The rumour mill for English football never fails to entertain. The back pages of any of your usual tabloids would have you believe some of the most uncanny things, and yet every once in a while, a rumour arises which seems to make sense. This week reports surfaced that Tottenham Hotspur FC is up for sale for a cool £1 billion, a valuation nearly five times the price owner Joe Lewis paid for the side back in 2001.
Taking into account the side’s recent performances both this season and in the past few, and adding to that the rut current manager Mauricio Pochettino seems to be stuck in as well as stadium plans that continue to be delayed due to financial stretches, and a sale seems to make sense. But the question remains; can a side who just five years ago reached the quarter finals of the champions league and honed talents such as Gareth Bale and Luka Modric be rescued from their crisis?
There are a few key talking points.
The first and most recent issue is that of their stadium. With just 36,320 seats as compared to their nearest comparable rivals Arsenal and Everton (with 60,361 and 40,221 seater stadiums respectively), revenue generation has become a serious headache for the Lilywhites. Match day income even from domestic competitions is not nearly enough to fund player developments nor talent purchasing at the club (save for last season due to the sale of Gareth Bale), which is especially troubling seeing as all of the clubs above the side, including their fiercest rivals Arsenal who are known for frugal spending, are now opening up the coffers and accepting the importance of expensive (but more importantly, thought out) investments to achieve success in modern football.
Given that the club finished fourth, fifth, fourth, fifth and sixth in the last five years, having a stadium capacity lower even than that of Sunderland and Aston Villa is unacceptable. And yet without European football, there is no major source of revenue to build the new stadium. Without the new stadium, there are no revenues generated to invest in order to reach Europe. Crisis is the word.
There is also the sheer unpredictability that developed in their form last season. Although the case can be made that last season in particular was difficult for the side due to the departure of talisman Gareth Bale for a tenth of the price the club is rumoured to be on sale for, the fact that the revenues were blasted on the likes of Paulinho, Soldado, Lloris, Eriksen and Lamela to partner Vertonghen and Adebayor meant that the side really didn’t have an excuse to not do well. Sure it takes time for a squad to gel, but that gelling should be under one manager, which neither Daniel Levy nor Joe Lewis had time for, as they promptly dismissed Andres Villas Boas and installed in his place the enigmatic and sometimes seemingly insane Tim Sherwood (who still has the highest win ratio for any Spurs manager at the domestic level, with exactly 50% of all games in charge won).
This year, they have brought in someone who many believe will be instrumental in shaping the side due to his footballing philosophy: Mauricio Pochettino has been called up to wear the navy blue with the rooster-atop-football insignia after his meteoric rise to fame in taking Southampton to a whole new level last season. An away win against West Ham United and a home thrashing of QPR by 4 goals meant the season looked promising, but since then they have been brought back down to earth by a Liverpool side that looks more than deadly. And that too by a 3-0 score line at White Hart Lane.
The fact that one of the club’s key transfer goals this season was to not let Jan Vertonghen leave says it all about their finances. With Pochettino at the helm, fans can expect another solid finish in the top half of the table this season, though with Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton in the fray, a lower finish than last season is also on the cards.
Patience and European football will seem to do the trick. The red side of London had those two cogs in place for 9 years, and now look to push on. Whether the side can await a similar period for success, especially given the heavy expectations of fans of all clubs nowadays, remains to be seen.