The Run of Play is a blog about
the wonder and terror of soccer.
We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.
Now we walk the forgotten byways of football with a lonely tread, searching for the beautiful, the bewildering, the haunting, and the absurd.
That is, writes a desperate, face-saving open letter to Spurs fans on the heels of a botched eleventh-hour manager swap. I like to imagine the story of Daniel Levy at this point as the saga of a man who wanted to do the right thing and resign from his position, but found he simply couldn’t face life without the high of the routine press release. The full text of his letter, and a summary of his arguments, follow after the jump.
Here’s Levy’s letter, taken from the Tottenham wesbite:
How quickly things change in football. Our pre-season form, our start to the transfer window and early summer signings had everyone optimistic for the season ahead. The last few days of that window and our poor start to the season has seen all that change. This has been a difficult period for the Club and many questions are being asked and much criticism levelled. I should like to update you on some important developments announced a short while ago, to answer some of your questions and also to outline our thinking as we look to improve our current position going forward.
We have faced many key challenges as we have progressed over the last few seasons and we have had to take important decisions at crucial times – without the wonderful benefit of hindsight and always under full public scrutiny. As such, they have been judgement calls. Some of our decisions and judgements may at times be unpopular with our fans but we always take decisions we believe to be in the best interests of our Club, at the time we make them, and for the right reasons. In many cases, it is simply not possible or practical for all of the factors involved to enter the public domain and I do understand that this can alter or impair the perception of why something has or hasn’t been done.
Today, as formally announced by the Club, I have made one such important judgement call and in doing so I have taken some very difficult decisions. Relieving Juande Ramos, our Head Coach, and Juande’s assistants, Gus Poyet and Marcos Alvarez, of their posts is not something I have undertaken lightly.
Unfortunately, our record of just three League wins since our memorable Carling Cup victory against Chelsea last February, combined with our extremely poor start to the season, led the Board and I to determine that significant change was necessary as a matter of urgency. We are grateful to Juande, Gus and Marcos for all their hard work – they are incredibly professional, committed individuals and I regret that their time in the Premier League has not gone as well as we had all hoped.
The English Premier League is an unforgiving competition – time was no longer on our side and was a luxury we simply could not afford. We have quite clearly not performed to the best of our ability for many months now and our poor run of form is not something we could allow to continue unchecked.
In appointing Harry Redknapp as our new manager, we are delighted to have secured the services of someone we have long since admired and whose track record and knowledge of all levels of football, including importantly the Premier League, is outstanding. I know Harry is relishing the opportunity of managing a Club he knows well, not least from his son Jamie’s time here as a player and Captain, and of re-invigorating and restoring confidence to a squad of highly talented international players. With his great knowledge of the game and his excellent motivational skills, Harry has inspired his teams to consistently over-perform, whilst his preferred attacking style of playing the game sits comfortably with our Club’s history, heritage and the type of entertaining football our fans want and expect to see.
We have spent around £175m on new players over the last 3 years. The purchasing of players is a critical aspect of our Club and, given our current position, it is essential that we go into the January transfer window with absolute confidence in the advice being offered to the Board. Following a meeting of the Directors and a full review of our football management structure, I can also inform you that Damien Comolli has left the Club with immediate effect. Damien will not be directly replaced.
In my opinion, and with the benefit that comes with running our Club with and without a Sporting Director in the past seven years, the successful management of a football club is not about structures or job titles. As in most businessess, it’s about people: their personal qualities, their knowledge, their experience, their relationships, communication skills, interaction with colleagues, leadership and, of course, their ability.
In Harry, we are also accepting with his appointment that now is the right time for us to move back to a more traditional style of football management at our Club. one which we believe will be capable of initiating our climb back up the Premier League table and to maintaining our challenge in the UEFA, Carling and FA Cup competitions.
However, I should stress that we are not in this current position because of any single factor or any one individual. Human nature often dictates the need to find someone or something to blame, but in these circumstances we need all our energies to be directed instead to supporting the team and improving our League position. Nothing else matters at this time.
That said, and without dwelling too much on last summer, I do also want to take this opportunity to address some of the other concerns you have raised. Many of the questions I have been asked and much of the reasoning for our poor start to the season has centred on our striker options. I do not believe this to be the sole reason, but I do feel it is important to set out the facts once again regarding the sale of two popular and talented strikers: Keane and Berbatov.
Robbie Keane’s departure was undoubtedly the shock of the summer. I personally had an excellent relationship with Robbie and he was one player that I always thought would end his career at the Club. I know you all felt the same. I was as disappointed as any of you when he informed me that he wanted to join what he described as his favourite boyhood club. Against this background and despite his obvious professionalism, our coaching staff felt that it would be very difficult to expect Robbie to continue to be such a positive influence in our dressing room when he so clearly wanted to leave us. The decision to sell Robbie was therefore not a financial one, although in such circumstances it was vital for our Club to secure the maximum possible value for a player of Robbie’s ability.
The sale of Dimitar was an entirely different matter. Dimitar first intimated to Martin Jol that he wanted to join Manchester United after just one season at our Club – and just 10 days before the end of the summer 2007 transfer window. At that time, the coaching staff’s preference was to let Dimitar go and for us to replace him. This was not something I would allow – at any price – as I felt that Dimitar’s request was completely unreasonable. From that moment on, we obviously knew we had an issue and we spent many hours over the course of the season that followed trying to persuade Dimitar to stay. I rebuffed a number of approaches from clubs, including Manchester United, this May and again in early July. Despite press stories to the contrary, there was no extended period of negotiation with Manchester United and their July offer of £20m was not increased until they contacted us again in the last few days of the transfer window.
The internal decision to sell Dimitar at the beginning of the window was premised on a suitable replacement being found and on the assumption that Dimitar couldn’t be persuaded to change his mind. Under FIFA regulations, if a players signs a contract before his 28th birthday, he has only to serve 3 years of that contract before he can terminate it and join a new club. Whilst some compensation is payable under such circumstances the level of compensation is set by a third party body in accordance with predeteremined factors, and in Dimitar’s case would have been but a small fraction of the fee we received from Manchester United. But even this was not the final determining factor in our decision to part company with him. Despite the potential cost to the Club and knowing that our efforts to sign an additional, experienced striker had failed, the final decision on whether or not to sell Dimitar was not a financial decision but a footballing one. It was felt that he had not been a positive influence on the pitch or in the dressing room and that this would continue.
The timing of the actual transfer of Dimitar was completely immaterial and unconnected to our bringing in a replacement for him. We had been aware for a long period that he was likely to leave and our negotiations to get the best fee for him was independent of our work to replace both him (as we did with Pavyluchenko) and Robbie, with experienced strikers.
The ultimate failure – as I have said before – of our dealings in this summer’s transfer window was not about the departure of two good strikers, or because we have operated a structure that happens to have had a Sporting Director and a Head Coach, or because our financial parameters are too rigid – after all, let´s not forget that we did bring in much quality to enhance our current squad. Quite simply, we failed because we were not as decisive or as successful in identifying or replacing the two strikers as early as we should have been. Perhaps these insights will help once and for all to de-bunk the myths that have been perpetuated around these transfers.
There is also an inaccurate perception that our Club is run entirely for profit and that football is secondary. Success on the pitch is the sole determinant to the future of the Club and its financial stability, so it would be entirely counter-productive to have anything other than football as our first and foremost priority and it is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. At a time when football clubs are criticised for losing money and for their debt levels, I am surprised that we should be criticised for running our Club on a sound commercial basis and for making a profit. Thank goodness we do make a profit because it has significantly supported the progress we have made over the last seven years and has helped to make us one of Europe’s most secure Clubs. I make no apologies for the fact that we reinvest the Club’s positive cash flow in both players and infrastructure.
And so back to looking ahead and to redress our current position.
Firstly, in Harry, we have secured the services of an excellent Manager of proven Premier League quality. Harry will be working with a squad of quality internationals. We must not forget that this team, without the benefit of three additional players at the time (Pavlyuchenko, Corluka, Campbell), gave a more than creditable performance against the current League leaders. I have spoken to the senior players in recent days and I know the players share our frustration and I know they will dig deep to produce the performances we know they are capable of – they have our full support – and support for the team is absolutely critical at this time.
We have all been subjected to much criticism – myself, the Board, coaching staff and players – having now made what I considered to be necessary, sweeping changes to our football management team, we must re-assert ourselves, regain our focus, and answer our critics in the best way possible – by winning games again.
Secondly, we must prepare ourselves to take advantage of the January transfer window. Harry’s experience of the UK and international transfer market will be of critical importance and I shall be looking to Harry for clarity on our priorities. As Chairman, and as previously in our former structure, I must, ultimately, rely on the knowledge and judgement of my technical staff to give me a clear football-based view and recommendation on our transfer targets.
I can assure you that everyone here, from the Board to our most junior staff member, shares the frustration and disappointment of the season so far, but I can also assure you that all of us in every area of the Club are doing what we can to help the players to produce the level of performance and the consistent good results our fans expect and all of us crave.
We have achieved too much over the last seven years – three successive qualifications for Europe, a League Cup win, Training Centre planning permission – and still more to announce – to allow this to be overtaken and thrown away overnight. We have suffered a set back and we have taken strong action.
I have received numerous e-mails and letters from supporters offering advice and suggestions on how the Club should be run and what we should and should not do. I do appreciate the time people take to write to me and when the e-mails or letters are constructive and not abusive, I can assure you that I read as many as I can. And I do take notice of your views. Indeed, I have been heartened by the fact that the over-riding response from our supporters has been one of determination to get behind the team. Too often in difficult times supporters can forget that their support is needed even more than ever. The team will tell you how much of a difference it can make to them on the pitch. White Hart Lane needs to once again become the fortress it was, not so very long ago. With your tremendous support it can.
Finally, I know I am sometimes criticised for appearing too business-focused, too uncommunicative, or simply for not being emotional enough when it concerns our team. The majority of our fans know that it’s simply not my way to seek a high profile. I do not crave publicity, neither do I believe it is necessary to do my job. I would prefer our team to make the headlines, for the right reasons. We now have a manager who is a great communicator to players, fans and the media alike and I shall also, personally, look to keep you all informed and your questions answered as we progress through the season.
Your support has never been more important – and we are grateful to so many of you for the messages of support and encouragement the Club has received during this difficult period. Now’s the time for all of us to pull together and to get behind Harry and the team.
As I count it, that’s 2,440 words, all of which have been chosen to convey one message: “don’t blame me.” Let’s consider some of the arguments.
1. You can’t blame me because I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. (“We have had to take important decisions at crucial times – without the wonderful benefit of hindsight.”)
So, I would imagine, Daniel, did Damien Comolli and Juande Ramos. So did Martin Jol. I’m sure the purity of your intentions is amazing, but why should you be judged by them, when everyone else at your club is judged only by results?
2. You can’t blame me because you don’t know all the facts. (“It is simply not possible or practical for all of the factors involved to enter the public domain.”)
So we’re not supposed to blame you because of some secrets that you can’t tell us, but that would totally override all our objections if only it were possible to bring us in on them? And yet none of the higher mysteries can change the fact that you staked your professional reputation on a manager whom you now judge to have spectacularly failed.
3. You can’t blame me because I have spent money on the club. (“We have spent around £175m on new players over the last 3 years.”)
Sitting in last place is so much more justifiable when it cost an obscene amount of money.
4. You can’t blame me because I have experience and care about people. (“In my opinion, and with the benefit that comes with running our Club with and without a Sporting Director in the past seven years, the successful management of a football club is not about structures or job titles. As in most businesses, it’s about people.”)
People like the ones you hired? Like the ones you’ve now been forced to fire because of the terrible job they did?
5. You can’t blame me because you ought to blame Juande Ramos. (“Three League wins since our memorable Carling Cup victory.”)
Again, you went to humiliating lengths to hire Juande Ramos and gratuitously sacked a successful manager in the process. Ramos’s legacy is your legacy. If Ramos isn’t fit to manage the team, you aren’t fit to run the club.
6. You can’t blame me because you ought to blame Damien Comolli. (“Now is the right time for us to move back to a more traditional style of football management at our Club.”)
I’m perfectly happy to blame Damien Comolli, who seems to have been pretty bad at his job. I was confused, actually, when he kept that job even after his poor performance was apparent to nearly everyone. It’s almost…it’s almost as if there was someone above him at the club, someone who kept him in place long after most people would have let him go. I’m not sure. I’ll look into this.
7. You can’t blame me because “to blame” is a weakness called forth by the wickedness of human nature. (“Human nature often dictates the need to find someone or something to blame, but in these circumstances we need all our energies to be directed instead to supporting the team.”)
That’s edifying. No, really.
8. You can’t blame me because I know what “we” did wrong. (“We failed because we were not as decisive or as successful in identifying or replacing the two strikers as early as we should have been.”)
So why are other people held accountable for this, but not you? (Also: what? You were not “decisive” in “identifying” Robbie Keane? Didn’t he, like, work just down the way?)
9. You can’t blame me because of all I’ve achieved. (“We have achieved too much over the last seven years – three successive qualifications for Europe, a League Cup win, Training Centre planning permission.”)
Two of these three accomplishments were achieved by managers you sacked. Nice job on the Training Centre planning permission.
10. You can’t blame me because I am a modest man who cares nothing for personal glory. (“The majority of our fans know that it’s simply not my way to seek a high profile. I do not crave publicity, neither do I believe it is necessary to do my job.”)
I love this part. As straw men go, the idea—expressed in a 2,400-word press release!—that Daniel Levy has suffered unfair criticism for being too modest and media-shy is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. Crows will not trouble the crops that this argument is guarding. Under the right circumstances, this argument could come to life, join forces with a plucky girl, her little dog, an anxious lion, and a tin man, and travel to the Emerald City, where a shadowy Bahamas-based businessman might just give it a brain.
11. You can’t blame me because I landed Harry Redknapp. (Passim.)
Talk to me next October.
— — —
Daniel Levy should resign.
Where is Joe Lewis?
by Brian Phillips · October 26, 2008