This Spurs man is way ahead of his time and has earned praise

Daniel Levy has long been a figure that divides opinion at Tottenham, but he is finally winning in the popularity stakes – and with good reason.

Balanced books, Champions League football and the new stadium are all on the current chairman’s watch, as well as making top-five finishes the rule, rather than the exception.

Levy’s haters, slaters and berators are now well in the minority. I should know, I was one of them. However, I never went quite as far as the angry few who paraded outside White Hart Lane with ‘Levy Out’ placards in May 2014.

Tim Sherwood was about to get the boot and, despite fortunes on the pitch gradually improving, fans were getting fed up with the continued upheaval, as managers were turned over with alarming regularity and our best players often sold.

But one look at the mess made by investors at other clubs like Newcastle, Aston Villa, Leeds and Blackburn showed that the grass is not always greener.

We at least we had a Tottenham fan at the helm who may have taken some business limelight now and again but, when all was said and done, things were pretty good.

The main beef with Levy was his insistence on a tiered management structure. And no matter how many times it blew up in his face, he was always willing to tear everything up and try it all again.

English football at the time was used to a traditional manager, who dealt with everything from formations and training to scouting and transfers – sometimes even marketing and finances.

The ‘European model’ used by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus etc featured a head coach, dealing solely with first-team tactics and motivation, working below a general manager who controlled scouting, transfers, contracts etc.

In theory, it gives the scope to change the coach without wholesale player and staff changes destabilising a club.

But Levy went through general managers, or directors of football, almost as often as head coaches as different incarnations of the system continually collapsed around him.

The three-headed monster of Frank Arnesen, Jacques Santini and Martin Jol lasted 13 games in 2004, before Santini jumped ship, and Jol became a raging success.

Not deterred, in came Damien Comolli and Juande Ramos, who spent a fortune in summer 2008, but left us in October staring relegation in the face.

Harry Redknapp rode in as a good old-fashioned manager, saved our skin then took us to fourth spot and into the Champions League.

That was surely it, the final nail for Levy’s tiered dream? Think again. Andre Villas-Boas joined technical director Franco Baldini – an arrangement which imploded after 18 months.

Yet after 10 years of apparent board level chaos, it was only when Sherwood stepped up from the academy with all the cut and thrust of a young boxer – naively waiting for that first jawbreaker to put him on the canvas – that people finally began to understand just why Levy was so intent on the head coach strategy.

Top football teams are no longer family businesses or one person’s labour of love, they are corporate juggernauts with thousands of staff doing millions of tasks. No one person can run the club alone.

Similarly, where player transfers of days gone by involved two blokes, a motorway service station and a handshake, they now involve agents, sponsors, image rights, insurance and massive, massive price tags.

One person alone simply cannot be trusted with that level of business, money and consequence – especially when they are already running the first team.

David Moyes arrived as Manchester United boss in 2013 presuming he could apply the same methods that served him so well at Everton – despite the fact he was leaving HMS Belfast for the QE2.

Sir Alex Ferguson had basically been a figurehead in his twilight Old Trafford years – a captain on the bridge, delegating jobs to a highly qualified crew that knew how to steer the ship.
Moyes sacked the backroom staff and brought in his own, who set about sailing into the nearest iceberg.

Meanwhile, Tottenham finally seem to have found the right fit in Mauricio Pochettino, with the Argentine’s contract now extended to 2021. And, as is always the case with Levy, the business side of the club continues to thrive.

Baldini left the club in September 2015 and Pochettino’s new contract now coins him as the ‘manager’ rather than the head coach. Although Spurs still use head of recruitment Paul Mitchell, formerly of Southampton and MK Dons, to help analyse potential targets.

More and more clubs, however, are now using the head coach role. The biggest example is Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola set to reunite with former Barcelona directors Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano.

And Watford have just had the most successful Premier League season in their history after a run of six bosses in four years since the Italian Pozzo family took charge of the club.

It is now clear that the Spurs chairman’s route was not necessarily the European method at all – but the modern method.

Levy, it must be admitted, was way ahead of his time. If he continues like that, his popularity will only increase.

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