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14 April 2021

Mourinho was always a bad choice for Spurs, but I know better than to despair

Spurs are a middling club doomed to end up middling – now made worse by a muddling, meddling manager. But I have been here before. 

By Hunter Davies

My son has turned against Spurs – well, against Mourinho. Never thought that would happen, not the way I brought him up. He used to go to sleep with a Spurs programme on his face and when he was struggling to read and write, he was always willing to copy out Spurs team sheets. There you are pet, I would say to his dear Mama, I told you an interest in football would make him literate.

For ten years or so I used to have half a season ticket for Arsenal and would go to all their home matches. My son was furious, calling me a traitor. “You are giving money to the Scum!”

He took over my Spurs season ticket, which I had had for 50 years, when the new stadium opened. I pleaded old age, not disenchantment with Spurs. I couldn’t be bothered dragging myself to White Hart Lane any more when I could watch on telly. Now he says he is not going back. Not while José is there.

I did say to him, even when Spurs were top of the league for ten seconds earlier in the season, it would end in tears. José has left his three previous jobs – Real Madrid, Man Utd and Chelsea – after poor results. He is now a serial loser.

I could not understand what Spurs chairman Daniel Levy – the smile-less, geeky school swot who sits on his own in the director’s box – was playing at.

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Levy is clearly clever, with a Cambridge degree, even if it’s in land economy, whatever that is. He has been financially canny and got the wonderful new stadium built. This year he celebrates 20 years as chairman, making him the longest serving chair of any Prem club. Levy and his family control around 30 per cent of the company that owns 86 per cent of Spurs shares. Joe Lewis, based in the Bahamas, has the remaining 70 per cent of the company.

I went to a shareholders’ meeting a few years ago, when the new stadium was being announced. I asked Mr Levy to assure us there would be a Spurs museum in the stadium. He did not seem sure, just muttered something I did not catch. The museum appears to have been built, but has not yet been open.

[see also: How, after Frank Lampard’s sacking, English managers can get back to the top of the Premiership]

Mr Lewis I have only seen from afar. I was visiting my dear friend Sean Connery in the Bahamas, where he lived in the same gated community. Sean was driving me to the beach one day in his golf cart and pointed out Lewis’s house. Ugh, it was horrible. I later saw him in a restaurant.

Mr Levy has clearly done a brilliant job with Spurs, making them money, though I still don’t quite understand why the naming rights to the stadium have not been sold yet. Surely that would make the club a fortune? Perhaps all the best offers have come from betting or booze firms.

Most of all, I can’t understand why Levy appointed José. It seems totally out of character – when he seems so sensible, always staying out of the limelight – to fall in love with a fading celeb clearly well past his sell-by date; an egoist who clearly has little idea about how to treat people; who is only interested in himself, still convinced he is the greatest coach the world has ever seen; who always blames others.

Worst of all is Mourhino’s failure to improve players, surely a prime function of any coach: unlike Pep at Man City, who has resurrected John Stones’ career and moulded Phil Foden, or Solskjær at Man Utd, who has revived Luke Shaw.

José has done nothing for Dele Alli and Gareth Bale, two natural talents withering away. I have been so disappointed by Spurs’ defence all season, their clumsy, negative, fearful attitude – unable to capitalise on rivals doing equally poorly.

But unlike my son, I am not in despair. I have been here before, followed them too long. They have delusions of grandeur. In reality they are a middling club doomed to end up middling – now made worse by a muddling, meddling manager.

So who should get the job when José is gone? As in politics, you always want a new leader to be different from the last one. Brendan Rodgers would be a safe choice. Steven Gerrard would be worth a gamble. We need someone modest for a change. Not another boaster and blamer.

[see also: From cheerful suffering to purring, polished artistry: Man City’s strange path to glory]

This article appears in the 14 Apr 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Careless people