Date: 14th May 2018 at 2:45pm
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Written by BelgianSpur

Levy and Marmite – a love/hate conundrum

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Geofspurs to write an article about my views on the ENIC era of Spurs. I actually wrote most of this article at the time, but I wanted to wait a few weeks to post it. I didn’t want to compound misery on VS on the back of our “end of season wobble”, but now that 3rd is in the bag, and spirits are a bit higher, it’s a better time to open the debate.

Over the last years, different groups of Spurs fans have often disagreed about what to think of Daniel Levy (and to a lesser degree Joe Lewis) and his ability to build a successful dynasty at Spurs, both on and off the pitch. Geof and I, specifically, have widely different views and expectations on the matter. Given that Geof has provided a lot of content to VS recently (thanks, by the way), but obviously supporting his views more than mine, he told me I should submit an article offering another point of view. Here I go, hoping it will generate a good and respectful discussion between posters, even if the article offers a point of view which is different to theirs. The purpose here is to open the discussion and try to understand where the differences of opinion come from, within a group of fans who should have rather similar aspirations – success for Spurs.

When it comes to Daniel Levy, he seems to be like the traditional British delicacy Marmite. Very few people are on the fence about him. You’re either in full and total support (and that certainly seems to be a popular opinion amongst Spurs fans at the moment, given a fairly recent uptick in performances, and of course, the very promising infrastructure projects which have been rather masterfully deployed) or reluctant to trust him and his choices (the number one argument for Levy detractors being the rather unenviable return of 1 trophy in 17 years, but limited investment in players, poor past managerial appointments, an iffy transfer record, and botched transfer deals over the years are other prime culprits here). While there is evidence to support both the good and bad marks (and each could warrant an article on its own, but let’s not dive too deep in any specific one here, at the risk of writing a book, not an article), even the bad marks have to be put in the context of modern football, a world with very few certainties. All of those elements are subject to some leniency/mitigating factors. It’s how much leniency one decides to give which varies from supporter to supporter.

Rather than list each positive development individually, I think the general consensus for Levy supporters is that while it’s taken some time, the last 3/4 seasons have offered lots of reasons for hope, not least the appointment of MP, which seems to be a new chapter in the history of the club. With the new stadium on the way, there is reason to be optimistic about the future of the club and the financial possibilities that said stadium could open. For this reason, Levy supporters seem willing to forget, or at the very least rationalise, some of the earlier Levy “mistakes”. The fact that it’s taken more than 17 years, a rather long time in modern football, to transform the club, is an afterthought given that we seem to be on a promising path today.

For Levy detractors, this is partly where the problem lies. It sometimes feels like Levy’s got some sort of a cult following on VS. The fact that the last 3 to 4 seasons have been better (and that much is undisputable) doesn’t erase the fact that over the entirety of the ENIC tenure, we have rarely been in positions to challenge (more on that later). And while the current trend is promising, there is the feeling that we have been here before (OK, maybe not quite as good, but thereabouts) in the recent past (our 2011 season comes to mind), only to go backwards after that. There is this ongoing expectation that while enjoyable, this current run of form is a flash in the pan which could be derailed by a Kane/Alli/Eriksen injury, or worse, departure, and that there are few credible contingency plans in place, due to poor recruitment, an unwillingness to spend despite having the means, or a combination of both.

Worse, given Levy’s financial rigidity in the past, there is a worry among Levy detractors that the new revenue streams generated by the new stadium will in fact only make the club richer, but not better on the pitch. Levy himself confirmed only a few weeks ago that he did not expect to drastically change his ways, even with the new stadium riches. For supporters who have long rued our lack of depth in certain positions, or a perception of having to settle for “plan C” transfers due to our unwillingness to pay the prices of top players, this is certainly cause for concern, and it puts a damper on the optimism the new stadium should be generating universally.

To try to bring substance to the argument supporting a rather limited ability to compete under Levy, I had a look at our results on the pitch during the ENIC era. In the last 17 years we’ve finished 7th on average, and have exited FA and League cups in the 4th and 5th rounds respectively, on average, with one trophy to show for it. We’ve had 3 podium finishes, all coming in the last 3 years. In the 17 years before ENIC (coincidentally, going back to my year of birth, 1984), we finished on average 9th, had the same number of podium finishes, and won 2 trophies. I’m not sure what 7th gets you that 9th does not, and our trophy haul and podium finishes seem to indicate that Levy, over his entire tenure, has failed to transform our club’s sporting achievements dramatically so far. If anything, we’re doing more of the same, if not slightly worse.

There are of course many factors which have changed football in the last 15 years (money, primarily), and each era had its challenges. The fact remains that our standing in English football hasn’t radically changed under ENIC, despite having a rather attractive location and rich history. There sometimes seems like there is this passiveness, or general acceptance, of our footballing shortcomings, and a strange rationalization that this is somehow OK because we’ve got a great training facility, and that Brazil want to train there ahead of the World Cup. Since when is that a valid substitution for winning football?

Of course, on-field success is not the only measure of progress. Levy supporters will be quick to point that out, and it’s a fair point. But for a …football club, the football should, in my mind, be priority number one.

In my opinion, a new stadium is a welcome addition primarily for the new revenue streams it opens, and a second consideration is the improved fan experience during games (and some older fans will even dispute that, claiming modern arenas are too asepticised). But if you fundamentally have little faith in the fact that the new revenues are going to be reinvested in the squad (and wisely at that), either to reward our top performers or attract new talent, and not just to build a strong 11 but a deep squad, the new stadium is a bit anticlimactic. And given Levy’s past, can fans really believe he’ll put up the money when it counts?

Believe it or not, I haven’t always felt that way about ENIC. At first, I was enchanted by Levy’s ability to turn the club from a financial liability into a well-run PL institution. However, over time, I have grown frustrated with the rather slow pace of progress and come to doubt Levy more and more. The longer we have to wait for a trophy, the bigger the evidence that he is not the man to take us to titles.

All the cynicism towards Levy (over his disproportionate wages, for example) probably isn’t productive and certainly doesn’t contribute much to the discussion, I can admit that. But even trying to keep an open mind, I can’t help but feel that the knocks against Levy are counting heavily against him. As far as I’m concerned, the only way he can begin to change that perception and prove that he is indeed the man to build a dynasty at Spurs, is to win things. We’ve had to endure an initial 14 years of stagnation under him, so it’ll probably take about as long, at the current performance levels, to change the perception.

While I, and many other Levy detractors, will readily admit, he’s very good at certain parts of his job. But overall, all things considered, he has failed to profoundly transform us on the pitch so far, if the last 17 years, and the 17 years before ENIC, are anything to go by. We’ve had small windows of contention, but they historically have been short-lived. At the very least, even for Levy supporters, I feel that should be held against him, which rarely seems to be the case.

This being said, I also easily recognise that Levy detractors should be willing to give him more credit for what he has delivered and try to give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this really is a new chapter and we will go onwards and upwards from here. While it’s probably not unreasonable to have some doubts about Levy given years past, it’s also not impossible that Levy has had a plan all along and that he was simply waiting for the correct set of circumstances to be in place before acting on it. I suppose we’ll find out very soon –as early as the summer transfer window.

I think that it wouldn’t actually be that hard to reconcile different sections of the Spurs fan base when it comes to Levy. What frustrates Levy detractors the most is to hear the man be praised to the hilt despite the bare trophy cabinet. I would personally be a lot more inclined to see the good in Levy’s actions if I felt most fans held him accountable for his failures too. In contrast, recognising some of the progress we’ve made recently, and praising Levy for it, probably would go a long way in reconciling opposing views.

In conclusion, Levy shouldn’t be like Marmite. Every Spurs fan should actually be on the fence about him. Recognising what he has done well but expecting him to improve in areas where we still fall short. Much like he probably isn’t the uninvolved demon some make him out to be, he is also far from the genius that others praise. The one thing we must do, as Spurs fans, and paying customers, is to continue to have high expectations for projects both on and off the field. The day that fans stop being demanding is the day the club will die.

By BelgianSpur


75 Replies to “Daniel Levy The Marmite Man – A Love/Hate Conundrum”

  • The big difference between Levy and his critics is they refuse to answer the question “where does the money come from ?” ,preferring to pretend it magically comes out of thin air. Levy doesn’t have that luxury, he has to balance the books. Another give away in the article is the claim that “a new stadium is a welcome addition”. No, the new stadium is absolutely essential. Without it we can never generate enough revenue to compete. If you know how to win things with half the income of the competition then spell it out, but of course you don’t.

  • jod – Do you agree that the club’s revenues have increased recently? Why is our spend not growing proportionally? Where is the extra money going? LEvy’s bonuses perhaps? As for winning with half the income of the competition, ask Leicester’s management. Or Liverpool’s, the 5th richest club in the PL who is currently headed to the CL final. How are they doing it?

  • Good lord, Belgian. War and Peace was shorter. LOL. But I gutted it through to the bitter end.

    But good set of questions to raise. News full of stories about Poch wanting to talk to Danny Boy about spending 150 million to push the club into full competition with the rich clubs. If he doesn’t get it, Poch is likely to move on, say the stories.

    So here’s the message to Danny Boy and ENIC: Want to make money selling the club? It will we worth a lot more if it’s won something than if it’s a proverbial bridesmaid. Spend a bit nowk, support Poch, build up the current glory, and then you can walk away with a hell of a lot more lucra than if you muddle along in third or forth place. And god knows what you’ll end up with if you replace Poch at this point.

    Want to risk losing a lot of money in the end, Danny Boy? Fail to spend a bit now. Invest a bit now, keep Poch, move the club into real competition with the biggest clubs in Europe, and you’ll go out a big winner–which in your case means with a lot of money.

    Or, be remembered as penny wise and pound foolish.

    By the way, Belgian, I love Marmite, but Danny seems more Vegemite to me, and that’s being kind to Vegemite as well as to Danny Boy.

  • I maintain that the recently reported drop in stocks value for Joe Lewis although not disastrous was not an incidental report…. DL will not want to pay for the stadium Arsenal style ….selling its top players and not replacing them…DL IMO is looking at engineering a consortium investment that will buy THFC and Northumb Project from JL made up of the 3 stad financing banks, the new name sponsor (why theres delay in selling the naming right…DL wants huge name)and a NFL franchise major player. These 3 will buy ENIC out and DL stays/negot staying chairman. As a result the debt will effectively be reduced to negligible level if not wiped out completely and put Spurs on transfers resource level to match Mancunians, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenals of this world. There. My take on things and my projection of whats coming up…esp since Poccetino statements on Spurs taking risks in transfer activity. Mark my words DL does not do things the straightlaced way or operate within the box…his negot skills prove it. COYS!

  • Sergio, Pochettino only spoke of risk taking but didn’t specify what those risks should or would actually be…

  • Thank you BS, well written, though I do have a head ache now, only joking! Last 3 lines of the last paragraph very true.

    An argumentative debate about to occur, cat amongst pigeons, me thinks.

    SP….Great post, sound good to me especially if it happens, great theory.

    I to love marmite, think geofSpur might have something to say regards vegimite Tk.

    Jod I would ask the same question. COYS

    • vegemite is not Marmite. lol. Vegemite is something you either love or hate, but Marmite should only be loved. lol.

  • Sorry for the length of the article. But if we’re going to tackle such an enormous subject, it’s hard to do it Twitter-style, in 140 characters or less… It’s certainly an interesting time, with MP putting a bit of pressure on Levy. I just fear it’s going to end in tears.

  • Levy, imo, needs to stay. Do I want trophies of course I do…. do I want to risk the financial stability of the club to do it no way … I do agree, a little risk is needed, we need 2/3 quality players .. we can sell squad Players to contribute to 50% of the required funds … I personally love what levy has done … some of you need to cast your memories back to the Irvine scholar days … dark days … in relation to players purchased … he spends a lot, he’s just strewed he keeps outgoing transfer fees as low as possible whilst trying to get the maximum return for income sale fees …. end of the day to us it is a football club .. to him it’s a business and needs to make money … remember Sir Levy is a spurs supporter too, so knowsmthe paint and joy we suffer.

  • BelgianSpur -Usual vague rubbish. “Do you agree that the club’s revenues have increased recently” sounds so much better than “we still have significantly less money than the competition” (including Liverpool). Your reference to Leicester is a bit odd. You yourself were saying that season was a freak and Leicester would drop back down again (which they have). Are you now saying we should aspire to be be a one season wonder ?

  • I like Marmite. I eat it all the time. But I don’t love it. I could live without it, that’s for sure. I rather like a dollop of Vegemite on my toast as well.

    Therefore Levy to me is not at all akin to Marmite and it being loved or hated. Or any other savoury spread in a jar for that matter. LOL

    I do not love Levy nor do I hate him or, can I even say that I so much as like him. I have no personal feelings at all, toward him… Never actually met the fella!

    BS, when you and others speak of both on the pitch and off the pitch success… You always seem to separate the two and sidestep the most obvious issue. That being, that the more stable and financially successful a club is, the more likely it is that consistent and continued on the field success then follows as it becomes a more viable and realistic expectation.

    And, that aint no overnight dream. It takes foresight, astute forward planning, heavy spending and a goal towards longevity and hopefully establishing a long-lasting legacy…

    I’ll get back to you on this sometime in the future, when Spurs can afford to buy £75m CB’s or buy back £93m (ex-player) midfielders or £75m strikers that are no better than the ones we already have but can at least have the luxury of paying them 200-300 grand a week and still be okay to leave them on the bench for when they are not doing so well on the pitch…

  • Personally I’m sick of fans and pundits digging at Levy. This non sense of pay the players like Toby what they want. Pundits saying they need to pay the players what they want and Sheared he doesntnlike spurs, negative slats night saying Spurs want change and media twisting MP words saying he wants to leave and he will make demands and if Levy doesn’t give him bgsnof koneay henwill go. Its bloody stipid and greedy and shows just how messed up people are and why society and this country using a mess. Levy wants to do things right, life within our means, makemplayeds earn their keep and build a good ethical working business and never put the club at risk. What we pay for players and wages has to come from revenue and we don’t bring in enough to pay players what they are demanding, this is why the stadium is essential and then it will take time to see revenues coming in. Levy has worked hard to fjnd a manager who believes in the same and has worked hard to raiee the profile arpund the world, but increasing that, hence more revenues isnt easy when other clubs have mega money and already have a high profile, it takes years. If you dont build sllid foundations they collapse. When you look at Lecisster, one of title win but are they a bigger club for it, are they bringing in more fans and revenues, no, because they havent the clout. They got lucky but they cant progress on it. Levy wants this club to succed, but not just one trophy or title, he wants to dominate for a few years, be like Utd were, and to do that it takes time. Fergie won jotuing for a few years, MP has come close and we are on the brink of progressing with the new stadium but yoh cant rush it. Its jot the time to throw money tht we havent got at greedy players. Yes it means we lose them as fhey get older but if we stay competative for a few more years our time will come when the revenues statt coking in. Mp said he as ideas how to progress us next season, i saw no negative issues in uis speech, his englishnisnt great, he knows we are close and he he knows it is a long project he brought into that so why woild he change now! Media punters and fans are delusional. Media lie, punters get paid for giving opinoons which are usually wrong and are rehersed to bring an audiende, fans let their heart rule their head and are a representatoon of a society that mainly live by greed, intant gratification, and get jn1to debt and have no knowledge of business. The biggest problem Legy has is whether MP feels hebhas the energy to keep his work rate up for the ndxt few seasons and whether he feels he has done as juch as he xan on a tight budget knowing he is again prpbably going to lose our best players, like Toby, Walker last season. It takes a lot of hard work and we know MP like Barcelona, hot weather, so can Levy hold on to uim to complete the project. I think MP wants to stay, but he is sensible enough and has humility to see and say if he can succeed with the way things are at the moment, running on a tight budget. It must be exhausting so Levy has I think hit a place that he that have to try and find a way of helping MP more and that doesn’t necessary mean splashing money. It could mean a different approach and one I thought about was can we invest more wages to keep the players happy and spend less on potentials for a couple of seasons and only bring in a couple of players.whennyou look at players like Janssen, GK, Njie, Llorente, and to some extent Aurier we have spent mony on their wages and transfer fees and what have they contribted that may be our own academy couldnt have contributed. Sterling could not have done any wodse than Janssen and Llorente im sure. KWP probably done better than Aurier, Onamah could he have done better than Sissoko! And GK! I think so tbh. We now have a squad that is decent, and if we let Sissoko, Llorente, Janssen, GK go and even Aurier would we miss them! Not sure we would, and could we not just get a couple of decent players in like a striker and midfielder and increase wages and keep Toby. Next season we have Lucas, we have KWP, we have Winks hopefully, hopefully Lamela will improve with a pre season, can Foyth play a part and may be a couple of loaned back. If we get a decent striker and midfielder and keep the squad by raising wages and not buy potentials I think we could end up with a good chance of competing again and may be win something. Think of the wages Llorente, Sissoko, are on I bet it’s well over 100k between them. It’s about being creative and I think this is what MP was adhering to, a solution, may be jot what I’m suggesting but he has ideas and I don’t see why him and Levy can’t come up with something and whether Levy has made mistakes or not, he loves and support spurs and everyone makes mistakes in business and work but he is not stupid like media, punters and fans who have no idea about finance and who basically just fuel drama.

  • Loz….very well said, totally agree esp regards them doughnuts that call themselves pundits and the nitpicking what suits media, from one of the many happy clappers. COYS

  • In MP’s time, Spurs have reached one League cup final and two FA cup semi-finals. And in the PL, finished 5th then 3rd then 2nd then 3rd.

    Tell me this, did we fail to win those 3 cup matches or get any higher in the league because Tottenham do not pay Harry Kane 300 grand a week?

  • Enic & Levy love them or loath them just think back to the time before they saved us from going to the wall that was not great i dont think they would let that happen again i hope IMO

  • jod – I’m saying that there are numerous examples out there of teams with inferior budgets winning things. According to you, should we just hand all the trophies to Man City every year? There’s a correlation between money and the ability to compete, but it’s not an universal truth. But I suppose it’s a lot easier to just point to the gap in money to justify all of Levy’s failures, instead of actually answering the hard questions. I do find it both funny, and very hypocritical, that you accuse other posters of never answering questions, when you seem to avoid answering any yourself. Answer this jod: between 2016 and 2017, our revenues grew 46% (from 210 to 306 million) while our wage bill grew 27% (from 100 to 127 million). In 2016 our wages to revenue ratio was 57%, and in 2017, it’s 41%. Considering the increase in revenue was structural (mostly attributable to an increase in PL TV rights, hence recurring revenues not tied to CL qualification), where is the money going? The obvious answer is the stadium, but Levy assures us that the stadium financing doesn’t affect our budget. Maybe you can provide an explanation? The only vague rubbish is your justification.

  • barney – they did something admirable 15 years ago, for which they deserve credit. But how long do you rest on those laurels? Isn’t it time to demand more?

    • I agree BelgianSpur i would love to see us at the top of the league but we cannot compete with the money men at man city or chelsea i think for us to finish were we did is amazing i do love the club like all of us i am just so pleased i still have a team i can go and support i would like to see Poch not disrespect the cups we can compete for by fielding a second string C/L is great but who really thinks we can win it

  • Demand, BS? That sounds like you’d like to hold our chairman hostage in want of a huge ransom.

    Personally, I demand that Harry scores more goals and that Hugo concedes much less!

  • HT – the question is: how long is Harry going to stay if you’re not paying him the wages? That’s anyone’s guess, but Walker has already decided that he wouldn’t, and players like Toby and Rose aren’t exactly looking patient. The only saving grace for Harry is that he is a true club man, but it’d be foolish to expect the same attachment to the club from other players. Assuming modern footballers are motivated by two things, trophies and money, we’re not providing them with either at the minute. So as far as I can see, the clock is definitely ticking for the club to provide one or the other.

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