Daniel Levy, the Tottenham chairman, rarely does interviews, but when he does it is worth listening, as he proved again last night. He confirmed the club had a buy-back clause for Harry Kane, who was sold to Bayern Munich in a deal worth at least £100million last month.
That welcome openness doesn’t quite mean he’s now one for apologies, believing everything he does is in the best interests of the club. Still, he came close to a “mea culpa”.
Speaking at a fan forum in front of 250 supporters, Levy admitted his judgement had been “affected” by the desperation of certain players and sections of the fanbase to win silverware, leading to the disastrous appointments of former managers Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte.
“The strategy was ‘let’s bring in a trophy manager’,” Levy said. “We did it twice and you have to learn from your mistakes. They’re great managers but maybe not for this club.”
A greater show of contrition and autonomy might have been nice but Levy’s admission that he got it wrong could prove an important step in moving forward, and may help to improve the chairman’s unfavourable ratings among swathes of the fanbase.
More encouragingly still, Levy has moved to correct his mistakes.
The appointment of new head coach Ange Postecoglou, who was alongside him at yesterday’s event, so far looks inspired, the Australian immediately winning over supporters with his charisma, warmth and attacking football.
As Levy acknowledged, he was “under pressure” to appoint a more established name over the summer and Postecoglou, for all his success in lesser leagues, had to be considered a gamble.
Like the majority of Premier League executives, Levy rarely gives interviews, which creates accountability issues
It is early days yet but Levy will deserve a share of the credit if Postecoglou can translate a hugely encouraging start into long-term success — a reminder that in football, one great decision can quickly make amends for a catalogue of past misjudgements.
Levy did not, however, express any regrets over his decision to involve Spurs in the aborted European Super League in Spring 2021, saying: “I stand by my decision that I was acting in the best interests of the club.” A show of remorse here would have cost little.
He also committed to a full review of ticketing, including on pricing, and confirmed the Kane buy-back news — another big Levy decision which has, so far, turned out better than expected.
Last night’s event was hardly a grilling for the chairman, however, and there are still questions that are unlikely to be addressed unless he agrees to an interview with independent media.
Like the majority of Premier League executives, Levy does not often give interviews (his last one coming back in 2019, and given to this newspaper), which has created accountability issues and friction down the chain.
Former managers Mauricio Pochettino and Conte both said in frustration that the club — essentially meaning Levy — were better placed than them to explain certain situations.
Among the pressing questions for the chairman are over the roles of Joe Lewis and Fabio Paratici, both no longer officially connected to the club and yet, for different reasons, hard to forget.
We are still yet to hear from Levy on Lewis, his long-time business partner with whom he shared control of ENIC, since the 86-year-old was indicted in the US for insider trading in July.
Previously considered Tottenham’s outright owner, Lewis “ceased to be a person of significant control” in October last year but Levy’s assurances on his role and what impact an impending trial may have on him personally, ENIC or the club feel important to know.
Paratici, meanwhile, resigned his post of managing director of football in April after losing an appeal against a 30-month ban from the game but he remains on the scene, and has attended more than one game this season. The club plan to replace Paratici with a new technical director soon. Another question for Levy is what his own role will look like when that happens and after Scott Munn, the club’s new chief football officer and the chairman’s de facto No2, officially starts work this month.
Other questions for Levy to address include the club’s long-term plan to bridge the gap to state-owned Manchester City, the benchmark for any side wanting to win silverware; whether there is already a succession plan in place for Postecoglou (the best-run clubs, like Brighton, can quickly respond to the loss of a valued manager); and whether there are any plans to make the board more ethnically diverse.
There are many other non-Spurs-related topics, too, on which Levy would be fascinating, notably the creep of state ownership in the game.
Last night’s fan forum was the first held by the club since December 2017, when Spurs were flying under Pochettino’s management. In lieu of Levy conducting interviews, he should at least commit to regular dialogue with fans and annual Q&As, regardless of the state of the club.