Why trophies can never be the *only* measure of success

Date published: Thursday 21st November 2019 2:51

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Opposites attract
When it comes to football philosophies, Mourinho and Tottenham are the antithesis of each other. While Tottenham under Pochettino has served a delight for fans to watch, Mourinho is defence first and practical minded manager. While Levy is known for his stinginess, Mourinho has earned a reputation as a man who works with big budgets only and throws a tantrum when his demands are not met. It was a marriage no one saw coming. But here’s the conundrum though. Pochettino elevated Tottenham to an elite club. The jury is still out on whether they are one without him. Mourinho on the other hand, was once definitely an elite coach. But his reputation has taken a beating and there are elite clubs knocking on his door anymore. Like it or not, this is the best both are going to get.

But you know what, it might just work. At United, he had to take a team used to the “watching paint dry is more exciting” football of LVG. Trusting Mourinho to make a team more exciting is definitely not what Mourinho does. But take an exciting team like Spurs and add more solidity to it? Now that’s what Mourinho can certainly do. Spurs do have an array of attacking options in Alli, Kane, Eriksen and others. But they also have experienced defenders who Mourinho would relish working with.

So here’s how the Mourinho experiment works. There is a huge upturn in form. Spurs do not have the most spectacular season but they pull off a couple of exciting draws most notable of them being Chelsea and Liverpool or Machester City. Spurs finish the season just outside the top 6 or maybe even in the top 6.

Come the transfer window and you see the first cracks in the relationship between Mourinho and Levy. Mourinho wants to spend big while Levy balks at the idea. Still, Levy manages to get at least one shiny toy for Mourinho on deadline day to appease him for the time being.

Season 2 commences and it all starts to gel together. Spurs are a defensive rock while Kane continues to score goals for fun. They finish the season in 4th place but manage to win a minor trophy, ending the season on a high note. Mourinho can’t stop gloating and we can’t stop vomiting.

Summer starts and that’s where trouble begins. One or two players leave because Levy is still not offering competitive wages. Mourinho is made to buy in the bargain basement and he’s not happy about it. He starts picking fights with everyone and the players have had enough. They start the season poorly and things don’t seem to be improving. Mourinho is sacked once again, his reputation as an elite manager finally buried. Spurs come to the realisation they aren’t an elite club after all.


What is success?
Curtis, LFC, Belfast argues this morning that Poch is not a success because he’s not won a trophy and claims it is laughable how much the bar is lowered to consider someone successful in football. If the standard bearer of success is to win a trophy, I would argue that the bar is considerably higher!

I’ve had a couple of promotions in my job over the last 6-7 years. I regularly meet my objectives and occasionally surpass them. I’ve never won an award for my work, or any recognition within my industry. Only the people at the absolute tip of the industry win those, generally with significantly more experience and working in far bigger companies. Can I consider my career to date a success? By the trophy metric, no.

However, in reality, I do think I’ve been reasonably successful against the objectives I and my boss set. This is how success is really measured: have you gone above and beyond the expectation? In that respect, surely Poch was a success. His objective wasn’t to win the league cup, it was to take Spurs to the next level and make them genuine challengers. Winning a trophy would have been a bonus but you can’t say he hasn’t taken the team forward. There are very few opportunities to actually pick up silverware and the odds are generally against you. Nearly every manager in the league is a failure if the bar is set so high.

Is Eddie Howe a success? Sean Dyche? Gareth Southgate?
Alex, (off to tell my boss to nominate for some corporate awards schmoozing), Ayr


I have a genuine question for Curtis LFC Belfast who argued that only tangible silverware measures success. If  you were a manager, and next season you were appointed to a league two side and got them promoted each year by finishing 2nd and then took them into the premiership and missed out on winning the league by one point to an incredible man city side, you wouldn’t consider yourself successful? I’m not trying to be smart I’m genuinely curious.
Amro, Gooner (Wait, are you telling me there isn’t actually a 4th place trophy?)


Desperate measures
The more I think about it, the more I think Levy’s move smacks of desperation.

Why else would you decimate your own transfer budget by paying off your manager only to recruit another manager and pay him double?

The move has short term written all over it.

I’d like to think Arsenal would never have fired Arsene back in 2006 if Spurs players hadn’t had the dodgy lasagne but in all honesty I think Arsene would have been fired. We just couldn’t afford not to.

Would Spurs be sacking Poch were it not for the stadium? I highly doubt it.

It may look lovely and new but that stadium could yet be an albatross around their neck as can they really afford to pay off £15m a season Jose if this all goes tits up?
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London


Enjoy the ride
Dear F365.

Come on people, we can stop now. We aren’t a set of fans that demands success in the silverware stakes, as much as we play on the whole ‘fantastic football’ it’s been littered with stages of absolute dross and managers who have been so dour it hurts your eyes, we’ve also had some appalling footballers signed and who regularly turned out for us. It’s not always been rosy in the White Hart Lane garden.

Poch was great, loved him, appreciate what he did, got fed up with him as well but will always be a favourite of mine. But let’s wait on what happens next before we decide the future. Mourinho may be a car crash, but he may be exactly what both parties need. I’m happy to enjoy the ride.

Managers have different strengths, Poch was good at instilling a competitive mentality and forging the sum greater than it’s parts. But this isn’t sustainable and we need a manager who will push the chairman and make difficult decisions for the long term success. Maybe 5 years with the same boss just isn’t healthy in today’s game and a refresh is constantly needed. Maybe stability is just another word for stale in the football world, more examples of this working than stability working.

Anyway, welcome Mourinho, may you cheer up and deliver the rollercoaster us Spurs fans are used to.
Steve (THFC)


No way, Jose
Dear Editor,

Just to throw my thoughts in on the situation at Tottenham if I may. David, Sydney in yesterday’s mailbox, pointed out that qualifying for the Champions league must be of top importance for Tottenham with the new stadium to finance (please correct me if I’m wrong), and I think this is probably the main reason for sacking Mauricio Pochettino and hiring Jose Mourinho – primarily to close that gap in the short term (not necessarily to win trophies ASAP).

It just started me thinking on how much of a huge task that will be! In the past 5 seasons, the team finishing 4th had 71, 75, 76, 66 and 70 points, respectively. Let’s say 72 is a competitive aim based on these numbers – That’s 58 points needed from 26 games left. Tottenham need to drop fewer points from 26 games (20 points max) than they have already in 12 (22 points so far) to achieve that total.

Not impossible given the squad they have, but my, that’s a huge, huge ask – isn’t it? Never been a fan of Jose Mourinho, but if he can pull that off?! It would be incredible.
Marc (London) 


The small stuff. Again
Great mail from Tom, Devon, NUFC and I fully concur with you regarding the glorious sounds of the ball thudding off the bar or making that “shink” noise as it fizzes low into the net.

Personally, I miss the “Highbury Screamer”, that woman behind one of the goals at the old Highbury, unsure if it was the North Bank or the Clock End, who always seemed to let out a blood-curdling scream when the opposition were about to score, or in the process of scoring.

Any Gooners know what became of the Highbury Screamer? Did she make it to the Emirates? I’ve never heard the screaming there – just the booing of the home fans towards their own players!

Lee, eternal nostalgist


In response to Tom, Devon, NUFC, I would agree that there is no better sound than a full blooded shot hitting the crossbar!

In 2003 my dad took me to see Juventus vs AC Milan Champions League Final at Old Trafford. Boring game, 0-0 finish, but it was all made worth it when Trezeguet (the French hitman, not the Egyptian imitation) smashed one against the bar.

The fact that Trezeguet was always one of my favourite players along with Del Piero makes this memory even better!

Milan went on to win the game on penalties with Trezeguet missing his penalty. If Nedved wasn’t banned Juve would have played Milan off the back.

Even as a United fan this is one of my best memories of Old Trafford and it was amazing to be able to see a CL Final live with my Dad.

I hope to be able to return the favour some day in the near future for him!
Josh (MUFC) 27


Hi Tom, Devon, NUFC,

Those are undoubtedly two of the best sounds in sport. I’d like to offer another two (that probably rank below yours):

1. The sound when a full back makes a long sprint to get back and cut out the winger’s run onto a long ball behind them, when they are right on the touchline and blast the ball as hard as they can. If you’re really lucky they are right next to one of those fluffy microphones and the TV picks up a deep, meaty thud of boot and ball.

2. The roar of Schadenfreude when an opposition player smacks a speculative 30-yarder at least that far wide. There’s something beautiful about the sound of reducing a hero to just another guy, particularly when that player smiles and acknowledges their humanity.

Great question. In the days of the Most Hated Manager© managing the Most Hated Team© we need things like this to remind us of why we fell in love with the beautiful game.
Mike, Leeds, AFC



Great question from Tom in this morning’s mailbox. I totally relate to the sound of a goal; Fabinho’s rocket against Manchester City recently made a particularly satisfying sound!

My favourite part of football, because it reminds me of my first live game when I was a kid, is walking up the stairs from the concourse to the seating area and seeing the pitch in front of you. The deep, beautiful green which looks like a perfect carpet is captivating, and it always seemed so much huger than on TV!

Stu, Southampton 


Like Tom, Devon, NUFC I love a couple of things about football that are largely inconsequential, but which always brighten my day.

One is the always intriguing outfield player in goal – think Kyle Walker for City recently, or Harry Kane during a Europa game before he solidified his spot up front. The mismatched shirt and shorts are the cherry on top, but the palpable glee on the part of the crowd and the opposition – “Test him!” – is brilliant. An injury time corner where the keeper goes up or even that rarest of beasts, a keeper playing outfield, are great, too.

My other favourite thing is a shot hitting the woodwork. Not just caroming off the post or thumping against the bar, as audibly satisfying as they can be, but when a more delicate chip bounces off the top of the framework with a ‘sproing‘ or even a ‘tink’… Well, it’s worth sacrificing a goal for. Almost, anyway…
Michael C


Good question Tom

For me the finest sight in football is a backpeddling goalkeeper. He’s off his line, the opposing player has gone for the lob, and his legs are frantically whirring backwards trying to keep pace.

Even better if there’s absolutely no chance he’s getting to it.




Trip to Old Trafford!
I’m going to Old Trafford! To watch Colchester United in a cup quarter final! I’ve had my best people on it, and it was statistically 1,000,300 to 1 likely that I would ever write those words in that order and not be lying.

I’ve never been to Old Trafford at all, so already exciting to see a live game at one of the most famous grounds in the world…but a cup quarter final is not something Colchester play in, unless the name of the trophy is preceded by the words ‘Bob Lord’.  We’ve already beaten Spurs and Palace, in what’s been a pretty lively competition all round (nothing quite like the Liver poll 5:5 Arsenal game though), but Man U away is something pretty special.  It’s enough to make me want to find out what a Carabao is.

We’ll probably lose to Pochettino’s resurgent reds (the game’s not until Mid-December) by a half-dozen goals, but I don’t really care at this point. The fact that fixture exists at all is enough for me.  Plus, I’ll be able to tell my Grandkids that saw the great Jesse Lingard play live, so there’s that.

Football is ace!
Jeremy Aves


Storey time
Thanks a bunch Daniel Storey
! Now I have to explain to everyone in the office why I’m crying at my desk at 09.15 on a Thursday again!
Tom,  CFC London 


After reading the latest missive from Daniel Storey it got me thinking about a similar story in my own upbringing (we all have them I’m sure).

My Dad put our names down for season tickets at Anfield before I was born (1978), but due to the waiting list they wouldn’t come through for many years. In the meantime he started taking me to individual games, a few per season as a young lad. I still remember my first game, sitting on the coloured seats in the Kemlyn Road stand with the big pot of Crown Paints emulsion in the centre circle before kick off as Liverpool prepared to take on Leicester City (4-3 Rush hattrick, 1987).

My parents had already divorced by this time and going to the game became our thing to do together. Standing on the Kop as I grew up we ended up going to virtually every home game even before our season tickets arrived. It became our weekend ritual. We went through Hillsborough together (we had tickets but couldn’t get to the game because Dad had to work), the excitement of driving to Anfield and walking to the ground. I really felt as though I grew up in those years. The last game standing in the Kop (damn you Norwich), it felt like something was genuinely being taken away from us.

Years later and my Dad could no longer go to the games although I continued, through the wilderness before Rafa arrived and I booked my ticket to Istanbul. Because of the wonderful lottery system of allocation I ended up going on my own. I can still remember the phone call between my Mum and Dad – Mum terrified of me going to Turkey on my own for a match, blaming him for my love of the club (“It’s all your fault, if anything happens to him….” even though I was in my 20s).

Over all those years football was one of the only topics we really spoke about, it brought us together in a way that nothing else could and our conversations were full of Liverpool, Man Utd and the hated Fergie (amongst many others).

Fast forward to 2010 and my Dad sadly passed away, at the funeral they played YNWA and it genuinely felt as though that was for me. It was our thing, and we had sung it hundreds and hundreds of times together over the years.

I’m sure people who love other aspects of their lives in a similar way, be it sport, the arts or something else have connections like this…but for us, it was football, and it gave us something that nothing else did.
Ste, LFC, Gibraltar (for now)


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