From saviours to sinners: Have ENIC failed Tottenham?
Tottenham are the perennial underachievers, forever on the cusp of glory but without the apparent wherewithal to ever achieve it. The club’s recent history is punctuated by painful false dawns; the majority of which are wholly self-inflicted and whose regularity only add to the frustration. The club’s outlook continues to be one of cautious ambition, so cautious in fact that beyond a solitary Champions League place and League Cup triumph, the last 15 years have been devoid of any real sense of achievement.
Financial security was undoubtedly the priority when ENIC took control, but more than a decade on surely Spurs fans have a right to expect more?
Daniel Levy seems to be the target of recent vitriol, and as the public face of Tottenham Hotspur and indeed ENIC it is easy to see why. The Oxford educated Chairman is one of the most ruthless operators in the modern game, and it is under his stewardship that Spurs have recovered from the verge of bankruptcy to one of the most financially stable enterprises in football. On a purely financial basis Spurs are a success by modern footballing standards; their £80m profit last year was a record in the English game and one that underlines their pragmatic approach to the game. Tours across the globe will forever be greeted by scepticism, but these only add to the growing financial presence that Levy’s Spurs continue to enjoy. A presence that will surely soon be expanded ever further by the eventual completion of the Northumberland Park Development Project, and the long awaited new stadium. The business model is self-sufficient, without the constant need for lavish overspends and mass investment; rare sustainability is the theme of modern day Tottenham Hotspur, but is this enough?
Such comparisons to the world of business are as useful as they are misleading, for a club like Tottenham Hotspur accounts for far more than that. Balance sheets are too often given the same status as points on a league table, and this is largely where fan frustration lies. Is the game really about glory as the Tottenham adage goes, or is it all about profit? Financial security remains a pleasing footnote, but the reality is that a club forges its history through successes on the field rather than those off it.
Ambition on the field isn’t necessarily synonymous with ill-advised spending, more a decisive and forceful approach when the time is deemed right. Relentless negotiating has cost the club millions down the years, failing to secure targets only to pay over the odds later down the line for a desperately over-valued alternative. Yet for Spurs it is the outgoings that pose more of a concern, Gareth Bale heading a long list of talented departures from the Lane in recent seasons. Such exits do wonders for the net transfer spend, but little for the clubs footballing progress and ambition lies in player retention as much as it does acquisition.
The Berahino saga was an interesting case-in point; a player that was wildly over-valued and with two chairmen that were unwilling to fold on their increasingly ambitious demands. The envy for Spurs fans is less in the ability to prize the Englishman away, more in the resolute defence shown by an opposing club. How Spurs fans would have longed for Jeremy Peace at the height of the Luka Modric standoff.
It is a genuine clash of ideologies at Tottenham, a clear business strategy that appears at odds with the footballing considerations of its fans. It is easy enough to simplify the blame game at Spurs, and to do so would be an oversight. Years of footballing underachievement have left many fans clamouring for change, change that they would feel is necessary for any possible chance of future success.
It is easy though to be reactive, and Spurs fans would do well to take care when launching a broadside on the ENIC regime. Balance is key, and despite obvious shortcomings there remains a lot to be positive about for Spurs heading into the future.
A clear disconnect between fans and club will only hinder this, and it is surely high time that the club did its up-most to repair this relationship.
Is the ENIC regime broken at Tottenham?