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Monday Moan: Spurs must think long-term

Mark Holmes blasts Richard Scudamore's Manchester United comments, calls for Spurs to take a long-term view, and discusses the West Ham booers.

Last Updated: 31/03/14 at 17:09 Post Comment

Daniel Levy: Has changed too much, too often at Tottenham

Daniel Levy: Has changed too much, too often at Tottenham

Scudamore showed his colours

After knocking Liverpool off their perch so successfully, one wonders what must be going through the mind of Sir Alex Ferguson at the moment with the Reds establishing themselves as Premier League frontrunners within just 10 months of him exiting the Old Trafford hotseat.

That Liverpool's rise has coincided with the great demise of Manchester United has certainly delighted the Red half of Merseyside and, let's be honest, sympathy has been in pretty short supply across the rest of the country for a club that has enjoyed unrivalled success since the inception of the Premier League.

One man that is upset about United's struggles, however, is Richard Scudamore. He may be a lifelong Bristol City fan, but as chief executive of the Premier League he is responsible for selling broadcasting rights across the world and, according to Scudamore, the world wants to see Manchester United doing well.

"There are lots of fans around the world who wish Manchester United were winning it again," Scudamore told Bloomberg last week. "When your most popular club isn't doing as well, that costs you interest and audience in some places."

That 450,000 'unliked' the official Manchester United Facebook page after their 3-0 defeat to Liverpool earlier this month suggests Scudamore is right.

It is unlikely too many of those 450,000 are from Greater Manchester but there are clearly fans with less emotional attachment to the club that may focus their attention elsewhere whilst United struggle.

Attention could switch to Liverpool, Manchester City or Chelsea, something that is unlikely to concern Scudamore, but it could also turn to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. And that possibility definitely does concern Scudamore.

Back in November, responding to the increase in popularity in the German Bundesliga, Scudamore stressed his confidence that the Premier League could maintain its title as the world's most popular league.

"Will others get near us? I'm sure they will," he said. "But I don't see any reason why, if we keep doing the right things and keep reinvesting, we can't stay ahead of the pack."

After his latest comments, one must wonder exactly what 'the right things' are in Scudamore's eyes.

After all, if the Premier League requires its most popular clubs to be successful, what hope is there of Scudamore and co. ever seeking to reintroduce genuine competition to the English top flight?

And if it is keeping those fans outside of the UK happy that is most crucial to the Premier League's chances of staying ahead of the pack what hope is there of Scudamore and co. ever introducing limits to what clubs can price tickets at?

What hope is there of rules being introduced to prevent more owners like Vincent Tan from messing with the traditions of a club to appeal to new fans across the club?

And, following Scudamore's comments, do those who backed the introduction of the Financial Fair Play rules still dispute they were designed to ensure the established elite remain as so?

There are many problems that the Premier League suffers from, problems which have seen the league overtaken by the Bundesliga as the most attended in Europe.

Problems which have seen clubs like Leeds and Portsmouth spend more money than they had in a bid to establish themselves among the elite. Problems which have led to a lack of young English players being given a chance due to cautious managers favouring experience and cheap foreign players in the constant battle to keep the riches coming in.

If Scudamore and co. did something to solve those problems, millions of match-going fans across the UK would benefit. So too would 86 clubs not part of the Premier League's 'big six'.

Unfortunately, those UK-based fans and those clubs without massive worldwide fan bases have little effect on the strength of the Premier League brand.

Scudamore did add that "generally, we're in the business of putting on a competition and competition means people can compete," but, make no mistake about it, the only competition that truly matters to the Premier League is the one also involving the Bundesliga and La Liga as the battle to be the world's richest and most popular football league.

Levy can't afford another mistake

As if it was not certain already, Sunday's 4-0 defeat at Liverpool ensured Tim Sherwood will be replaced as Tottenham Hotspur manager in the summer.

Since the initial lift a new man in the dugout often inspires from a team, there has been little to suggest Sherwood is the right man to lead Spurs in the long-term. He has shown signs that he may make a good manager eventually but, for now, a change at White Hart Lane is undoubtedly required.

However, change has been a buzzword at the club for far too long. Harry Redknapp is their longest-serving manager of the Premier League, lasting three and a half seasons.

Perhaps the supporters are too impatient - few of them shed any tears when Andre Villas-Boas was sacked just 16 games into the season - but Daniel Levy ought to show a little more faith in the men he appoints.

After all, it is not unusual for fans of all clubs to turn on their manager during times of trouble - even Sir Alex Ferguson had to deal with sporadic criticism from sections of Manchester United's support - but the chairman is supposed to be more level headed.

A good chairman understands that a manager isn't always responsible for the poor performances of a team, and that has certainly proven to be the case at Spurs. It was obvious to many outside of the club that this season would be one of transition following the big squad overhaul last summer yet Levy pulled the trigger a matter of months after that overhaul.

Did he expect instant success? Or was his decision to sack Villas-Boas simply a knee-jerk one in the wake of a heavy home defeat to Liverpool?

Either way, Levy's decision making over the years suggests he is not the best man to make these judgements.

Knowing Levy, there is likely to be another root-and-branch overhaul at White Hart Lane this summer, with the future of the club's sporting director, Franco Baldini, also said to be in doubt due to the poor performances of the summer signings.

If he does in fact move on, replacing him is arguably of even more importance than replacing Sherwood. And the next sporting director should be given even more power than Baldini.

Many in England are still sceptical of the role but Spurs fans would surely welcome the appointment of Glenn Hoddle, for example, to help decide on the next manager and, more importantly, review his ongoing performance.

That is the way sporting directors work at many top European clubs, who acknowledge it is better for a man with great football experience (and even better, one with a passion for the club) to oversee the hiring and firing than a chairman who may be a great businessman but is not necessarily a football man.

Spurs need someone in that role to implement a philosophy throughout the club, that remains in place regardless of who the manager is. Spurs need someone that understands football, that knows which manager out there is best suited to the club's philosophy and one which can judge whether a manager is doing his job correctly by is training sessions, the way he speaks to players and the improvement or lack of it he inspires from his squad, rather than simply results.

For too long Spurs have focused on the short term under Levy; now is the time for them to take a long-term view.

Hammers fans right or wrong to boo?

Talking of long-term views, the West Ham fans that booed the team off the pitch at the end of their 2-1 win over Hull City will no doubt say that, despite the result, they are unhappy with the style of football being played and the way the team is progressing under Sam Allardyce.

Allardyce himself put the boos down to expectation caused by the team over-achieving last season, when they finished 10th, but insisted steady progress is being made at Upton Park.

It is difficult to argue with him. This is only the Hammers' second season back in the Premier League, remember, yet they are comfortably placed in 11th and will surely avoid relegation barring an astonishing turn of events over the next six weeks or so.

There are surely only a tiny minority of fans that would prefer the team to go down playing a more aesthetically pleasing style of play, as they did only a few years ago, than stay up playing in a rather more pragmatic way.

However, in a Premier League increasingly low on quality in the bottom half, it does have to be asked whether West Ham have to play in that way to keep their heads above water.

Stoke have flourished playing a new style with arguably a lesser set of players than those available to West Ham so, while those recent boos were undoubtedly uncalled for, perhaps the dissenters have a point that there are more preferable ways of skinning a cat than Allardyce's.

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