For the seventh time in his 12-year tenure as chairman of Tottenham Hotspur, Daniel Levy agreed to a compensation package for a manager, not the sort of consistency football wants.
Reports claim Andre Villas-Boas will be paid £4 million severance money after leaving Spurs “by mutual consent,” which will top up the £12 million he received when Chelsea showed the Portuguese the door.
On planet football, nothing succeeds like failure and it is unlikely too many 36-year-olds will have benefited so generously from two golden handshakes.
In most industries, a chairman would bite the dust after making a string of expensive poor appointments. Football chairmen tend not to sack themselves, though, but when it suits them they can sell up and walk away with a handsome profit.
Despite Levy’s failure in hiring and firing managers who, for a variety of reasons proved disappointments, the chairman retains the backing of Joe Lewis, listed by Forbes as the 290th richest man in the world.
However, many believe if the pair were not close business partners in ENIC, which owns Spurs, Levy may have walked the boardroom plank by now.
While Levy’s popularity among Spurs supporters is dwindling, Villas-Boas had a very small fan club in the English media, unlike his predecessor, Harry Redknapp. Everyone loves ‘Arry, not least his son Jamie, who twisted the stiletto in AVB’s back when he said: “He did very well last season with the previous manager’s team.”
The former FC Porto coach never courted the press. Speaking to them is part of his job, like putting on a tracksuit. AVB did not do small talk and, like former England manager Fabio Capello, was never given the benefit of the doubt by those who fill the sports pages.
Losing 6-0 at Manchester City and 5-0 at home to Liverpool was bound to cause alarm, and the players who surrendered so meekly escaped the vitriol aimed at their manager. That’s how football is.
Despite these embarrassing thrashings, when the axe came down Spurs were seventh in the Premier League and eight points off first place, in the quarterfinals of the League Cup and had reached the knockout stage of the Europa League. All this while introducing seven new players to the demands of English football, four of whom, apparently, were brought in against AVB’s wishes.
Erik Lamela, Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiriches and Christian Eriksen were identified by technical director Franco Baldini, meaning the manager had £56 million worth of personnel he had not approved.
This scenario was a car crash waiting to happen, and the Sun, where Redknapp Sr. “writes” a column, claimed Tottenham was “in turmoil” but by no stretch of the imagination could where Spurs were when AVB left be called underachieving at a club which has never finished higher than fourth. One anorak even claimed AVB is the first manager to be sacked by a club above Manchester United in the Premier League.
In his first season, Spurs finished fifth with a Premier League high 72 points. During his 16 sixteen) months in charge, AVB had a win percentage of 55 percent, the best of any Spurs manager post-World War II.
AVB, like Redknapp was not fired because of bad results, both fell victim to a breakdown in their relationship with Levy, who wanted Spurs to play a 4-4-2 formation rather than 4-5-1 with Emmanuel Adebayor restored to the side, no doubt to justify the £175,000 a week salary the chairman agreed to pay the Togo international.
Interim manager Tim Sherwood duly obliged by recalling Adebayor and changing AVB’s tactics in the League Cup quarterfinal against West Ham. While Adebayor scored, Spurs lost 2-1 to a weakened Hammers side, which was not the ideal job interview for Sherwood, who will be in charge for Sunday’s Premier League match at Southampton.
The anti-AVB brigade is bending over backward to be positive about Sherwood, praising him for choosing Jermain Defoe and Adebayor in a “traditional double-spearhead.”
The fact that Defoe has managed one goal in his last 26 league games and Adebayor has scored eight times in 16 months may have something to do with the reasons AVB overlooked them.
Levy has a reputation as a hard-nosed businessman who always gets the best deal for Spurs, but he appears to have pushed AVB aside without having a successor lined up.
Ajax’s highly rated Frank de Boer has turned down an approach from Baldini and the managerial revolving door at White Hart Lane is unlikely to attract the cream of the world’s coaches, most of whom are with Champions League clubs or preparing for the World Cup finals.
The likelihood is Sherwood will continue until the summer when more candidates will be available. Spurs have enough good players to compete for a Europa League place even with the inexperienced Sherwood at the helm, but the pressure is mounting on the seemingly bulletproof Levy.
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust group sent a strongly-worded request to Levy for a clarification of the club’s plans.
It read: “Following the departure of Andre Villas-Boas on Monday morning and defeat in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday evening, the Board of Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust believe it is paramount that the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, Daniel Levy, issues a statement addressing the supporters to explain the rationale behind the manager’s dismissal and clearly stating his plans moving forward.”
So Levy continues the search for his eighth manager in 12 years. If you do the same thing over and over again, you should become better at it. We’ll see.
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JACK WILSHERE was silly. His index finger gesture to Manchester City fans during Arsenal’s 6-3 defeat last Saturday was borne of frustration, an all-advised moment of retaliation at those who had been goading the midfielder.
The incident, unseen by any of the match officials, was picked up by television and Wilshere was charged and handed a two-game ban by the Football Association, one less than a potential leg-breaking tackle would earn the perpetrator. The F.A.’s view was that if the gesture had been viewed during the game, then it would have merited a dismissal.
It is subjective whether you consider what Wilshere did to be, in F.A.-speak, an “offensive and/or insulting and/or abusive gesture” which is a red card offense or merely unsporting conduct which is punishable by a caution.
I cannot remember a referee sending off a player in English football for displaying a middle digit as Wilshere did. He did not run toward the opposing fans, an act of petulance and it was understandable the England international appealed against the punishment.
After all, Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was suspended for one match, fined £20,000 in 2011 after raising the middle finger of his left hand as he walked off the pitch following a 1-0 defeat at Fulham.
Still, you can’t accuse the F.A. of coming down harder on Johnny Foreigner.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.