In a world where money makes it all go round, football has become a money-making machine that seems to put sports second. Football has seen Oligarch’s and Saudi businessmen bring superstars, huge wages and silverware in relatively short times. At Tottenham Hotspur, it is just over 17 years since the English National Investment Company (ENIC) took control of the North London club with hopes of restoring the glory nights to White Hart Lane. It’s been a long road but Spurs are getting close to that success. If they achieve it, will Daniel Levy get any credit?
Daniel Levy – Is Credit Due?
In February 2001, Tottenham Hotspur were less a sleeping giant and more a comatose cockerel. Alan Sugar oversaw a tepid period for Spurs and when ENIC took over with Daniel Levy as chairman, a new dawn had arrived. The new dawn has hovered on the horizon for 17 years, so if it does come, will Daniel Levy get the credit? Will he get any credit at all?
Balancing the Books
Spurs spent more time in the late 80’s and into the 90’s on the back pages of the newspapers for financial problems than for any on the field success. The first task for Levy was to balance the books. If Spurs fans thought they were going to suddenly be at the top of footballs elite, they were in for a shock. Levy earned a reputation as a chairman with an itchy trigger finger, going through four managers in as many years. As inconsistent on the pitch as ever, and seemingly a lack of cohesion off the pitch.
By the end of the 2000/01 season, Tottenham finished in 12th position, mid-table mediocrity having become the norm, having won only 13 games all season. 17 years later and Spurs winning 13 games in a row is heading toward being the norm.
Steady wins the race was clearly the mantra for the new owners and the chairman.
It took until the arrival of Martin Jol for Spurs to finally push on in the Premier League. In the 2005/06 season, he guided Spurs to the top six for the first time in the Premier League. European football, albeit the UEFA Cup, was back at White Hart Lane and the fans sensed the good times were back.
A Divisive Figure
Whether a Spurs fan or not, Daniel Levy still appears to divide fans opinion. Sections see him as a great chairman whilst others would have him tagged as a James Bond villain, sitting silently waiting to sack the next manager or sell another fan favourite.
Luka Modric, Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov and of course Gareth Bale have starred for Spurs in the Levy tenure, but all been sold. The sales of Modric and Bale were bitter pills to swallow for fans and Levy didn’t help his cause when he talked of a ‘special relationship’ with Madrid, yet that relationship, to many, looked to involve profit over success.
Levy came under fire over his PR disaster of sacking Martin Jol. The news broke during a live TV game. As news travelled around the stadium, the atmosphere toward the directors’ box was toxic. Compared to West Ham’s current tribulations, this was handbags.
Juande Ramos was considered to be a quality appointment and in 2008, Spurs, at last, had silverware to polish and show off once more. But success turned quickly to gloom and Spurs fell away in the League. The itchy trigger finger was cocked once more.
Ramos began the 2008/09 season at the helm but the end of season dip continued and Spurs were sat bottom with only two points when Levy made a change and brought in Harry Redknapp.
2010/11 was a breathtaking season for Tottenham as they embarked on a Champions League journey that saw them beat Inter Milan and AC Milan before succumbing to Real Madrid. Nobody was aiming any jibes at Daniel Levy now.
Massive European nights were back. Once again though, the false dawn faded away. Levy had backed Harry Redknapp during his court case for allegations of tax fraud. When England came calling, though, Levy felt that Harry didn’t repay that loyalty and he was gone.
Next was Andre Villas-Boas. Then Tim Sherwood. Nobody quite seemed to fit what Levy was looking for. Levy wants success but not at any cost. He is no Nero and certainly has no intention of letting his empire burn.
It is hard to argue that Tottenham Hotspur is not Daniel Levy’s club. His boyhood club, his ambition to make the club profitable and successful. He has found a kindred spirit in Mauricio Pochettino. A man who is his own man. No agent and a strong belief in youth. A burning desire for long-term success. The right way.
The House That Daniel Built?
The right way in Daniel Levy’s eyes is not to buy success. Pochettino has said that he wants ‘Spurs to deserve success’. Some see this as a veiled dig at the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City. Spurs are sticking to their guns. Levy has often said that he is merely ‘the custodian of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club’ and he is proud of the new stadium that has risen on the site of the old White Hart Lane.
Levy was heavily criticised during the new stadium’s planning stages for looking at the Olympic stadium. It is doubtful, though, that he had any real intention of moving from ’home’.
Levy has a new stadium that will hold 62,000 people. Even with the complaints about pricing for the new stadium, Spurs will play to full houses back home next season.
On the pitch, Spurs are yet to add to that solitary trophy ten years ago. However, they have an FA Cup semi-final coming up and have every chance of qualifying for the Champions League for the third season in a row.
Tottenham are close to success. Tottenham are doing things their way. Tottenham are doing things the Daniel Levy way. And whilst he continues to divide opinion, he is soon going to be able to say ‘this is the house that Daniel built.’
If glory does return to this part of North London, Daniel Levy may just get some of the credit.