Ed Woodward gets plenty of criticism (and some of it richly deserved), but Nick Miller describes a numbers man pushed into the Old Trafford limelight. It's not easy...
It's been a long time in the making, that Southampton Philosophy. And in one summer, it's all been ripped asunder. Has it been replaced by another or the same old?
It's become popular in recent years, as Spurs lurch from one clusterf*** of varying degree to another, to point the finger of blame not at the latest manager to prove inadequate, but rather the man who appointed them all. The old Brian Clough maxim of "if a chairman sacks the manager he initially appointed, he should go as well," is certainly tempting, a credo that would lead to a few problems in terms of smooth admin (and what else do we follow this great game for?), but might well place a little more responsibility at the feet of those upstairs.
Daniel Levy has a couple of reputations, firstly as an arch-negotiator, the man able to wring money from even the shortest-armed/longest-pocketed clubs in the land, and secondly as a man who is fond of the old knee-jerk, of the sacking on a whim and the eating of managers.
The first is a little exaggerated, for while this is the chairman who managed to turn a profit on Mido and snapped up Rafa van der Vaart for a mere £8million, he is also the man who spent £17million on David Bentley, thought Roman Pavlyuchenko was worth £14million and paid £15million for Jermain Defoe a year after selling him for half that much. Levy the transfer negotiator, like most of us in all walks of life, has his good and bad days.
The second is perhaps a touch unfair too. In Levy's 13 years in the job, nine managers have been called into his office and been given the sweet goodbye, which certainly sounds like a lot but two of those (David Pleat and Tim Sherwood) were very much interim appointments, while George Graham was inherited and thus not Levy's choice. In addition, in the same time Chelsea have had ten managers (assuming you count Jose Mourinho twice), Aston Villa have had eight, West Ham seven, Newcastle eight - we could go on. So while Tottenham's number is larger than some, the idea of Levy as some mini bald Massimo Cellino is perhaps a little erroneous.
One justified accusation is that Levy is guilty of confused thinking, of wild swings between ideas of how his team should be run. Ex-Arsenal hero Graham's disciplinarian approach was replaced by Spurs royalty in the more technical Glenn Hoddle, the pressure on whom was so great that he failed and the safe hands of Pleat were brought back. Jacques Santini was a gamble that backfired in a matter of months and his successor Martin Jol, originally the Frenchman's assistant, was sort of appointed by accident, initially because there was nobody else around, but then his results demanded he stayed.
After the avuncular Jol was ditched during match (very much the football equivalent of Phil Collins divorcing his wife via fax*) the colder Juande Ramos came in to work with director of football Damien Comolli, who had been operating a 'European' system of one man taking the transfers, another taking the team. When that was deemed a failure, Levy pulled the trigger on that continental system, called the most English man he could think of and got Harry Redknapp to run the whole show, but when that eventually became tiresome he reverted right back to a man in a suit buying the players with a fashionable European type on the touchline. And of course Andre Villas-Boas didn't last too long, replaced by the second most English man Levy could think of.
However, is the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino the first example of what you might call 'joined-up thinking' on Levy's part? Sherwood was so obviously (well, obvious to everyone except Tim himself) an interim manager and not part of the wider scheme that Spurs might as well have given him a fat suit and a goatee and called him Rafa, so for an indication of Levy's thinking one must skip back one, to Villas-Boas. The gravel-voiced part-time manager, part-time meadow model has a similar approach to Pochettino, favouring a high-energy, high-pressing system with a fluid forward line, and will of course operate under a director of football, with Franco Baldini thus far surviving Levy's revolving door policy.
It's almost as if - and stick with me on this one - Levy has...a plan. It's like he has a relatively clear idea of how he wants Tottenham to operate now and in the future. It is very nearly - and lord forgive us all for using this word - a philosophy.
Of course, there's a decent chance Pochettino will be sacked in October and replaced by a dream team of Sam Allardyce, Peter Reid and John Sitton, but until that day comes, sit back and enjoy the relative novelty of Daniel Levy: the clear thinker.
* Yes, that story probably is apocryphal, but if you don't want to instinctively think the worst of Phil Collins, then unfortunately we can't be friends.
Nick Miller - follow him on the Twitter
Gizmooo - I think it's a fair assumption that Sherwood was intended as a stop gap, he was the best qualified from within the club and was appointed as caretaker. The only reason there was a contract was because he (quite rightly) insisted upon it. Probably knowing that it would be the end of his employment at Spurs in any form at the end of the season and he would at least get some kind of severance pay.- dryice