Spurs and Levy go full Boris in baffling, unsustainable support of pariah Paratici

Dave Tickner
Tottenham chief Paratici

We take the p*ss out of Spurs a lot because, well, there are lots of reasons to take the p*ss.

Largely, though, it comes from a place of sort of head-shaking affection. They occupy a curious and unique place in the English football structure having admirably muscled into a group containing five clubs possessing inherent historical or financial advantages Spurs absolutely do not.

They may be the small fry of the Big Six, but there shouldn’t even really be a Big Six. We all enjoy mocking Spurs’ trophy drought, but a quick look at the recent trophy-harvesting records of more inherently similar clubs – your Evertons, your Villas, the Newcastles of this world – and you’re reminded that Spurs’ failure is really only one of partial success.

They’ve finished in the top six for 12 of the last 13 seasons, and seventh in the odd one out. No other striving club has been able to organically replicate anything like that level of consistency. Leicester’s lightning-bottling brilliance aside, Spurs are a special case.

So when we take the p*ss, it’s usually from that starting point. And because Spurs do all manner of silly, Spursy things, we’re actually almost never surprised by them. If anything, it’s generally the weekends where they don’t throw away two-goal leads in the last 15 minutes against bottom-of-the-league teams who’ve scored 11 home goals all season and then have the manager launch explosive 10-minute monologues of hate in the press conference that catch us off guard.

We feel we know Spurs and their specific flavour of nonsense pretty well by now. And therefore we find ourselves grudgingly doffing our caps, because last night they managed to surprise us.

Spurs and specifically Daniel Levy have had their heads in the sand over Fabio Paratici’s inevitable impending demise for months and months now, but to continue attempting to bury that head in bedrock now every last grain of sand has washed away is – even by the standards of all things Spurs – absolutely batshit.

Genuinely, what are we missing? What is it about this man who has just had a 30-month football ban for book-cooking extended worldwide by FIFA that makes him worth this unquestioning, reputation-destroying support from a football club that just cannot afford it, now more than ever?

There isn’t even a cynical argument about the quality of his work making him worth the astonishing sacrifice. Paratici is the man who wanted to bring in Gennaro Gattuso, did bring in Nuno Espirito Santo, thought Antonio Conte should stay on until the end of the season even after throwing the entire playing staff under the team bus in the most nakedly cynical ‘please sack me’ ploy ever attempted, and hasn’t made a single noteworthy Spurs signing that hasn’t come from Italy, where absolutely nobody will now go near him or have any dealings with him.

With Conte gone there isn’t even the argument that having Paratici on hand to manage his more explosive outbursts is necessary.

Spurs are risking their entire reputation – and, pipe down, they do have a reputation to salvage – on someone who just cannot possibly be worth it based on ethical, moral or cynically dispiritingly football-only reasons. It is utterly absurd.

It’s easy to think of mistakes Levy has made in his 20 years at Spurs, but impossible to think of a graver, more obvious, more self-inflicted and less necessary one than this unflinching support of a fraudster.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy watches his team

So, so many opportunities to save face have been missed. When the punishments were initially handed down, Juventus’ board resigned; Spurs and Paratici and Levy did nothing. He could have gone then. He definitely should have gone when Conte did. He absolutely should have gone yesterday morning when FIFA’s decision made his position entirely untenable, and it’s insane that he didn’t go last night, when Spurs finally got round to releasing a statement so ludicrous, spinning a version of events so credulity-stretching, and so unintentionally comical it’s a wonder it didn’t come from the press office at No. 10.

It was a truly Johnsonian slice of guff. With nowhere left to go, Spurs were left only with Boris’ own favoured defence: no, we’re not dishonest or crooked – we really are that stupid.

Even if we extremely generously accept that Spurs genuinely didn’t know FIFA were about to announce this right now, the sense of astonished bafflement that an entirely predictable outcome had been reached at all is incredible. We’re struggling to think of a funnier official club announcement from a Premier League club.

Seriously, the first two paragraphs are a comedic triumph.

‘Following media reports today regarding the FIFA Disciplinary Committee decision to extend worldwide the sanction imposed by the FIGC Federal Court of Appeals on Fabio Paratici on 20 January 2023, the Club made urgent enquiries to FIFA.

‘FIFA has late this afternoon responded to us in writing notifying us today, Wednesday 29 March 2023, that a decision has been made by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to extend the FIGC sanction worldwide.’

It hits every beat. The rhythm of the repetition is flawless. Remember, Spurs didn’t just include this humiliating admission of shambling incompetence; they opened with it. It is very, very funny indeed and the fact it’s in what is attempting to be a furiously po-faced defence of the club’s own position – which is, let’s not forget, the relentless and unceasing support of a dodgepot – elevates it further still.

But it’s also extremely sad. This is a shambles entirely of the club’s own making, and it could be solved with one stroke of a pen. Even from the most cynically football-centric viewpoint it’s a necessity. He cannot do his job now, and his aptitude for it was already questionable. Paratici being absolutely nowhere near the latest Spurs manager search can only be good news.

It goes so very far beyond that, though. Spurs have had a certain reputation during Levy’s time as chairman. He is, famously, ‘different’. He is known as being a difficult and at times even unreasonable chairman to deal with. But there has never been a reputation for dishonesty or corruption.

That changes the longer he and Spurs continue to maintain their current wrongheaded, unsustainable and indefensible support of a footballing pariah.