Pochettino's return would be Tottenham’s ultimate Bobby Ewing moment

OPINION: This week’s instalment of north London’s favourite soap opera mirrors one of Dallas’s outlandishly unbelievable storylines

Friday, 28th May 2021 — By Dan Carrier

Is Mauricio Pochettino coming home? 

THE ratings had fallen off dramatically.

Without the star man – his cool eye, the pull of his rugged, handsome features, his dramatic, heartbreaking storylines – the fans were getting increasingly irate, increasingly restless.

What could the soap bosses do, and could they find a way to fix the issue?

Patrick Duffy, star of the big-haired 1980s hit series Dallas, had made it clear he had had enough. He’d walked Bobby Ewing through losing his dad in a mysterious helicopter crash in the Caribbean.

He’d split up with his wife Pammy 100 times. He fought constantly with his evil brother-in-law Ken and other Texas oil gangsters to keep the family firm afloat, and been led a constant merry jig by his equally evil sibling, JR.

It was exhausting, moving from one crisis to another, and so Duffy got Bobby killed off.

Except life away from Southfork Ranch was just not what it was cracked up to be, and the bosses who believed Bobby was replaceable and the show must always go on felt the same.

So one day, about 18 months after he’d walked, Spurs fans woke up from a disturbing dream and there, emerging from the players tunnel, was Mauricio Pochettino.

That this week’s instalment of north London’s favourite soap opera mirrors one of Dallas’s better (i.e. outlandishly unbelievable) storylines feels just right.

Spurs offer a peculiar form of entertainment – and this week has been a masterclass in Spursyness Soap Operatics.

A season that started with promise, and then collapsed into a low-press black hole of negativity, ending with another managerial sacking. And then the back page bombshell that Harry Kane, Mr Tottenham, had finally seen enough, and wanted out.

With this deepest of black clouds casting it’s shadow over the club, the final day of the season arrived. For Spurs fans, Sunday offered a uniquely unpleasant lose / lose situation.

Get a result at Leicester and Spurs would finish the season above Arsenal: good. But help Chelsea into the Champions League: bad.

And qualify for the new Europa Conference League, which has Walt Disney’s rodent’s name all over it? Well that was bad as well.

Spurs, true to their inconsistent form, decided to go and give the Foxes a game. Leicester twice took the lead through questionable penalty decisions, something that would normally rip the guts out of a side with no confidence. But, instead, Tottenham rallied.

To cap it all, Ryan Mason’s decision to give Gareth Bale his final run out with about 20 to go – a seemingly desperate gesture at the time – came good, the Welshman contributing two goals to seal a 4-2 victory. Pure soap opera.

There was a feeling among many connected to the club that the close season could not come quick enough – but no, there is still the matter of a new manager to contend with.

At first, it seemed Spurs were making noises that they’d chosen their candidate, and more would be revealed in the next week or so.

And then, the Pochettino bombshell dropped, which came with the pleasant side effect of giving the constant churn over Kane’s future a rest.

If a week is a long time in politics, then a day is a lifetime in football. And, just like that, all the Kane speculation found itself parked for a few days as the next episodes turned back to the storyline of the next manager.

Spurs, with season ticket renewal reminders going out, no doubt liked the attention moving elsewhere.

Erik Ten Hag seemed to have ruled himself out of the Spurs job early on when the Ajax coach signed a contract extension. What actually happened was Ajax activated a clause, which they could do unilaterally.

Tottenham’s position had changed little – instead of negotiating with Ajax over a manager with a year left on his contract, they would simply have to do so for a manager who had three years to go.

More importantly, in Tottenham’s mind, is how Ajax’s set-up works, and if Ten Hag would fit into the structures at Spurs.

Ajax are known for the big role a director of football plays, and for bringing through world class players. But that’s more about the club’s set-up as opposed to Ten Hag’s individual influence.

Then the Antonio Conte factor was thrown in to the mix. After helping Inter Milan seal their first Scudetto title for a decade, the former Chelsea boss walked.

There were reports it was due to the Inter board demanding he cut the squad and raise £80m, such is the state of the club’s finances. If the disagreement was about squad investment, then moving to Spurs would surely be a case of leaping from the frying pan into the fire.

Conte’s track record in the Premier League is good – a title and FA Cup at Chelsea. However, with one eye on the fan base, perhaps the idea of being unlucky yet again with an ex-Chelsea boss – Andre Villas-Boas and Mourinho – is too much of a gamble.

Finally, the plot veered again with Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane parting ways. Conte would surely be heading for Spain.

If anyone could persuade Kane to stay, the idea of working on a training pitch with Zidane must hold some attractions – but there’s no reason to suppose Levy wants to go that way, nor that the Frenchman has ever expressed any interest in the job.

But with the Madrid position now open, the job opportunities for elite managers suddenly widened spectacularly. Spurs were no longer the biggest game in town, perhaps making things a little more urgent in the chairman’s office.

With that in mind, suddenly the idea of a Bobby Ewing like storyline has emerged.

On Tuesday, unsourced, barely substantiated, and too-good-to-be-plausible reports came that first-team players and club officials had been speaking openly about their desires to have Pochettino back at the helm.

Had influential players been in touch with their friend to broach the subject? Had Levy sent Poch a late night, two bottles of wine down, text?

Add to this Paris Saint-Germain’s failure to win the title by a point, and reports of Poch clashing with PSG’s all-seeing director of football, Leonardo – and the fact Poch and his crew are still living out of suitcases in a Parisian hotel while his family are based in London – and the rumours of a Tottenham return suddenly sounded believable.

Things moved fast. By Wednesday, the stories were growing and betting odds were shifting, and by Thursday, it was seemingly confirmed by unnamed sources at Spurs that the club wants Pochettino back.

If such a move was to happen, it would be Tottenham’s ultimate Bobby Ewing moment, better than the returns of Ossie Ardiles, Micky Hazard, Jurgen Klinsmann, Teddy Sheringham, Robbie Keane, Jermain Defoe and yes, even Gareth Bale.

Would it be a success? It feels no more than a gamble than appointing anyone else, and a whole lot more fun.

Poch knows the club, and knows what needs to be done. It would send a message from the board to fans that they were listening.

Life feels too short for this deal not to happen. If it fails, at least Spurs have aimed big. As Bill Nicholson and Danny Blanchflower said, the games about glory: To Dare Is To Do, and all that.

If Levy really cares about the club’s DNA, then facing up to your own shortcomings and putting them right so you can get back together with your much-missed ex is a journey it feels everyone connected with the club is ready to embark on.

And if it’s good enough for the Dallas script writers, then it suits the N17 soap opera, too.

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