The Billionaire Boys Club: Why It’s Time For Tottenham’s Joe Lewis and Daniel Levy To Spend

The dismissal of Harry Redknapp and the new appointment of Andre Villas-Boas supposedly will usher in a new era for Tottenham Hotspur.  Both club owner Joe Lewis but chiefly chairman Daniel Levy state they have a new and exciting vision for the club. Will Andre Villas-Boas be a success? Only time will tell. What I think is worth discussing is the role of Levy and Lewis. Assuming there is a new vision for the club. Lewis and Levy have been at this for about eleven years. What will they do different this time?

I will admit I am not a supporter of Daniel Levy as chairman of the club. I think he has done well in maintaining the club’s books. However, I doubt his ability to provide proper direction or even leadership for the club. Since he became chairman in 2001, he has gone through eight managers and just hired his ninth. I find this trend extremely alarming. This indicates a chairman who lacks a coherent vision for the club. Out of eight individuals, he couldn’t find one individual that meets his desires or aspirations. If Levy wasn’t a close friend or assistant of Lewis, I think he would have been fired years ago, just as any other ordinary chairman of a company. How do you expect a coach to develop a team or a new direction if time isn’t given?

I think the key to success is being patient and willing to accept the ups and downs to build for a future. There will be struggles in the beginning and downright disappointment but that is the learning process. I believe Redknapp and even Martin Jol were doing what was asked of them.  Look at any team and you will see time is vital. As the old saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in day.” Living in a society where instant gratification is the norm doesn’t help. People demand instant attention, victories and glory. If that doesn’t happen, it demands instant change. People are so impatient today. That isn’t the model for a business and whether people want to admit it or not, sports is a business. Did Levy and Lewis give enough time to managers such as Redknapp, Jol or even Hoddle to develop a game winning philosophy? I don’t think so. They were too hungry for success and truly lacked the patience. Look what Sir Alex Ferguson created since becoming manager in 1986.

Since I have been a Spurs supporter, Martin Jol and Harry Redknapp have been the two most successful managers I have witnessed. I realize in the 07/08 season Jol was having a difficult time but Levy handled the situation very poorly and very unprofessionally. I understand the lure and desire to be successful and compete with the power clubs, but it all takes time. You have to be willing to take the hits before reaching the top. The success of Manchester United didn’t develop overnight; Ferguson was given time, resources and money. In the case of Redknapp, we will never know if he could have taken the club to a higher level. In addition, Levy didn’t provide Redknapp the money and resources. Levy claims he wants to focus on the young players and develop their talent. I agree that was a good idea. Before Jol departed, wasn’t he recruiting younger players, such as Gareth Bale? The same was true for Redknapp in developing the young players with Walker and Livermore. Sending other youth players on loan to gain experience, while Harry Kane could be a top striker for the club in the future. Not to mention most of Tottenham’s youth played a prominent role in last season’s Europa League matches.

There were the stories about how Redknapp and Levy didn’t get along. Levy wanted a director of football and Redknapp didn’t. I believe Levy wanted a director to have more influence over transfer policy and have someone in his corner to counter the coach’s decisions on players. But in the end it was about money — the millions of British pounds to spend on players that Redknapp thought were needed and Levy’s unwieldiness to spend on quality players requested by the manager.

Tottenham generally speaking have been thrifty with spending. The message from Levy and his supporters is “Keep the books in the black, don’t mimic Manchester City.” In the four years Redknapp had been in charge, he was allowed to spend £47 million on players — cheap compared to other clubs. I do believe if you want to build a strong club and attract key players, you need to spend more and pay more in salaries. It’s a money game. I know people don’t like and I admit I don’t care for it, but it has become a reality. Money and a belief of success attract people, in this case players and facilities. I think Levy and Lewis really need to consider that idea. Of course, Levy spent £30 million on David Bentley and Roman Pavlyuchenko in 2008, which seemed a bit out of character. Currently, Bentley is lost in the wilderness and Pavyuchenko returned to Russia — not the best investment. Levy has wasted time and money on the Olympic Stadium that fell through and then shifted back to the Northumberland Development Project. But no construction on the new stadium creates doubt in how committed the board is to the development of the new stadium.  I have heard some rumors that current stadium is adequate. More attendants to games equals more revenue to spend. The thinking is that the upcoming United States summer tour will be good in getting the club’s brand out there and I believe the Under Armour deal could prove very positive as well, allowing easier access to club merchandise to American supporters.  Club revenue has increased over the years and it would seem responsible to invest the money back into the club, chiefly quality players, training grounds and a new stadium. Why not have the best? When it comes to Levy, he just appears to be all over the map with what he wants and doesn’t want.

According to news reports Levy has given the new Spurs manager £100 million to spend this summer. I find this rather shocking since I believe Levy’s checkbook is glued shut most of the time. If true, he wanted eleven years to spend some money. Last summer, Levy refused to listen to any discussion about core players; Modric was staying. It was a test of strength for the other clubs to see. Levy drew a line in the sand and wouldn’t sell but now all that tough talk seems to have disappeared and Modric looks to be leaving; a complete turnaround without much explanation. Of course, this could be just another repeat of him selling Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov and then just wasting the money. But in the end you want to bring in players you need and think will fit into the squad and vision you have created for the club.

Granted there have some recent signings this summer. Jan Vertonghen has finally arrived but that was a player Redknapp was pursing before his dismissal. And Gylfi Sigurdsson has just arrived. There is talk of a final move for Adebayor from Manchester City. Are the new signings the answers to Tottenham’s new direction? Time will tell. At the moment the checkbook is becoming a little un-glued. However, if it comes down to acquiring an expensive star player that the manager wants, will Levy let it happen?

It appears to me that Levy is what I would call a frustrated manager. He wants greater control over day-to-day operations but isn’t suited for the position. I think that is why he wants to re-instate the director of football position. I suspect that Levy wants to appoint an individual he can control concerning transfer policy thus having influence over the coach and players. I believe this was an area Levy and Redknapp clashed. It appeared Redknapp wanted greater control who was brought in and who left. In my view, the coach should have complete control over transfers. Who else would know better what the team requires? Unless the board can provide a good explanation to block a transfer, I think the coach should have the final say.

Joe Lewis has all the markings of an absentee owner who enjoys the status of owning a professional athletic team without using his resources to build the team. Lewis really hasn’t demonstrated any interest in putting his own resources into the club. According to Forbes, as of 2012 Lewis is ranked the 290th richest individual in the world and the 7th richest in the United Kingdom. In March 2011, Lewis lost $1.2 billion in the collapse of Bear Stearns. According to an anonymous source in The Guardian, the person stated that Lewis wasn’t really troubled about the loss, since he had another $2 billion left over. Plus, Lewis had made a fortune on currency speculation, which can be extremely risky, but he still won’t invest his own assets. Recently, Lewis spent £65 million on a new super yacht. To be fair, it is his money and he can do what he likes with it, but it would seem to me if he truly wants a world class team, he would better use his resources. If Lewis and Levy really wanted to get the building of a new stadium underway, Lewis could front most, if not all of the money. I think another problem facing Spurs is an owner who really isn’t in the game; Tottenham is just one tiny part of his economic holdings.

Last season, Manchester City took a lot of criticism for the amount of money spent on players. Many claimed Manchester City was buying the league title. It is well known that Tottenham wouldn’t pay those wages, at least not yet.  I think in this day and age of professional sports the desire to be successful and win titles attracts players. You must spend money. Running a team on a shoestring just isn’t going to work. It’s time to break the bank open and spend but be responsible.  If Lewis and Levy want a winning team, they need to compete with wages, construction of a larger stadium, state of the art training facilities and a strong marketing campaign to sell the club as a contender to the likes of Manchester United.

The passive interest that Lewis shows in football isn’t going to build a strong foundation for the future.

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