Football is often an unforgiving business. One can go from the highest of highs to the depths of despair in minutes. The line between success and failure is a very fine one, and just a visit from Lady Luck can be all the difference. Think Didier Drogba’s late equaliser in the Champions League final of 2012 against Bayern Munich. Or Andres Iniesta’s 93rd minute exocet to knock Drogba’s Chelsea out of the competition three years previously. Fast forward to last season and Spurs were involved in two of the most pulsating European games of football ever seen. Luck certainly played a part in seeing them past Manchester City and then Ajax.
Those two performances and results were masterminded by Mauricio Pochettino, and saw Spurs into their first-ever Champions League final. Unfortunately, Liverpool were just too strong for them in Madrid and Spurs left the Wanda Metropolitano empty-handed. Despite the loss, the fact that the north Londoners had made it all the way to the showpiece evidenced that ‘Poch’ was still getting it right and progressing his young team.
Indeed, many clubs had cast envious eyes in the direction of White Hart Lane. Potential suitors were interested in how well the Argentinian had got Spurs playing despite having no money. Real Madrid were clearly enamoured enough to seriously consider him at one point, albeit that particular move never came off. Yet here we are, six months after that final. Pochettino, along with his backroom staff, have been sacked by Daniel Levy.
The Spurs chairman is known to be ruthless and clearly isn’t a businessman to be messed with. His statement about recent results being disappointing sounds a little hollow in the context of what the club have achieved under Pochettino, however. Of course, as the custodian of the club, Levy is well within his rights to hire and fire as he sees fit, but this particular decision seems a little knee-jerk to say the least.
Back in 2014 when Pochettino took over, he announced that “we will give everything to make you proud of this football club again.” He was their 10th manager in 12 years and it’s fair to say that Spurs were in a bit of a mess, but he delivered on his promise.
His record has been one of ‘nearly but not quite,’ but taken against the backdrop of rarely being given sufficient funds to progress, and spending the best part of two seasons at Wembley after delays to their new stadium, it’s something of a minor miracle that the team were still competitive throughout that time.
Training was said to be innovative and enjoyable, with a core of young British players being brought through by Pochettino. Indeed, Messrs. Kane, Alli, Dier, Winks, Davies and Walker-Peters et al, all owe him a debt of gratitude.
Currently 14th in the Premier League table and 20 points behind leaders, Liverpool, it’s clear that this season, domestically at least, is a write-off. Levy will therefore argue that the board are fully justified in their decision. In a results driven business, three wins from 12 games for a side that have been there or thereabouts in the title race in the recent past is, admittedly, hard to swallow.
But surely Levy and his board need to look at the bigger picture? To understand what Pochettino and his team have brought, and continue to bring to the party.
His replacement, Jose Mourinho, needs to hit the ground running and will arguably want the funds that Pochettino had asked for – and not received – last summer. Does that indicate that the club were even thinking at that stage that perhaps he wasn’t the man to take them forward, but they’d give him a third of the season to see how things panned out? There aren’t any other reasonable decisions that can be drawn.
What’s interesting is, despite the lack of silverware, Tottenham fans, to a man, are disgusted by their club’s treatment of the now former manager. Social media has been on fire with messages in support, with many scratching their heads at the timing of the announcement. But, the deed is done.
Were Tottenham right to sack him? That’s a question that can really only be answered at season’s end based on what Daniel Levy and his board believe constitutes success.