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Thursday, November 20, 2014

An exclusive look inside the mind of Mauricio Pochettino

Imagine you're an ambitious young manager/fitness coach/scout and you're approached by Tottenham. You might be mildly flattered by the attention, particularly if you'd come from a club which doesn't spend so much time proclaiming its ambitions. But at the same time you would know - and if you didn't know, your agent, your friends and your wife would impress it upon you - that you only had to look at the record of the club's chairman to realise that the most likely outcome of your tenure is that you will be booted out before your contract is up.

Therefore you will spend less of your time thinking of the unlikely eventuality of success and more of your time thinking of the near-certainty of failure and how you might insure yourself against the personal consequences of same. Think about it. It's bound to be the mindset. You're going to get fired. You would have to be Pollyanna to think otherwise. This changes the way you look at life.  It's like going into a fancy restaurant thinking not about the nice meal you might have but instead about the pay-off you will get when you contract food poisoning.

Spurs fans wasted a lot of energy trying to work out what AVB or Redknapp or Sherwood were thinking and now they're doing the same with Pochettino. I'll tell you what he's thinking. He's thinking, when is it going to happen, how bad will it make me look and how much will I walk away with? And if he isn't his agent certainly is. None of these people are thinking of the future with the club because the overwhelming likelihood is that there won't be one. It's the one certainty of life at Spurs. Levy will fire you. Just look at the stats.

And the same thing applies to everyone below the manager on the pyramid. If they go, you will go too. Therefore why should you demonstrate loyalty to anyone?

I've got nothing against heavy management. People pay a lot of money in order not to feel bad about firing people. It happens in every walk of life. But in football the downside is so profitable that it changes the relationship between the employer and the employed. Samuel Johnson said that if a man knows he's going to be hanged in the morning it concentrates his mind admirably. If a man knows he's going to be fired at some point in the near future and he's going to walk away with a significant pay-off it does the opposite.


  1. Simon Kuper makes the following argument very convincingly in his book "Why England Lose"...

    Fans spend so much time arguing about who their manager should be when in reality it makes very little difference. Whether Spurs sacked their manager every year or stuck with the same guy for a decade they would still finish every season between 4th and 10th. The only significant factor in predicting a teams league position is always the players wage bill.

  2. Managing football players seems to be immuned to the Sabermetric treatment meted out to those who actually play the game: Lost Too Many Games is usually the epitaph carried home by most managers shown the door.

    That said, someone, somewhere must have the data that measures the performances of teams that have played well but have still lost and lost their managers. But, as they say, a win is a win.

    I'd be very interested to see the league table at the end of the season with own goals stripped out or unforced goal-keeping errors.

  3. I have met him 3 times. Once as an Espanyol player and twice when he was manager. I attended his farewell dinner when he retired as a player. I learned 3 things.
    1) His team mates adored him
    2) He's as hard as nails
    3) he is a genuinely nice bloke.
    I wish him nothing but the vest and just hope Spurs give him the time he needs.