Daniel Levy could be the least popular man in St. James’ Park this weekend.
Great life events can evoke great emotions. Weddings, funerals, friends with children; there are often times that lead to introspection. ‘Am I making the best of life?’ ‘Should I do something else?’
Last week there was one of those moments in the world of football. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) purchase of Newcastle United appears to be a turning point for football, and the Premier League in particular. There have been many questionable Premier League club owners, but this acquisition has exposed the moral bankruptcy that exists in both the Premier League and fan bases across the country.
Modern society often acts like a sociological experiment and the question of what an owner should have done in order not to be greeted by fans hungry for success for his club is apparently still being put to the test. Ignorance is really a godsend when your club no longer has to worry about a salary structure.
Ranking of Premier League owners by moral reprehensibility
With all the legitimate outrage over the deal, there is one group that is difficult to sympathize with: the owners of the other 19 Premier League clubs. We were told how ‘angry’ the other clubs are that the deal was ratified by the Premier League. It may be an unfair assumption, but we really believe that this anger is due to Saudi Arabia’s terrible human rights record or because there is another team that is fighting for Champions League spots and driving prices up in the market ?
It’s not surprising to see the Big Six at the forefront of outrage. These are of course the same six clubs that tried last season to organize a breakaway league that would have had a negative impact on football at all levels. The lack of self-esteem is almost admirable.
And who is supposed to be at the forefront of this fight for justice? Fountain, it had to be Daniel Levy.
Levy has always polarized opinion among his own followers, but in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find those to stay in his corner. It was almost poetic that on the same day that the Newcastle deal was announced, he turned down the opportunity to discuss his strategy with the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust (THST).
Levy is notoriously single-minded and there is no denying that his Tottenham leadership has seen some significant highs. The club’s infrastructure has changed since ENIC bought the club in 2000. The training ground is widely considered to be one of the best in Europe and the magnificent Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a testament to Levy’s work ethic and attention to detail. On the pitch, Tottenham was dragged into a Champions League final by the eternal mediocrity.
But in recent years, the lack of first-team advancement and a string of public relations disasters have broken ties with Levy and everyone but his most ardent supporters. In 2018, Levy ran a season without even adding to the first-team roster. It was a squad that flourished under the tutelage of one of the country’s most progressive coaches and apparently the only attempt to sign a botched move was to cheaply recruit Jack Grealish from Aston Villa.
It was a coaching miracle that somehow came Tottenham to their only Champions League final and the lack of squad depth became apparent when a semi-fit Harry Kane was brought back from injury to lead the line. A belated attempt to refresh the squad was made the following summer, but it was too late and Mauricio Pochettino paid off with his job after a disappointing start. The chance for sustainable success was wasted.
That Levy thought Jose Mourinho was still a cheat code for success shows the poor decision-making that has become a common theme for his most recent leadership. Mourinho was seen as the final roll of the die for Levy, and anyone who’s watched the superb All Or Nothing documentary will have seen the inappropriateness he somehow still had for a manager just living out of a club with one Budget he never wanted to compete with.
Then came the ESL debacle. This was an initiative in which none of the founding members emerged with any honor, but Levy couldn’t even apologizewhich served to worsen what was already a PR disaster. Levy was very much the episode’s Dominic Cummings, his “regrets” clearly of being caught rather than accepting that the concept was an affront to the rest of football.
That summer, Levy led one of the most bizarre executive searches the Premier League has ever seen. He made the right noises appointing someone with ‘Tottenham DNA’, and on the first night he resembled a horny teen who was rejected by everyone he approached. That he ended up having to bring on Fabio Paritici to eventually hire someone who wasn’t on his original longlist underscores the lack of clarity of thought that currently prevails at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Levy clearly has a lot left to offer Tottenham as the recent Anthony Joshua fight and NFL game showcase the wonderful stadium he has done so much for. But now with another team ready to spend the kind of money Levy never wanted to spend, it is time for Levy to step away from chairing someone with fresh ideas on how to move the club forward. Someone who unites the fan base and acts for the good of football, not just out of self-interest.
The response to the inexplicable decision to allow this regime to buy a football club seems like a defining moment for football. When there is no desire for change, the Premier League continues to be used more and more as a vehicle for sports underwear. This is a time to act by people who really want changes in the game, not chairmen and owners protecting their own interests.
It feels like fate that Tottenham and Levy are going to Newcastle this weekend. He can expect a hostile reception from all corners of the country, including his own supporters. For most people, such a reaction would lead to some introspection. But this is the Premier League and this is Daniel Levy, where mirrors don’t seem to work quite the way they were designed to be.
Steve Sanders- follow him on Twitter