Jose Mourinho is the tenth permanent Tottenham Hotspur manager of the Daniel Levy era and there has been a diverse bunch of men to come before him with differing success to their name. The Spurs chairman has seen plenty of managers come and go in the near 20 years since he arrived at the club, all the way from inheriting George Graham back in 2001 when he became chairman to appointing Mourinho in November last year.
During Levy’s tenure, Tottenham have had a rough average of a manager every two years with little in the way of silverware in the cabinet and nothing in that regard in 12 years.
When it comes to ranking the managers and head coaches – and we’re not including caretaker managers here – much will come down to that age old silverware over league finishes debate. Within that lies a separate discussion over whether trophies are trophies whatever they are, or whether there is a hierarchy of silverware and where a League Cup – the only thing won during the Levy era – sits.
9. Jacques Santini (2004)
The Frenchman lasted just 13 games at Tottenham, winning five, drawing four and losing four. He famously ‘parked the bus’ against Mourinho at Stamford Bridge to grab a point in a goalless draws and blew his whistle to stop the play if his full-backs advanced past the halfway line in training sessions as he looked to play a very set brand of football. By November of his first season, Santini had departed the north London club with ‘personal reasons’ cited, with some pointing to an uneasy relationship with sporting director Frank Arnesen. It was more Santini’s relationship with Spurs which just didn’t quite fit, from the announcement of his appointment before leading France to a poor European Championships to the football on display when he finally arrived.
8. Tim Sherwood (2013-14)
Tim Sherwood was just about more than a caretaker manager as the club did hand him a 18-month deal, but with that key break clause at the end of his first season. There was that Premier League win percentage, albeit from just 22 games, and his introduction of Harry Kane into first team affairs as well as his revival of Emmanuel Adebayor. However, there were also odd tactics, including using Nacer Chadli as a defensive midfielder, and Spurs conceded almost as many goals as they scored with some heavy defeats against the big boys. His treatment of the players, particularly following defeats, left some key men like Jan Vertonghen and Hugo Lloris considering their futures. Ultimately, like Santini, Sherwood’s five-month tenure was just too brief to really make a mark on the history of the club and get him higher up the list.
Tim Sherwood said “My record here is second to none. My win percentage is the best of any Tottenham manager. I’m the best manager this club’s ever seen!”
Around five weeks later, he was sacked having taken Tottenham from seventh to sixth during his time at the helm.
7. George Graham (1998-2001)
Yes, Graham did win a trophy as Spurs manager, that League Cup in 1999, however if we’re going to be ultra pedantic here then that silverware came before Levy arrived at the club, which means we have to judge him on what came after. Graham was always an unpopular appointment due to his past with that team down the road, as well as his style of play and the Spurs fans wouldn’t even sing his name from the stands. Despite that League Cup, Graham never did lead Spurs to anything more than a 10th place finish and his team was elevated in his early seasons often mainly because of the brilliance of David Ginola, who soon fell out with the Scot after winning the Player of the Year award. Graham was sacked for a breach of contract in 2001, after saying that he was disappointed to be working with a limited transfer budget – something that perhaps caused future managers to be very wary about repeating.
6. Glenn Hoddle (2001-03)
An absolute Tottenham Hotspur legend as a player but as a manager it just didn’t work out for him as he and the fans hoped. A popular appointment to appease the supporters after the Graham era, Hoddle finally got Tottenham back into the top half of the table in his first full season, winning the Manager of the Month award early on before ending up with a ninth place finish and a League Cup runners-up medal. He started the next season with another manager of the month award but Spurs spluttered to a tenth-place finish and Hoddle was gone after taking just four points from the first six games of the next campaign. Hoddle lost more of his 104 games at the helm than he won, 45 to 41.
5. Juande Ramos (2007-08)
The only man to have won silverware during the Levy era and that’s pretty much the only reason he gets bumped up a couple of rungs on the managerial ladder. However, winning that League Cup in 2008 masked what had been a pretty woeful time at the club since his controversial arrival. The Spaniard attempted to change plenty behind the scenes and improved young players like Jermaine Jenas, but the manager struggled to adjust to the Premier League. He won just 21 of his 54 matches in England over less than a year in charge at the club. Tottenham finished 11th in his first season – he joined just over two months into it – but he was gone just two months into the next campaign following Spurs’ worst ever start to a Premier League season. In his defence he did lose both Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane and their goals that summer. Ramos does remain the only manager to win a trophy for Tottenham during Levy’s era and he wasn’t left too down about his sacking as he became Real Madrid manager two months later.
4. Andre Villas-Boas (2012-13)
A Spurs manager who draws polarising views from the fanbase even now. Yes, the football at times could be frustrating at times, but Villas-Boas’ only full season on reflection was a cracker despite the loss of Luka Modric in his first summer. The Portuguese got the very best out of Gareth Bale, arguably the most consistently top notch season of football the Welshman has played in his career. That season, despite finishing fifth and a point off fourth, Tottenham racked up a then club record 72 points in the Premier League. That’s more points than Harry Redknapp managed in his two fourth-placed seasons and even more so than Mauricio Pochettino’s side garnered in the season they rivalled Leicester for the title only to finish third. Unfortunately with the sale of Bale and the arrival of ‘the magnificent seven’ – which didn’t contain the players Villas-Boas asked for in Joao Moutinho, Willian, Oscar and Leandro Damiao – things started to go wrong for the young head coach, particularly in the big matches with heavy defeats and collapses and he was shown the door.
3. Harry Redknapp (2008-12)
Redknapp rescued Tottenham from the mess Ramos had left the club in in the Premier League to finish eighth after dragging the team up the table and with a runners-up spot in the League Cup to boot. After that came two fourth place finishes sandwiching a fifth spot. The first top four finish brought that thrilling Champions League run – the first time the club had been in the the competition – and those memorable games against Inter Milan and their city rivals AC Milan. The second top four finish, coming after all of those distracting England job links and a court case, was unfortunate in that Chelsea winning the Champions League meant Spurs would not enter the competition – a rule that was later changed. Redknapp was sacked that summer with differing reports on the reasons behind his departure, ranging from failing to agree a new deal with the club to Levy wanting a manager with more modern methods to lead the club into the first season at their new training ground. As with Villas-Boas, Redknapp could well point to getting Louis Saha and Ryan Nelson in the January transfer window during the season Tottenham were pushing at the top when he had wanted Carlos Tevez and Gary Cahill. Others might say that Redknapp had arguably Spurs’ best collection of players in recent memory with Bale, Modric, Rafael van der Vaart, Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe, Aaron Lennon and Ledley King among others to call upon and perhaps could have done even better with them.
2. Martin Jol (2004-7)
For Martin Jol to be so high up this list is down to the impact he made at Tottenham. While others before and after him during Levy’s era took the club up a place or two in the table from previous seasons, making incremental changes to Spurs’ standing in the Premier League, Jol began a new era at the club. Much of the groundwork for the Tottenham Hotspur of today came during the popular Dutchman’s era. He picked up the pieces of the Santini mess, having been the Frenchman’s assistant while impressing everyone behind the scenes. In his first full season he forged a team of young talented British players with older European heads to take Tottenham to fifth in the table and managed the same again the following season. There is of course that famous ‘lasagne-gate’ match at West Ham, 14 years ago today, when Jol and Spurs came so close to qualifying for the top four and the Champions League despite the illness that ravaged through his squad.
To put Jol’s two fifth places into perspective, Spurs had not finished in the top six in the top flight for the previous 15 years. It all went wrong around Jol in his final season, with talk of director of football Damien Comolli choosing signings rather than him and then after losing just the first two matches of the season came that infamous not so secret club meeting with Ramos while Jol was still in charge. That match against Getafe with the crowd knowing Jol was to be sacked before he did was the culmination of a couple of months that remain one of the biggest stains on the Levy era.
1. Mauricio Pochettino (2014-19)
As Jol turned Tottenham into a top six team, so Pochettino turned them into a consistent top four side and one that was seriously in the mix for the Premier League title at times. The Argentine took a team with a budget dwarfed by their big-spending rivals and constantly upset the established order with a thrilling brand of aggressive, physical football. After finishing fifth in his first campaign, having completed an overhaul mid-season of a fractured squad, Pochettino took Spurs to three consecutive top three finishes – including one second place – pushing first Leicester and then Chelsea hard for the title. In his final full season he led Tottenham to fourth and that historic Champions League final after a draining and dramatic run to Madrid. He managed all of the above while the club were building a new stadium, switching between different home venues and as Jol had done years before, he brought the club and the fans closer together than they had been in years. He created a family atmosphere at the club and the players have never been closer than during those middle three years under Pochettino. However, with questions marks over his lack of silverware, it all went wrong after that lost final in Madrid, some of the blame lying at Pochettino’s door and some of it at the feet of those around him. As with Jol, there will always be claims that the Argentine had reached his ceiling at Tottenham – he might claim he achieved wonders with what he had – but the fans will always remember what he did for the north London club.
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