1) There are various stages to every joke, but it is crucial to get the audience on side. This is the pledge.
Start with something mundane to lure the audience into a false sense of security. ‘A man walks into a bar’ for instance. Or ‘Knock, knock’. Or “we are expecting a quiet summer”.
Any self-respecting Tottenham manager must learn to say this with a straight face, and it formed the foundation of Mauricio Pochettino’s appointment. In July 2014, just two months after joining the club, the Argentinean managed to keep a straight face when double-dared by Daniel Levy to give the killer line.
“Not many, we have a very good and big squad,” Pochettino said. “Last summer the club made a big effort during the window and I believe in these players. We are always looking to improve but we don’t expect big change.”
Ben Davies, Federico Fazio, Benjamin Stambouli, Michel Vorm, Eric Dier and DeAndre Yedlin arrived. Sandro, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jake Livermore, Michael Dawson, Zeki Fryers and Lewis Holtby left. Oh Poch, you old card.
2) Begin shedding players who have failed at the club. This is crucial, because it enables everyone to marvel over how chairman Levy is a “magician”, cleverly ignoring that he sanctioned the purchase of said players in the first place.
“We got that for Soldado!” people will tweet. “Hahaha, that Chinese side paid how much for Paulinho?” they’ll ask rhetorically. Half as much as you paid, mate.
3) Ask the manager which players he wants recruiting. It’s crucial to consult him on this, but less crucial to remember. Still, writing them down gives the impression that you’re listening.
The timing of this is also pivotal. Make sure that you do it when some of the deadwood has already been cleared out, so that the manager’s hopes of realising his targets are raised.
4) Reject notions that your best player will leave the club, preferably also getting said player to state that he wishes to remain at the club “for the long-term”.
Doing this guarantees that this best player will not leave the club until the following summer.
5) Flirt with the idea of getting your business done efficiently (and amaze long-suffering supporters in the process) by buying a number of players early in the window.
Crucially, make sure that the players signed are young and highly-rated enough to cause a ripple of excitement, but not good enough to immediately improve the first team.
Final point here: Try to make sure these signings play in positions for which you are fairly well-stocked, thus leaving baffling gaps elsewhere in the squad. See Davies, Ben (with Rose, Danny) and Trippier, Kieran (with Walker, Kyle) for details.
6) Go quiet. Deathly quiet. So quiet that passers-by are tempted to poke you with a long stick to see if you’re actually still alive.
The preferable situation here is to get to the stage where fans begin to discuss unlikely rumours, not because they believe they contain any shred of truth, but just because the summer is really starting to drag. When you hear someone mispronounce ‘Konoplyanka’ on Paxton Road, you’ve basically nailed it.
Supporters will now enter panic mode, which shows you have completed the level.
7) Get the manager to make a series of statements intended to rile fans beyond the normal advised level. After all, they’ve already bought the season tickets. Fools.
Again, Pochettino has become a master of this art.
Let’s play a game. See if you can guess the obvious unanswered question after each of the three quotes made in the last week (answers in brackets for those slow off the mark). The last one has two:
– “It was a club decision to sell Soldado. A club wanted the player and the player wanted to leave This was his decision from the first day of pre-season. We knew he wanted to leave and we found the best solution for the club and for him.”
(But what about the best solution of the club that now only has one striker, if you’ve known about it since “the first day of pre-season”?)
– “You start the season and the transfer window is still going on, the business happens in the middle. Maybe it is something to fix in the future but these are the rules for the Premier League. We are all on the same page.”
(You do know you can buy players in June and July don’t you?)
– “Kane was tired. He came later in pre-season and it is normal. We knew before the end of last season Harry Kane would play a lot and the consequences you can see now.”
(If you knew before the end of last season why have you let strikers leave without buying more yet? And why in holy s**tballs did he play 77 minutes in the MLS All-Star game in Colorado (more than any other player in the match) 86 minutes in the Audi Cup on August 4 in Munich (more than any other attacking player in the match) and go on a poxy post-season tour to Australia then?)
8) With two weeks left in the window, make bids for players who their clubs don’t want to sell and so you know will be rejected immediately. You’re being like Chelsea, you see, all naughty and unsettling to lure the players (but crucially missing the bit about promising title challenges and Champions League football).
One must stand up to applaud Spurs’ bid for Saido Berahino. Only a club who possess a 22-year-old highly-rated and sought after English striker with 24 Premier League goals could truly know the value of 22-year-old highly-rated and sought after English striker with 19 Premier League goals. We’ll call it £15m eh Baggies, and no hard feelings?
West Brom value Berahino at £25m, so the ideal thing to do would be to negotiate a deal for £22m on deadline day and then celebrate wildly at saving £3m on his asking price. When people mention that it might have just been better to cough up the extra £3m and have a new striker during pre-season and for the start of the campaign, shout loudly that ‘SOME FANS ARE NEVER HAPPY’.
9) In a moment of panic at the end of the window, sign three players in two days.
I can’t state this firmly enough: THESE MUST NOT BE THE PLAYERS THAT THE MANAGER REQUESTED.
Instead, they should play in the same position, but have a different style, be suited to a different system and preferably be of slightly lesser quality than the targets identified by the manager.
For example, if Mauricio Pochettino tells you he wants Morgan Schneiderlin and Mateo Musacchio, go out and buy Benjamin Stambouli and Federico Fazio. He’ll never notice the difference anyway, it’s not like he has already managed one of his targets and managed one of his previous sides against the other.
10) Sit back and relax as your team briefly threatens to gatecrash the top four party but eventually finish in fifth or sixth. After all, your best player will continue to bail you out every time. Nothing could possibly go wrong with putting all your eggs into the basket of one player. Oh no.
Plus there’s always next summer. Once you get rid of the deadwood you bought last year…
Daniel Storey – A fan of a club that isn’t even allowed to spend money