Today, Ange Postecoglou sat in front of the media for the first time proper as Spurs boss and laid out his plans. Sort of. He sounded to me an awful lot like a man at the mercy of events and circumstances out-with his control, offering no assurances on stuff like Harry Kane’s future or what his budget was likely to be. And he talked, briefly, about Celtic.
Most notably, he was irked by the suggestion that being manager here represents some sort of free ride since the worst he could do was finish second.
With the cold anger we all came to recognise from his dealings with the press here, he laid out the full reality of that for the guy who asked the question.
“I know people sort of say in Scotland if you’re Celtic you are either going to finish first or second but second is last, second I’m not in a job.”
This is on the nose. So on the nose that The Mooch should have those words printed somewhere that he can see them every day when he gets out of bed. That’s the pressure he lives under now, and I think the reality of that has eluded him so far.
He worked under Gerrard, and so in the background. It was Gerrard who was under the pressure prior to this. Last season, he came in with us well ahead in the league and although I think he was lucky not to find himself under the spotlight over those twin cup defeats he had good enough form in the league that the fans were willing to accept signs of progress.
So too was the club. But then, what choice did they have?
There’s a moment early on in Season 3 of The Thick Of It where the newly minted minister Nicola Murray is up to her neck in an ever-growing series of shambles and she seeks reassurance from the notorious press officer Malcolm Tucker, the very last person you would ever go to for that particular thing. “The PM is not going to sack you after a week,” he tells her. “Sacked after 12 months – looks live you’ve f***ed up. Sacked after a week – looks like he’s f***ed up.”
In short, he wasn’t ever really under pressure last season. They weren’t going to fire him and he knew it and they knew it. To sack a second manager inside of a season, they would have looked to all the world like a basket case club and an utter joke. They couldn’t have dragged someone through their door to take that job having done that.
He’s got by on hiding. Hiding behind Celtic’s financial muscle and how much Ange Postecoglou spent. He’s got by because Van Bronckhorst performed so horrifically last season in Europe. He got by because these weren’t “his” players. He got by because we were in front of them in the league when he arrived and it was seen as a loss cause.
All that changes the minute the next campaign starts. He has his own squad. His own players. He does not have the excuse of hiding behind someone else’s team. He doesn’t have the excuse of inheriting a side already behind.
He’s presided over the loss of two trophies already; if they go out of the Champions League before the Groups he’ll feel the noose. If he’s struggling in the league, and already behind Celtic, or if we’ve gone to Ibrox and won I think he’s in real bother. He will not have anywhere else to hide. I think him being out before Christmas becomes a real possibility.
It is always fun to speculate like this, but Ange Postecoglou knew that pressure would have closed on him like the jaws of a predator had he looked as if he might not make it. But he also knew that he would get time, that our board would not act precipitously because even early you could tell that there was progress being made … the real pressure was season two.
For The Mooch, this is season two and the first one saw him end without anything to show for it but a bunch of excuses and a hard luck story.
They somehow got him through it.
Stripped of all that, with a new team, largely un-blooded, some of whom think they’re going to be coming up here on holiday, and that pressure will be on him from the first game.
He may think he understands that, he may think he’s dealt with it before, but he’s the man in the chair now, he’s the man who’ll be judged.
And second is nothing. Second is the sack. Second is sending this joker homeward to think again … and they won’t wait until that status is confirmed before they press the button on his ejector seat.