David Conn takes a trip through the FJM Machine

The now-defunct Fire Joe Morgan was a brilliant website famous for skewering the worst in sports “journalism”. Their legacy has been carried on in many places, including by the hilarious folks at Kissing Suzy Kolber and our fine friends over at Unprofessional Foul.

They say if you’re gonna steal, steal from the best, so here is our loving homage to the brilliant work that’s come before us as we give a hearty fuck you to some serious journalistic garbage.

“Don’t try and improve upon what the world has given you. I was born looking like a penis wearing glasses, so I just sorta ran with it. I hope it comes through in my writing.”

This weekend The Guardian published some delightful bullshit on the sacking of Harry Redknapp. In his article assholishly entitled “Delusions of grandeur haunt the men running Tottenham Hotspur“, David Conn wags his finger at Spurs and condescendingly chastens Daniel Levy for daring to want better than his god-ordained place in the world. The article appears below in bold. Our comments follow in plain text.

There are two ways to ask the same question about the Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy, the club’s owner, Joe Lewis, and the three directors who sanctioned this week’s sacking of Harry Redknapp.

I’m so impressed you figured out two ways to ask the completely wrong question.

Do they have delusions of grandeur if fourth place in the Premier League is considered not good enough?


Congratulations, Mr. Conn. You’ve presumed, wrongly, that you understand the reason behind Harry Redknapp’s sacking. Nuance and subtleties are for assholes. There couldn’t possibly be any reasons besides league position to warrant the firing of a manager. Carlo Ancelotti finished second with Chelsea and got fired. Roberto di Matteo finished sixth and got hired for another season. ROMAN, Y U THINK 6 IS BETTER THAN 2?!

But let’s assume he didn’t get the central premise of his article completely wrong. Let’s just take at face value that Spurs want better than fourth place.

Who the fuck are you to say that Spurs shouldn’t be striving for more? Why is it ridiculous to want better than your assigned seat at the EPL table? Should Wigan never want better for themselves than merely avoiding relegation? Should Arsenal and Liverpool never aspire to the title? If you’re not trying to do better than you’ve done in the past, what in the fuck is the point?

Or, to put it more bluntly: what more do they want?

You’re right, accusing someone of delusions of grandeur was a much gentler way of putting it.

So while Mr. Conn doesn’t appear to know the definition of the word “blunt”, this is a much better question to be asking. A question that perhaps he should have asked himself before he shat out this fucking article. What do Spurs want from all this? What do they hope to achieve by firing Harry Redknapp and bringing in a new regime at the club?

No, that question’s hard. Fuck it. Let’s go back to the delusions of grandeur thing.

The strange circumstances of Spurs’ season have been well chewed over.

Strange circumstances indeed. Let us puzzle over the otherwordly mysteries in the hopes that we may divine how such a bizarre season unfolded.

What’s that? It’s no mystery? Spurs just stopped winning games after Harry’s mind wandered when he got linked with England? Oh.

Redknapp had his team in third place after a series of scintillating performances but a 10-point gap was inexorably clawed away in a patchy run from February.

Inexorably clawed away. What a delightful phrase that puts the focus on the grit and spirit of the teams behind Spurs, rather than the fact that Harry’s Tottenham contrived to win 1 game in 9 in what can only be called a collapse of epic proportions. But props to those inexorable clawers. They done good.

Although Redknapp will not acknowledge it, he and his players were knocked off their stride after his and English football’s maddest day, when he walked free from a Southwark court, acquitted of tax fraud on the morning of 8 February. Fabio Capello resigned as England manager in the afternoon and Redknapp, who could have ended the day in prison had the jury decided against him, was installed as the favourite to manage the national team. The Football Association then took almost until the end of the season before unveiling Roy Hodgson as their choice.

Oh look, mystery unraveled.

“Here I shall pay lip service to some very real circumstances that would warrant the firing of a manager, but after this paragraph, I shall never mention them again, nor shall I give any credence to the possibility that this may be part of the reason Redknapp had no future with Tottenham.”

Fourth place would have given Spurs a Champions League qualification tie had Chelsea not won the trophy, on penalties, which makes Redknapp’s sacking appear harsher still. However unbalanced the season and whatever the irritations for Levy with Redknapp’s demands for a new contract, Levy has sacked the manager who took Spurs to their highest positions for years and, in 2010-11, their only ever Champions League season.

God dammit, David Conn. Let’s just address what are, again, very valid reasons for firing a manager and hide them in an introductory clause, so then we can point out how none of this matters in the face of league position, the only metric anyone should ever be using for anything.

Incidentally, seven years ago Martin Jol was the manager who took Spurs to their highest position for years and finished a lasagna away from their first ever Champions League season. Since firing him, we’ve never recovered.

When the Tottenham chairman looks up to the clubs who finished above them, he sees Arsenal and Manchester United with income and spending power eclipsing his, and Manchester City too, because unlike Lewis, City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour, continues to invest a fortune. Those three clubs have another feature which Levy and his board must have considered: managerial stability.

Fergie Ferg is literally the only example in this sport of the merits of managerial stability. Arsene Wenger is a brilliant manager. Who hasn’t won a trophy in over SEVEN YEARS. Maybe he’s done amazing work just by showing up for the Champions League year after year. Or maybe someone else would have come in and built a team that actually challenges for the title. Who knows. But you can’t point to 7 years of trophyless football and say, “LOOK HOW SUCCESSFUL THIS SYSTEM IS”. Because that’s patently bullshit.

If managerial stability is the end all be all of football excellence, why are there so few examples of it? Why does Chelsea continue to win things despite changing managers multiple times a season? Why did Pep Guardiola depart Barcelona after making them the greatest side the world has ever seen? Why does Everton keep not winning the Champions League?

Fergie is the exception, not the rule. The sooner people realize this and stop perpetuating this bullshit, the sooner we can have an actual conversation.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger have built empires at United and Arsenal and survived periods – although Ferguson’s was more than 20 years ago – when their boards considered replacing them.

Welcome to the Harry Redknapp empire! Population: top, top lads. Where Emperor Harry reigns through a rolled down car window and Crown Prince Joe Cole forever lingers on the verge of fulfilling his promise.

Roberto Mancini’s tenure is much shorter and more insecure but Mansour’s executives still supported the Italian when City wobbled badly at Arsenal and José Mourinho was said to be looking at properties in England.

Bobby Manc has been in the job for three years, let’s not get carried away here buddy. We’ll see what happens when City fail to get out of the group stage in the Champions League again next season.

Stability, with the right manager, is a key to football success and Spurs have had too little of it. The last manager to work even as long as Redknapp’s four years at White Hart Lane was Terry Venables, from 1987 to 1991, 21 years ago.

The average duration of a Premier League manager’s term in charge of a club is 3.38 years (an average that includes Ferguson and Wenger’s 40 collective years in the equation). Are Manchester United and Arsenal the only clubs to have uncovered this magical formula for guaranteed success? Would Liverpool be winning the league if Rafa Benitez had never gone? If Paul Jewell had stayed with Wigan, would they have emerged from the depths of the league table to challenge the Top 4 every year?

Oh, so managerial stability isn’t a byword for success? Well fuck.

Levy’s performance in manager recruitment has not been consistent. Jacques Santini and Juande Ramos flopped while Martin Jol was a solid leader before Redknapp arrived in October 2008 and set Tottenham on the route to relative excellence. There are more ways for things to go wrong than for a new manager to improve on a fourth place.

Sometimes new managers do good! Sometimes new managers do bad! You might do bad, so don’t ever change anything. Because doing bad is worse than doing good.

In the Premier League, performance roughly equates to financial power. In that Darwinian environment, Redknapp surpassed expectation. Sheikh Mansour spent around £1bn to win City the Premier League. United, frayed by the Glazers’ massive debt burden, still had an income of £331m in 2010-11, the year of clubs’ most recent published financial accounts, and serviced a wage bill of £153m. That is £62m more than Ferguson spent paying players than the £91m made available by Levy to Redknapp. Arsenal, whose superiority Spurs feel most keenly, turned over £256m at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger spending a relatively modest 48% of that on wages, still £124m, substantially more than their north London rivals.

These motherfuckers went to Harvard. That’s some Ivy League shit, son. You’d be lucky to get into Hamburger University. Why you even bother?

Redknapp steered his team to finish above Chelsea last season, whose turnover and backing by Roman Abramovich far exceeds that of Spurs and Liverpool, whose wage bill in 2010-11 was £135m.Tottenham’s 2010-11 turnover was £163m, up from £120m the previous year largely due to participation in the Champions League. Levy is frustrated to see such money now beyond reach but surely it is unrealistic of a chairman working for Lewis – billed as a billionaire but who invests little of his own money – to expect Champions League football.

Yes. Redknapp did amazingly well to do better than richer clubs. He really upset the apple cart with that shit.

But by some freak accident, our po’ folks squad is now somehow better than some teams that are richer than we are, even though we don’t light our cigars with flaming hundred dollar bills. Perhaps this superior squad could do better than it has under a man who’s never heard of squad rotation or tactics, a man who had his head turned worse than Luka Modric, a man who collapsed a 10 point lead over our arch rivals, a man who thinks the answer to all life’s problems is a bacon sandwich.

The size of a club’s stadium has long determined financial power and Spurs have talked a great deal about a new stadium without actually building one.

Manchester City and Chelsea have all the money because of their massive 40-something thousand seat stadiums. And Newcastle finish third every year because of their third-largest stadium.

White Hart Lane’s capacity is 36,534, less than half that of Old Trafford’s 75,769. The comparison which hurts, though, is with Arsenal, who remain the only top club to have successfully built a stadium themselves – not with public money like the former 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium which Manchester City occupy – in the modern era. John Henry, Liverpool’s American owner, pointed that out in an illuminating interview with The Anfield Wrap website this week, explaining again why he prefers to expand Anfield than build a new stadium at Stanley Park.

Your stadium is small! Don’t fire Harry Redknapp, you’ve got a small stadium! If it wasn’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college!

Levy talked first of enlarging White Hart Lane, then building a stadium nearby, then lost the bid to take over the Olympic Stadium site, before returning to the Northumberland Development Project. This promises to build an expanded, 56,000-seat ground on White Hart Lane, and public money is promised to aid local regeneration.


Yet despite all that talk, the tough work necessary to build Tottenham into Champions League regulars, remains just that – talk.

Oh. Boo!

Levy, why are you just talking about building a stadium? Why don’t you get out there, and oh I don’t know, actually build it? What are you waiting for? GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS DIRTY!

Arsenal started looking into building the Emirates in 1997. This is after they spent who knows how much time trying to get permission to expand Highbury and being ultimately denied. Three years later they bought the land and submitted their proposal for their new stadium. Six years later, the construction was actually complete. That’s 9 years from desire for a new stadium til that stadium actually appeared in North London.

Spurs began talk of a new stadium in 2007. A year later the site for the Northumberland Development Project was determined. But after initial dealings with the local government wanks did not look promising, Spurs turned their sights on moving to the Olympic Stadium. A protracted legal battle followed which was ultimately lost. We turned back to the NDP. Planning permission was finally secured last September. By all accounts, things are moving forward.

If only Harry knew how to lay some bricks he’d still have a job. Bob Villa and Tim the Toolman Taylor look to be the new front runners to take over in the dugout.

There was nothing empty, however, about Redknapp taking Spurs to fourth, fifth and fourth again in the past three seasons. And he did it without breaking Levy’s bank, by extracting excellence from his players – 

Excellence from his players. Players like Luka Modric and Gareth Bale. Players who previous managers broke Levy’s bank to buy.

until the upset over the England vacancy. His replacement will be hard pressed to do better.

Quite the upset, that. But Harry gets a pass. Because it’s good enough for a club like Spurs.

The suspicion remains that sacking the manager is, for Levy, displacement activity, a distraction from working out how to achieve the very thing that would convert Tottenham into bona fide Premier League contenders alongside Arsenal, City, United and Chelsea – to build the stadium Spurs have spent so long talking about.

So, Daniel Levy fired Harry Redknapp because it distracts him from not building the stadium he only obtained permission to build back in September?

You wrote all this bullshit, and now that you’re done, this is the conclusion you’ve come to?

Spurs don’t deserve any better than fourth. Until they build a big stadium, that is. But since Levy doesn’t know how to build stadiums, he fired Harry Redknapp. But if he’d only build it, Spurs would be legit title contenders.

Look, David. I’m sure you meant well here, but come on bro.

I’m glad Harry’s mid-season meltdown, playing hardball with Levy over a new contract, or god forbid, the football, are all irrelevant here.

Harry had to stay because Spurs are only mid-table in the David Conn Architecture Power Rankings.


One response to “David Conn takes a trip through the FJM Machine

  1. ‘Arry to Everton and Moyes to Spurs….how much would Brian shit himself? Over/under 3 times.

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