In replacing Mauricio Pochettino with Jose Mourinho, Tottenham have essentially made it impossible for Spurs fans to think they’re different, and that’s important…
Every football club thinks they are different somehow.
Every club thinks they have ‘a way’, something that sets them apart from the rest. Some of them have at least some grounding in fact. Others are more baffling, based on some ephemeral fantasy among the fanbase or long-gone history that has no relevance to anything.
Often this only exists in a certain, ‘out there’ corner of the fanbase, the ones who have perhaps too closely linked their own identities with the club they support. But it’s also a comfort blanket, something for the more sensible fans to cling to, in order to convince themselves that this entity in which they invest so much time, money and emotion is special in some way. Or even convince themselves that they’re not just supporting a rapacious global corporation whose sole design is to grab them by the ankles and shake all the spare change from their pockets.
In this respect, the delusion is worthwhile. It doesn’t really matter to anyone else if you think your club is special, or different, or has a ‘way’, but if it helps you, then who cares?
Ultimately, it boils down to making your club likeable. A club you can be proud in some way to support, a club you can kid yourself isn’t like all those other clubs. Most of the time, this is a transient feeling and not one that is really created or directed, particularly by the people actually in positions of authority.
Occasionally though, probably by accident rather than design, something aligns which actually makes your club a little different, or likeable. Which brings us to Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino.
In the early hours of Wednesday, before Pochettino’s replacement was confirmed, Seb Stafford-Bloor wrote for Football365 about the sadness of saying goodbye to the Argentinean, a man who if any Spurs fan arrived home to see him in bed with their partner, they’d probably tuck him in and ask if he wanted a cocoa. A man who played brilliant football and who took Spurs to places they never dreamt of going, even if he didn’t actually win anything.
But perhaps more than that, Pochettino gave Spurs fans the chance to kid themselves that they really were different, that they did things in a way that other teams didn’t, that the way his team played somehow aligned with their values or history. Spurs fans could convince themselves that Pochettino’s side fitted with Bill Nicholson’s famous old line:
“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”
But that’s gone now. Or at least it will be gone for as long as Jose Mourinho is in charge. The merits of whether Mourinho is actually still a worthwhile manager can and will be debated extensively, whether he’s worth the trouble and the scorched earth he leaves when he departs. Whether he still is the guy who comes round your house, leads a brilliant party but when he goes the windows are smashed, the telly is in the hedge and someone has drawn moustaches on all the pictures.
The point is that Spurs still think he is that man, the manager who will win something for them, and that they can deal with the mess afterwards. They have subscribed to “the great fallacy that the game is first and last about winning.”
The fact that Pochettino was so loved by Spurs fans despite having zero tituli, as Mourinho once said, proved that these things aren’t just about trophies and glory in the traditional sense.
By appointing Mourinho they have declared that they’re just like everyone else, that winning is ultimately the only thing that matters. And they have thus made it basically impossible for anyone to labour under that valuable delusion that Tottenham are different somehow. Ultimately, this doesn’t mean much in any tangible sense, but it matters.
Every football club thinks they are different somehow, but it’s much more difficult for Spurs to do that now.
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