the problems facing Daniel Levy in terms of how the club can sustain competitiveness at the very top level based on our current financial model. Or rather the quest that presents itself and how it may continue to remain answered even after we appoint a new manager.
Once more it's worth regurgitating the ugly truth that it was because of how Redknapp behaved and the apparent non-relationship he had with Levy that saw him lose his job. Judging by comments made by Levy and Redknapp post-'sacking' the official line is that Harry was let go because the club want to go in a different direction. Isn't this just PR, an avoidance and agreement to side step making public the real issues at hand? Or am I just basing that on the deafening silence from the club whilst Redknapp talked contracts to Sky Sports? Seems obvious to me but it's just an opinion.
Redknapp was a success compared to the past. The past in this instance is the Sky Sports era of football where we spent over a decade turning up for a yearly party at the wrong address. You could attempt to argue with the squad at hand it was expected in the time Harry spent at Spurs to achieve top four challenges - which he did. Even if that wasn't the intention when he joined. It soon become apparent that if the squad played like men instead of lost little boys they could aspire to so much more. So regardless of his flaws and lack of tactical shrewdness, he has left a steady foundation for the next man to build on. Perhaps the next man will be backed by Levy in the transfer market. You would hope they will see eye to eye and spend money on areas that need mending and upgrading. Forwards, midfield and the defence. Not too much then to concern themselves with.
Beyond Redknapp, Conn does hit the nail on the head in suggesting we need to be able to go toe to toe with the teams above us and to do so we need to be equipped, tooled up so that we stand a chance of us being the ones left standing when the fighting is done and dusted. Other clubs, the richer clubs might not always spend as much as you expect them to but they knock us out when comparing wage structures. As we all know, money talks and in this modern game it can talk players into remaining or signing regardless of whether Champions League is part of the package. I'm not completely comfortable with it but the wage you offer a player is a far more powerful tool than being able to sign the player in the first place. City might be able to out bid any competitor (both in transfer and wages) but not everyone can sign for City. It creates tiers in football in terms of which clubs can go after certain players. The Hazard transfer was interesting because apparently we could afford his fee but his wages? The only tears here are the ones falling down our cheekbones.
Ironically, Redknapp's legacy (aside from the stability we've found with our league form) finds our expectations for the club to see us compete at the very top of the Prem. There's no particular model or blueprint that has been implemented by coach or chairman. We know how good we can be, we know we can be even better and we know what we need to be able to get there. It's up to the chairman to unequivocally back the next man placed into the hot seat. I never got the impression Redknapp had that reassurance. Probably because he wanted to do things his own way. He took it a touch too far in the end, a one man band playing a tune that nobody else at the club was singing along to. There was disassociation, again this can be placed down to Redknapp and his selective detachment and loyalty to himself.
A very good manager, say someone equal to Redknapp, will probably achieve what Redknapp achieved. That sounds obvious but the point is with the players at our disposal, we won't degrade in any major way unless 3-4 key players walked away from the club. Which is highly improbable. So as long as the next man in gently and carefully begins to mould the team into the vision he has for them, there shouldn't be a major impact on our expectations or form. Granted the pressure (not just from the media) will be a problem for obvious reasons (how dare we sack their favourite son). But equally the pressure from us, the supporters. The much maligned Redknapp has actually set the bar very high as many amongst us expect us to achieve what we failed to do this season: 3rd place or better. Even in his failure there's an echo of glory.
We're going to need to retain our feet firmly on the ground and appreciate that one season in football is hardly comparable to the one that follows it. Still, the attitude has to be focused on bettering this season regardless. How else do retain a sense of progressive positive motion and emotion to see the club elevated further forwards?
To actually achieve more we have to be completely ruthless in our ambitions. There is no need for a five year plan as per previous years. Scouting and youth development should be part and parcel of a clubs set up. Which it is at Spurs. Although the scouting element is not something I quite understand since Comolli left. What we do need is to maximise our potential based on our current stature and aim not just for the season ahead but for the team to grow and evolve organically as to avoid any transitional periods. It's a continuation, not damage limitation or gutting. This job should not be one that is made difficult by the circumstance of the team itself. We just need to manage these expectactions with a little caution and not too much arrognance and entitlement.
To achieve that the chairman and manager have to be completely on the same page with short term transfer policies to get us challenging now and with long term projection. Even without a manager, signing a player of Jan Vertonghen's quality is the perfect illustration of this. As opposed to the moneyball quick win 'for the present day' strategy that Redknapp had with his signings (although kudos for Parker and yes, Redknapp's method can work if money isn't going to be spent). A blueprint for the future will be birthed from such a harmonious relationship.
Easier said than done. We still don't know what Levy is planning on doing in terms of the structure that will be set up to support the new manager/coach. Rumours suggest the return of the director of football position. Although arguably its never gone away. Levy has acted as one since Comolli was sacked, working with Redknapp or attempting to do so. We assume money wasn't spent because they couldn't agree on targets. If there was something else at play in terms of working to a budget outlined by Levy then Harry did work miracles to see us compete with the clubs above us that dwarf our budget in comparison.
The big boy revenue wont be there until the stadium is built and that could still be five years away if not longer. So until then we have to sustain our stature as a 'top five' club season in season out which means perhaps the short term tactic Redknapp embraced - working from one to the next - is the only way to do with the caveat that we sign players we can then sell on for profit (a classic Levy tactic, one that we'll probably see with Luka to La Liga).
Modric will go this summer. Bale might go next summer. We've always been able to attract players that are then sought after so perhaps this is the only financial model that will work to sustain our challenge. It's high risk because we're going to have to be up there challenging to attract the players in. It's harsh, it's not something I like to tag us with, but you can understand how Spurs act like a stepping stone, a gateway for players that want to showcase before they move on. I'm certain the link up with Internacional was based on this thinking, as we'll probably see with Sandro at some point in the future with him moving on to Italy.
Sometimes high risk can pay off. A club like Spurs in the CL every season would mean the club can start to throw heavyweight punches back at the bigger boys standing over us. Having no monopoly is a good thing but it also opens up a far more competitive league meaning we might have to share the privilege of wanting to get back in it. I for one would want to see Sandro see out his career at Spurs as a legend. It's going to take some doing.
Are we punching above our weight? In financial terms, yes. In footballing, there isn't that much difference at this moment in time between 4th and 3rd. We have to adopt and strength to remain level pegging. It's risky like I mentioned but there is no other way until we have a 60k (or just below) stadium.
To finish, here's Conn's opening paragraph from his article:
There are two ways to ask the same question about the Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy, the club's owner, Joe Lewis, and the three directors who sanctioned this week's sacking of Harry Redknapp. Do they have delusions of grandeur if fourth place in the Premier League is considered not good enough? Or, to put it more bluntly: what more do they want?
This isn't about Levy and the directors having delusions of grandeur. We don't have any other option at the moment than to build on the team finally sustaining consistency in the league. The key is the football played. Another season of Champions League will elevate us further in terms of accountancy. I'll settle for that and a piece of silverware. No one said this would be easy. Retaining Harry would simply give us more of the same and there's nothing wrong with that. Had Harry behaved, had we perhaps got into the CL. If anyone, Levy included, wants to validate sacking Redknapp purely for footballing reasons then perhaps the risk is in the belief that the right top class appointment would give us the very same thing but with the potential to go that little bit further and as I stated, there's very little between 4th and 3rd.
We can't stagnate, regardless of whether the statistics sneer back at us.