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Madness in the method

Hugh McIlvanney Published: 22 December 2013

Maybe a magic mirror is needed, the kind that ould sho Daniel !evy not only the "amiliar image o" himsel" as a "irm#$a ed businessman, ith all the lineaments o" the tough negotiator he is re%uted to be, but also an accurate re"lection o" his in"luence on the a""airs o" &ottenham Hots%ur' &here can be only limited sym%athy "or (ndre )illas#*oas, the latest o" the eight managers +%urs have "ired since !evy became chairman in 2001' &hough the young Portuguese has reason to claim he as given insu""icient time either ith ,helsea or at &ottenham to %ut a lasting %ersonal im%rint on %er"ormances, during his brie" s%ells in charge o" those clubs he su%%lied %lenty o" evidence that his egotistical devotion to his theories about ho "ootball teams should be managed as too stubbornly resistant to the %ractical -uestioning o" his ideas by ha%%enings on the "ield' ."ten, events have invited the sus%icion that his methods aren/t -uite as smart as he thinks they are' *ut doesn/t recent history $usti"y similar s%eculation about the chairman0 .bviously it/s rong to see every sacking as %roo" o" an ill#$udged a%%ointment' In any s%here o" activity, a%%lication o" the soundest criteria in giving somebody a $ob cannot insure against a subse-uent eru%tion o" %roblems ca%able o" %ersuading the recruiters they have made a mistake' Ho ever, the s i"tness and "re-uency ith hich &ottenham have changed their minds on the orthiness o" the managers they/ve engaged 1even the marrying o" admirable achievements ith e2citing style could not save Harry 3edkna%%4 must stir doubts concerning the logicality o" the thinking behind the hiring and "iring' (nd !evy, as a noticeably assertive chairman, has to be %rominently identi"ied ith the re%etitive lurching bet een con"ident assessments and abru%t abandonment o" them' &he e2ercise o" ultimate %o er at &ottenham has, at least to outsiders, long been envelo%ed in o%a-ueness' 5oe !e is, the e2%atriate multibillionaire hose 6nic

investment organisation is over helmingly the controlling shareholder in the club, is idely regarded as a %u%%et#master ith strings long and strong enough to enable him to sha%e %olicies "rom his base in the *ahamas' !evy is a %illar o" 6nic, hich clearly means his %osition at 7hite Hart !ane is one o" vast authority, even i" absolute autonomy is another matter' His enthusiasm "or the modern "ashion o" thrusting the team manager into alliance ith a "igure "unctioning as 8director o" "ootball9 or carrying some e-uivalent designation has certainly blurred the distribution o" res%onsibilities lo er do n the &ottenham hierarchy' &echnical director is the a%%ellation attached to :ranco *aldini, and his ork a%%ears to e2em%li"y his s%ecies/ habit o" being better at intervening aggressively in "ootball business such as trans"ers than at sharing cul%ability hen the conse-uences "all miserably short o" e2%ectations' +%lashing out an estimated ;110m on the ac-uisition o" a bunch o" %layers "ollo ing the orld record sale o" <areth *ale to 3eal Madrid 1"or a re%orted ;=>m4 as %lainly intended to %rove that the de%arture o" *ale could be turned into a collective boosting o" the s-uad/s e""ectiveness' !ooking "or immediate signs o" such a trend as %atently unrealistic but hen hat materialised instead as a dramatic disintegration o" "orm in the Premier !eague ? the combination o" a @#0 thrashing by Manchester ,ity at the 6tihad on Aovember 2B and last +unday/s >#0 de"eat on their o n ground by !iver%ool amounted to historic embarrassment ? that huge e2%enditure on trans"ers in the summer as bound to be another entry on the debit side o" the ledger "or )illas#*oas' Cet it/s inconceivable that *aldini didn/t have a big hand in choosing the arrivals' &hat he is still a%%arently secure in his %ost is no shock' 7hatever else they do, the director o" "ootball#technical director "raternity seem to serve as conduits "or senior suits at clubs ho ant to e2ert direct in"luence on decisions that should be strictly the %rerogative o" the manager' &here are cases here men in the *aldini role have a hel%"ul e""ect, but many more here the im%ression is o" undermining meddlers' &he cost in com%ensation o" the casualty rate among &ottenham managers, though "ar "rom negligible 1)illas#*oas is said to be due ;2'>m4, is d ar"ed by the corres%onding %ayouts ,helsea have made in dismissing eight during the 3oman (bramovich regime that began in 2003' In that %eriod, the +tam"ord *ridge "inances have hardly emulated the im%ressive order %revailing at 7hite Hart !ane but %ro"ligate ,helsea have gained three Premier !eague titles, on the :( ,u% "our times, the !eague ,u% t ice, the 6uro%a !eague once ? and trium%hed in the ,ham%ions !eague, hile &ottenham/s only notable tro%hy success this century as in the !eague ,u% o" 200=' .ne revolving door has been o%erating re ardingly hile the other has, %erha%s, become a discouragement to managers o" the calibre that ould %rovide the best ho%e o" a surge in +%urs/ "ortunes all the ay to the craved ,ham%ions !eague involvement and beyond'

*rendan 3odgers, ho is develo%ing the !iver%ool team that in"licted humiliation on +%urs a eek ago, admits to "eeling he had 8a close shave9 hen he declined an o""er "rom !evy to take over at 7hite Hart !ane %rior to )illas#*oas/s a%%ointment' (nd 3odgers ackno ledges that the hectic turnover o" managers in north !ondon as a key "actor in strengthening his %re"erence "or (n"ield' He did recognise &ottenham Hots%ur as a great club and, i" that struck many as a "lattering descri%tion o" the inners o" $ust t o national cham%ionshi%s, the most recent in 1D@1, his ords didn/t $ar ith those o" us ho vividly remember the glory days o" Dave Mackay, Danny *lanch"lo er, ,li"" 5ones, 5immy <reaves and their cohorts' 7e ant Daniel !evy and 5oe !e is to "ul"il their ambitions "or the club but sus%ect their methods ould bene"it "rom ad$ustment'