The players are gone, the sun is shining, and a weird calm permeates Tottenham Hotspur.
Ange Postecoglou’s hiring last week has finally lifted the cloud of uncertainty that had been hanging over Tottenham for months. It has been tough to gain any idea of what Tottenham’s future was supposed to look like ever since Antonio Conte signed a 20-month contract with the club, consistently refusing to commit for longer. With Postecoglou’s addition and four-year contract, the entire football team can once more look toward the horizon..
Beginning of last week, Postecoglou paid a visit to Spurs, where he met staff members and recorded a positive video for the team before departing on vacation. From there, he is working to give his backroom personnel the finishing touches. Tottenham authorities are still seeking to hire a new director of football back in London. Once that position is filled, it should feel as though the past few years have come to a close, putting an end to the pervasive crisis that has surrounded Spurs ever before Jose Mourinho was fired, if not earlier
Everything that made last season so agonizing, including Cristian Stellini, the 6-1 at Newcastle United, the undermanned squad at Bramall Lane, the 63 league goals allowed, the disgraced Fabio Paratici, was there. Now, everyone just wants to go on and make a fresh start.
The Tottenham team had a terrible year last year, playing — usually poorly — for three different managers, and being the target of an extraordinary attack on their professionalism and attitude from Conte in March. None of them, with the exception of Harry Kane and Rodrigo Bentancur, gloried in their accomplishments. For months, they all appeared to be impatient for the season to end.
The Spurs players are now off either on holiday or playing international football. Ivan Perisic will play in the Nations League final against Spain in Rotterdam on Sunday night. Harry Kane will likely continue to add to his mountain of England goals. Oliver Skipp and Destiny Udogie will play in the European Under-21 Championship in Georgia, starting on Wednesday.
Those without international commitments will report back to Spurs on 1 July, giving them roughly two weeks of pre-season with Postecoglou before they fly off for the summer tour of Australia, Thailand and Singapore. Those still playing for their countries will get another three weeks off after their last game before meeting up.
In time, especially when the players come back and the new director of football is in place, there will be some difficult conversations about who stays, who goes, and who may come in. But, for now, Tottenham are in a good place. Not so much the calm before the storm, but rather the calm after a few years of self-inflicted chaos and bad decisions. (Spurs are certainly in a better place than they were this time two years ago, which was almost exactly when they nearly appointed Paulo Fonseca, pulled out, nearly appointed Gennaro Gattuso, pulled out of that, before stumbling blindly into the Nuno Espirito Santo appointment.)
At the very least, Tottenham have finally found their footing again after sliding further down than they ever expected — they ended the season eighth in the Premier League. They are taking a deep breath, recovering their strength, before they start trying to climb in the right direction again.
All of this means that it is not the worst time for me to step away from covering Tottenham for the next few months. Instead, I’ll be on paternity leave for the summer and the first part of next season.
Obviously, I am looking forward to spending more time with my daughter (who is just over five months old and is already onto her fourth Spurs manager). But at the same time, I will certainly miss the daily challenge of covering this football club: not just the games (an eternal privilege) but the press conferences, getting to know the new manager and what makes him tick, going on our (award-winning) View from the Lane podcast twice a week and above all trying to describe and explain to you, our readers, what exactly is going on at Spurs right now, and why.
Do not fear though, you will remain in the very capable hands of Charlie Eccleshare and Tim Spiers, guiding you through the first phase of the Postecoglou era.
And I do wonder, as I write this on my last working day for some time, how things will be looking by the time I come back. The release of the fixture list this week provides some structure to our imagining of what next season will look like. Patient optimism feels like the right way to think about it: patience about the football, which will take months to click, especially with new players coming in; but optimism about the mood and ethos. (I am desperately trying, at the age of 35, not to use the word “vibes”.)
Nobody expects instant success from Postecoglou. So many of Spurs’ problems in recent years have come from a misguided belief that the club can create a winning team overnight. All people want to see — me included — is a sense that the team is steadily heading in the right direction, that they know what the manager wants them to do, and that they are happy and motivated to make his ideas real on the pitch. If this process of learning and understanding and buying in (from the players and fans) is well under way by the time I come back, Spurs will be in a good place.
Of course, the summer will pass before Brentford’s away game. Which players will be in or out at Spurs by then is unknown. When it comes to how the squad performs in August and beyond, our confidence at that point in the season last year reminds us how useless our feelings in June are. Spurs were tying up Yves Bissouma, their third summer acquisition, at that point.
However, I must acknowledge the possibility—which we all must—that I witnessed Harry Kane wear the Spurs jersey for the final time on May 8 at home against Brentford, when he eventually scored from a free kick. (Almost ten years ago, in the League Cup against Hull City, I was present for his first goal at White Hart Lane.) But I continue to have a strong gut feeling that Kane will stay for his final season, at least for the time being.
All of this lies ahead of us now. Postecoglou has a huge blank canvas, just asking to be painted on. Hopefully, when I come back, he will have started to fill it.