Tottenham’s problem might not be their managers, but the person who is appointing them

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Tottenham announced the departure of interim manager Cristian Stellini earlier this week.

There was a line in this week’s episode of Succession (no spoilers here, breathe easy) in which a character described the situation they found themselves in as ‘musical electric chairs’. It’s the kind of sickeningly concise witticism that gives much feebler writers like myself inferiority complexes, and that hacks straight to the marrow of fuss like a diamond-edged machete. It also instantly brought to mind Tottenham’s current managerial omnishambles.

On March 27th, Antonio Conte was sacked. In the month since, a lifetime may as well have passed. Conte’s assistant, Cristian Stellini, took the unusual decision to stay on in an interim capacity until the end of the season. Perhaps he possesses delusions of grandeur. Perhaps he is certifiably masochistic. Who can say?

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In retrospect, it was an unfortunate time for the Italian to discover that he was very much the Art Garfunkel of the double act - and not just because Conte evidently neglected to share with him the contact details of his hair transplant surgeon. Spurs have stumbled along throughout April, gathering and relinquishing momentum like a silent movie drunk, somehow lingering and lurching within spitting distance of the top four before ultimately capitulating to a hellish extent against Newcastle United on Sunday afternoon.

As I said in this week’s edition of The Rebound, to call this an implosion would be something of a misnomer. For something to implode it has to have structure to begin with. No, this was more of an evaporation, or maybe a dissipation.

Whatever you want to label it, though, it was not acceptable. Five goals down in 20 minutes, 6-1 behind at the final whistle, if there was any consolation for the travelling Tottenham support it’s that the away end at St. James’ Park is so far from the pitch that if they squinted, or indeed if their vision was blurred by a welling of tears, they might have been able to convince themselves that they were only watching the meaningless tumolt of an ant colony, or a particularly devastating game of Battleships.

In the aftermath, Spurs acted swiftly. On Monday, they made the unorthodox call to oust the interim and replace him with yet another interim in the form of Ryan Mason. It’s interim-ception, if you will. Mason, of course, has been here before. The former midfielder, at only 31, is already an experienced caretaker. It’s just a shame that he keeps being handed the keys to the footballing equivalent of the Overlook Hotel.

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You see, the real issue here is a systemic one. At a certain point, you have to look beyond the personal records of managers as disparate as Mauricio Pochettino, Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo, Conte, and now Stellini, and ask yourself what the common denominator is. Is it a club culture that has normalised nearness as a tolerable standard? Is it a regressive and ill-informed policy of recruitment that boasts fewer memorable hits than Art Garfunkel’s solo career? (If you can’t tell, we’re Paul Simon fans in this house.) Or is it a combination of several factors such as these, exacerbated by a boardroom who are seemingly more excited by installing subterranean go-kart tracks beneath their pitch than prioritising any kind of success on it? It is increasingly hard to shake the sneaking suspicion that it may be the latter.

In the statement announcing Stellini’s departure, chairman Daniel Levy vapidly suggested that the responsibility for Sunday’s horror show on Tyneside was ultimately his. It’s the kind of hollow platitude that owners tend to spew out in an effort to convince the exasperated masses that they do truly care - and that they are sat there, cloistered in their gilded towers, stroking their chin with their absolute bestest pensive expression etched across a furrowed brow, desperately trying to deduce the specifics of a better way for everybody involved.

The thing is though, in Levy’s case, he might actually be pretty close to hitting the nail on the head.

Whoever Spurs appoint next has to be the right person for the job. They cannot, I repeat, cannot, afford another Stellini, with his haunted stare like an intergalactic war veteran and his inspirational prowess like a stale Ryvita.

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Then again, we’ve heard this all before. They had to get the right person in after they despatched Pochettino with a hair trigger rashness. Then they had to get the right person in when his replacement was subjected to an existential crisis in front of an Amazon documentary crew. And then - you’re never going to believe this - they had to get the right person in when his successor fell apart like a cardboard box in a dishwasher. Even Conte, the right person to end all right people - the dead cert, the one that could not fail - never truly felt like a proper fit.

Managers come and go, that is the nature of modern football. It demands instant gratification, and when it doesn’t get it, it tosses candidates to one side like a stroppy toddler. But after so many misfires and so many false dawns, you have to begin asking whether it is the appointments that are the problem, or the person appointing the appointments.

You look at Tottenham right now, and it’s hard not to wonder if they are a little like a swollen river threatening to burst its banks; maybe Levy is the main thing holding them back.

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