‘It’s no longer the same club’: Advice for Tottenham supporters on life after a legendary manager
Tottenham fans are in mourning after losing one of the most successful managers in the club's history. Fans of Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle and Leicester tell them what to expect next
The decision was finally taken on Tuesday evening. After a series of increasingly fraught meetings, Daniel Levy had concluded that Mauricio Pochettino’s position at Tottenham Hotspur was untenable. He was sacked after five-and-a-half years at the club, replaced the next morning by José Mourinho.
The sacking did not come completely out the blue. Spurs had won just three of their opening 12 Premier League matches. They had been beaten 7-2 at home by Bayern Munich. And a number of senior first-team players had lost confidence in their manager.
But that did not prevent a huge outpouring of grief and anxiety when the club published a short statement announcing Pochettino’s departure on their website and social media. The Argentine had long since cemented his reputation as a Tottenham hero, having steered his side to the Champions League final, the most successful Spurs manager since the legendary Bill Nicholson.
Pochettino leaves Tottenham with the club at a crossroads, as Levy steps up his attempts to establish Spurs as a global brand. This is a new era for Tottenham – albeit one some fans are only reluctantly stepping into.
In the wake of Pochettino’s exit, we spoke to supporters of four other clubs on life after an inspirational manager.
Michael Davies, 24, Leicester season ticket holder
“Brutal but necessary”
I think like any Leicester fan, I’ve got mixed feelings when it comes to the dismissal of Claudio Ranieri.
On the one hand, there was a sense of complete deflation and heartbreak. After all that we had been through with him, it was just so upsetting to see him cast aside in such a savage way, a Premier League winning manager sacked in some side room at East Midlands airport.
But when you look at how far we have come, and the way in which we bounced back after his sacking, it is hard not to think that the right decision was made. It may have been brutal. But it was necessary. Most fans knew this. I think a lot of Tottenham fans are probably experiencing a similar conflict now.
We may have taken some flak for being heartless, but you have to get behind the team and hope for the best. And so the fact that we are on another upward trajectory, after a slight lull, shows that the club and the owners know exactly what they are doing.
But I will always remain very, very grateful for what Ranieri achieved. I cannot imagine I will see anything like that again in my lifetime.
Jon Little, 35, Newcastle United season ticket holder
“It’s no longer the same club”
Even at the time, the sacking of Bobby Robson in 2004 at Newcastle seemed harsh, if not calamitous. Despite an inauspicious start to the 2004/05 season, Bobby had taken us from the bottom of the table in 1999/00 to the Champions League in a little over two years.
Under Bobby, we finished fourth in 2001/02, third in 2002/03 – challenging for the title in both seasons for large parts – and fifth in 2003/04, playing some stunning football with a young, vibrant team full of pace, and with Alan Shearer up top, still scoring goals.
We progressed past the first Group Stage of the Champions League in 2002/03, beating Juventus at home, Feyenoord away in the last minute, and then going on to beat Bayer Leverkusen home and away, and drawing 2-2 with Inter at the San Siro as a quarter-final place just slipped by.
The following year, we made it to the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup, losing to eventual winners Marseille, led by a young striker called Didier Drogba.
After Bobby’s sacking, Graeme Souness was brought in as a disciplinarian, and he ripped the squad Robson had built apart, finishing 14th in his first season. The club has only been going one way since.
Despite the 2011/12 season when the club finished fifth under Alan Pardew, every other season during the last 15 years has been deflating. Since Bobby, there’s been 12 managers, Mike Ashley, two relegations and still no trophies – in fact, cups have been sacrificed entirely.
In all honesty, we are now probably closer to League One than we are to the Champions League. The days under Bobby Robson seem a lifetime ago. A statue of him stands outside St James’ Park, but it’s no longer the same club.
Henry Reeves-Turner, 19, Arsenal supporter
“He is Arsenal. And Arsenal is him”
It has been impossible to get over Arsène Wenger leaving Arsenal. For my entire life I had known nothing but Wenger as the manager of the club that I love. While everything else in my life changed around me, his management was a constant. His time at the club dominated my childhood and so it is only natural he made a huge impact on my life: my memories ranging from the low of Rooney’s dive to finally sink The Invincibles, to the glorious high of ending our nine-year drought without a trophy – something a smaller club from Middlesex is still yet to do.
All of this makes it impossible for me to get over Wenger. He is the man who made me fall in love with football.
Our fan base is still obsessed with the man. Just click on the latest Arsenal Fan TV video. You will see fans young and old still hopelessly divided. Some blame him for our current malaise, others are calling for him to come home and save our season. But I think the majority of fans agree with me and share the feelings I have for the Frenchman.
The institution of Arsenal has been so moulded by Wenger. As fans we sit in the stadium that he helped to build and led us to. We watch our team and see players influenced and defined by his philosophy. And now, as ex-players retire, we see so many of his prodigies returning to help run the club: from Edu (technical director), to Freddie Ljungberg (assistant manager), to Per Mertesacker (the head of the academy).
Given this legacy, can you blame some Arsenal fans for not being able to move on? Is it even an issue if they don’t? Herbert Chapman ended his tenure at Arsenal almost a century ago – and yet his presence is still very much felt. The memories of times past are what make football such a magical sport. Wenger gave us all so many experiences and moments of ecstasy that will forever burn in our mind. He is Arsenal. And Arsenal is him.
Ahmed Shooble, 21, Manchester United supporter
“It’s been a disaster”
When a football manager has been at the helm of a club for 26 years, their influence is obviously vast. When Ferguson left, we lost more than just a manager. In many ways, the club have been a victim of Ferguson and David Gill’s rich success, as they left but there was still a worldwide expectation for us to be the biggest and most successful club in the land.
But things haven’t really worked out that way.
The executive management of the club has still not been restructured and so United are still struggling to manage the expectations set by Ferguson. Now, four managers later, it all remains a bit of a disaster. It has been hard going as a supporter – and unless the club hire somebody with a football brain to oversee the running of the club, it is not going to get much better.