Nuno Espirito Santo must have known that the end was drawing near last Friday, even before the final loss to Manchester United.
I say this because his press conference before that game stuck with me.
Nuno isn’t a manager who tends to make headline-generating comments, but he felt like he used his platform eight days ago to message his successor.
Nuno Espirito Santo must have known that the end was drawing near last Friday, even before that.
“I wish all the players were equally committed,” he said. ‘These players have to go further. Is that how it works. In this industry, this is what the player must do. Unfortunately, that’s not what is always happening. ‘
The message was clear. Nuno knew that some members of the Spurs team had stopped pushing for him and was highlighting the situation the new man could hope to get into. It seems there was a lack of leadership in your team. Nuno’s comments led people to say that she had ‘lost her dressing room’. I hate that phrase.
I find the concept that a footballer can stop listening to a coach and stop working for him completely alien to my approach to life.
There were times when I had amazing form spells, others when I was playing so badly that I questioned my worth. But I never stopped doing the things that were instilled in me: treating people with respect, doing my best every day. I never stopped trying.
I say this because his press conference before that game stuck with me. Nuno is not one to make headline comments, but she felt like she wanted to send a message.
Nuno suffered because, collectively, the Tottenham team did not respect him
I found Nuno’s words fascinating and my instinct tells me that veteran players are likely the problem. If it had been someone marginal who was not engaged, there is no way that Nuno would have made it public.
He wouldn’t have had to. He could have sent whoever was going to train with the under-23s. But he decided to shine a light. So who was he talking about?
It would be interesting to know. Did they keep playing for him, until the end? Had they been left out? You can only draw your own conclusions.
If there are two senior players in a changing locker room, the whole environment changes.
If things go well, there is no better place for the atmosphere. But when results slip and a manager is under pressure, it can quickly become toxic if not everyone does the same.
In last week’s column, I talked about Patrick Vieira and the influence he had in terms of leadership in the Manchester City dressing room. I know people like Roy Keane, Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard and Vincent Kompany, captains who set the tone and kept everything under control.
If there are two senior players in a locker room who rotate, the whole environment changes
But now that former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is in the building, there will be no excuses.
Throughout his time at the Spurs, Harry Kane has led by example on the field. I have supported Harry, undoubtedly a world-class forward, throughout his career. But the hangover and disappointment at not being able to move to the City in the summer seem to last too long. Everyone can see that he has not performed at his usual high level.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that I am one of the players Nuno referred to. What is inescapable, however, is that he has gone from being Tottenham’s top scorer and best assist provider to having a Premier League goal on the first weekend of November.
To have had any chance of succeeding, Nuno needed Kane to fire at full blast. That has never been the case.
Nuno suffered because collectively the Tottenham team didn’t respect him and couldn’t change that.
He was not the first choice to replace José Mourinho and, by all reports, he was not even second, third or fourth. Some players may have thought to themselves: ‘This is not what I signed up for.’
The Italian coach needs to change history. He also needs to change attitudes at Spurs
If Conte puts Tottenham in the top four with this team, it would be a small miracle
Now that Antonio Conte is in the building there will be no excuses. Tottenham have done it incredibly because he is a manager who can really cope with Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. He is a serious player who will not tolerate anyone who does not try.
All excuses have been removed. We all could see how it was going to end for Nuno, but I’m fascinated thinking about where Tottenham looks in the bigger picture as they are a bit far from being a Champions League team.
If Conte puts Tottenham in the top four with this team, it would be a minor miracle, on par with winning a trophy.
And if it does deliver cutlery, it would be an incredible achievement.
When we played Tottenham at White Hart Lane we loved it because it would always be a brilliant football match and they played with ‘dynamism’. But we never saw them as a team that was going to win a major trophy.
Conte needs to change history. You also need to change your attitude.