The Roar
The Roar


Ange Postecoglou's civil war with Tottenham fans masks an inconvenient truth about his own failures

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
16th May, 2024
3180 Reads

Whatever side you take in Ange Postecoglou’s ugly spat with a section of his own team’s supporters, his meltdown about the “fragile foundations” at Tottenham Hotspur has conveniently let himself off the hook for a situation that is, in a large part, of his own making.

The Australian’s arrival at Spurs at the start of the season was met with trepidation by large parts of the fan base.

Ten weeks in and he had the team top of the table – with home wins over Liverpool and Manchester United and an away draw at Arsenal bringing those supporters on board with a rush of excitement.

Postecoglou charmed the wider football community as well, gaining praise from pundits for his fresh takes on the game and its issues, and his commitment to an attractive style of football.

In March he was named the Manager of the Year in the London Football Awards – although he even he found the premature coronation with the business end of the season to come “bizarre”.

When the award was presented Spurs were sitting in fifth, a position they should just about hold onto ahead of fast-finishing Chelsea this weekend.

Wednesday’s defeat to Manchester City was Postecoglou’s fifth in six games, as he’s watched his team and his bloody minded refusal to display some tactical pragmatism absolutely shredded by decent teams.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, City and Newcastle – 4-0! – have reduced Ange’s high line to rubble, and the only win in that run was a 2-1 victory that relegated Burnley.


Postecoglou and his players bottled the top four race well before the acrimony of Wednesday morning (AEST).

Spurs fans wanting their team to lose to City (who’d never scored a PL goal at the new stadium) this week – to all but seal a fourth-straight title for a club facing 115 Premier League charges ahead of their local rivals – comes as absolutely no surprise.

Ange Postecoglou, Manager of Tottenham Hotspur reacts during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 26, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Ange Postecoglou. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what world class coaches Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte made of their time there.

Spurs have proven time and again to have small club mentality – why would they back themselves to win against City (who’d never scored a goal in previous PL visits to the new stadium), and then relegated Sheffield United, while hoping Aston Villa lost at in-form Crystal Palace? The history of Tottenham suggests that while most club’s fans would back their team in that scenario, Spurs fans can only imagine hurt.


 In that decisive losing run, Spurs went down to nine men against Chelsea and pushed up their centre backs, setting up on the half way. The high line looked like suicide to outsiders.

“It is just who we are mate, it is who we are and who we will be for as long as I am here. If we go down to five men we will have a go,” Ange told reporters.

If “who we are” meant Tottenham, he got that wrong. It’s who he is, and on this week’s display – cheering when City hit the lead at their own stadium – the fans lack the bravery to go along with him.

“I think the last 48 hours have revealed to me the foundations are fairly fragile,” the Aussie said. “That’s what I feel.

“The last 48 hours has revealed a fair bit to me. That’s alright, that just means I’ve got to go back to the drawing board with some things. Outside [the club], inside. It’s been an interesting exercise.


“I probably misread the situation as to what I think is important in our endeavour to becoming a winning team. But that’s ok, that’s why I’m here.”

Vision emerged after the game of Postecoglou blowing up at a fan who was calling for him to throw the game. Spurs fans celebrated City’s opening goal with joyful chants of “Are you watching, Arsenal?”

A supporters group has offered to meet with the former coach of Celtic to helpfully explain what football rivalries are about.

Ange seemed upset at the lack of ambition – the willingness to assume the loser mentality that sits so snugly on the shoulders of Tottenham fans. He says “I just want to to win.” But you reap what you sow.

Arsenal made $75 million from the Champions League this year – or four fifths of a Richarlison – yet Ange turned his nose up at suggestions that qualifying for it should take some kind of priority over his philosophy.


If the manager says “I couldn’t care less about the race for fourth,” enough, why should the fans care about it?

In their recent losses to Arsenal and Chelsea, Postecoglou’s team conceded two goals in each from set pieces.

Asked about it following the 3-2 loss to Arsenal – the league’s highest scorers from set-pieces, who have a coach specialising in the facet – Ange responded: “If I thought fixing defensive set pieces was the answer to us bridging the gap then I’d put all of my time and effort into that.”

It seemed like the words of a man stuck in his own head, who won’t let reality shift him from his vision.

After Tottenham were battered by Newcastle, former Man City and United player Owen Hargreaves, neatly summed up Postecoglou’s appeal, and his tactical naivety.

“I love that people have a philosophy and an identity but you still can tweak it, and I think Pep [Guardiola] even went to four centre-backs last year.


“Ange’s philosophy is beautiful to watch, my son’s team I make them play like that – everybody is getting high and we’re going mad aggressive – but sometimes you need a little bit of a different option.

“Not everybody has to attack and I like that he plays that way but I think over a 38-game season, you need something a bit different when you’re playing teams like that.”

Postecoglou has taught his players that losing is okay by failing to adapt his style in a bid to win, and telling them only trophies matter. Instead of desperately clawing every point available, he’s looking too far down the road.

Of course, it’s a familiar story to Socceroos fans – who watched him quit on the national team before a World Cup because his employers dared prioritise short term results.

You want your players and fans to have a winner’s mindset? Then start by making that the most important goal.

His failure to do so is why Son Hueng-min was laughing his head off with Pep Guardiola after missing a chance to equalise after 85 minutes against City. It’s why his fans were cheering for their team to lose. It will be an intriguing civil war to follow.