Ange Postecoglou will have known two things when he walked into the press conference room at Hotspur Way on Monday afternoon to meet the assembled media as new Tottenham Hotspur manager.
Firstly, the Australian was well aware that while he was the one sitting there in front of the cameras, most people were waiting for news of another man – Harry Kane. Postecoglou also knew that if he was to shift the focus back to him and Spurs, he needed to deliver a commanding, enigmatic and confident performance in the hot seat. Luckily he did, and he did it looking completely relaxed.
The press conference room at the Enfield-based training complex was busy. It wasn’t busy at Jose Mourinho levels. The same room was so packed on November 21, 2019 with the assembled world media that people stood, crowded along the walls and the back of the room immersed in cameras, but it was busy enough for Postecoglou.
Mourinho is a huge global name with millions hanging on his every word and while Postecoglou is a sports star back home in Australia today, the lower key nature of this introduction allowed for a better connection with the room as he engaged with the reporters on a more personal level than the Portuguese’s stand.
Postecoglou spoke for a long time across the press conference as questions were thrown at him, just under 53 minutes in total. Only Mourinho achieved more in his first press conference, with an hour and 12 minutes in total divided between the broadcast part and then the written part for the next morning’s papers.
For context, Nuno Espirito Santo’s first press conference as Tottenham manager lasted just 28 minutes. It was to become a theme for the former Wolves boss, who had little time to speak to the media or, it would later appear, a number of his players.
READ MORE: Ange Postecoglou gives update on status of potential Harry Kane move to Bayern
Postecoglou did not look like a man who stepped into the unknown. At 57, he has plenty of experience, whether it’s managing at a World Cup or within the cauldron of Old Firm rivalry. This could be seen as a step up, but as he said, it’s “just another challenge” to enjoy.
The Australian’s opening words would have been music to the ears of Tottenham fans.
“Happy to be here,” he said, something Spurs supporters were never quite sure of when it came to Antonio Conte.
The first Harry Kane mention arrived in the third question and immediately brought out a smile from the new head coach.
“Question three was Harry, was it? We ran a pool with the coaches, I actually think Mile Jedinak won. I had over six because I thought you’d care more about me,” joked Postecoglou.
The Australian managed to handle the Kane situation well, walking the fine line between disrespecting the player and making it clear that while he had had no assurances from the club about what happens next, the situation had not reached a point for him to be concerned about.
“Nothing has landed on my desk at the moment from anyone at the club to say there is a decision to be made there. Not even close, so I’m looking forward to having Harry here on Wednesday and getting ready to go,” he said.
It was in dealing with how he would approach his first meeting with Kane this week that Postecoglou struck the right notes across the board, praising the player while not treating him differently but also making it clear that he would create a team that the England captain would enjoy.
“I don’t think it’s my role to sit down and treat people one way because of their circumstances. I’m really big on treating everyone the same and Harry has already embedded himself in the history of this football club,” he said. “He is a very important part. He is one of the leading strikers in the world and I want him involved. My conversation with him will be about how we can make this club succeed. And I am not in doubts about what he wants too.
“So within that context, whatever it narrows down to the personal things around Harry as an individual. If the conversation takes it that way, then we take it that way. But I doubt it will be defined that way as people think it is going to be. It’s not going to be a conversation where we walk out of the room and have an understanding. I don’t want that kind of conversation, what I want is to introduce myself to Harry and give him my vision of the football And get a sense from him of what he thinks the club needs to do to be successful and go out on that training ground and try to make it happen.”
The first signal that Postecoglou will not be the butt of any jokes came when a reporter awkwardly tried to begin his first question with “G’day Ange”.
“That’s a good start, yeah g’day, how are you?” came the reply with a look that suggested there was more than a hint of sarcasm in there.
What followed was a question about the step up to the Premier League and in his answer Postecoglou made it abundantly clear that being Celtic boss is no easy task.
“I had the same kind of question when I moved to the SPL, but I’ve coached in a World Cup and in many different leagues. I think every challenge is the same to be honest because it’s relative to the competition, you’re in,” he said. “I’ve never gone into any job thinking this is going to be easy compared to anything else I’ve done. It’s going to be a huge challenge, absolutely.
“But Celtic was a massive challenge. I know people say in Scotland if you’re Celtic you finish first or second but for Celtic second is last. Second I’m not in a job. You have to finish first. So no matter what the outside thoughts are, there’s still a demand there. And it’s not just about winning, it’s the way you do it.”
Tottenham’s head coaches have not always given the greatest clarity when it comes to injury news. Cristian Stellini in particular would do anything to ensure that an injury remained hidden before a match to prevent the opponent from gaining an advantage. You half expected the Italian to make every injured star run past the press conference window just to complete the illusion.
Postecoglou was a little worried about telling soccer.london that Fraser Forster would not be among the touring squad departing on Friday, along with Rodrigo Bentancur, while some others were in doubt, with Djed Spence and Troy Parrott believed to be among them. How clear the Australian is of the latest injury news amid the hustle and bustle of the Premier League season may be another matter.
There was also a sense that the players will have a new slate to work from if they fit into the new head coach’s plans and give him everything in return.
That could even apply to Tanguy Ndombele, who is looking to make a strong first impression in his fifth pre-season at the club since his big-money move from Lyon.
“Tanguy has been good. He’s working hard in training, to be fair they all are, they have no chance!” He told soccer.london. “Again, I take things as I see them. For me, of course, he is a very talented footballer, he was part of the team that won Serie A last year, and in that context I am happy to have him here and a of the group What that means long term, again I won’t get into that because a lot of it will depend on how the team shapes up and how he shapes up.
“He may decide this is not for him. I’m not sure. Like I said, the group I’ve had so far has been really good at embracing the change in direction, the way we’re doing things. Like I said , Once we get all the other guys in, it will be great to see how everyone measures up and decisions will be made going forward about who will be involved and who won’t.”
The first test for Ndombele is to be named one of the squad, which could contain as many as 28 players, to step on the plane to fly to Perth on Friday.
Captain Hugo Lloris could be left at home to figure out his next move, as could players like Ryan Sessegnon, Ivan Perisic and perhaps Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg among others. Postecoglou’s discussions with his returning internationals over the next two days will inform those decisions.
Postecoglou made it clear that his new signings – Guglielmo Vicario and James Maddison at the time – were very deliberately chosen by him because they can deliver his style of relentless possession-based attacking football, starting at the back.
It would have been refreshing for Tottenham fans to hear Postecoglou talking about how good things can be in the future, rather than being asked to be realistic and just accept mediocrity in the near future.
Postecoglou laughed when a journalist began his question by saying “yyou’ve taken over a Spurs team without European football, one that finished eighth in the league and that hasn’t happened for a long time, so what does success look like to you?”. The Australian sensed another moment to lighten the atmosphere .
“Whew, you painted a pretty grim picture there! I was excited for this role!” he said.
“To be fair without being dismissive of it, that’s why I’m here. That’s what I love because of everything that’s not here, and that’s what I want to bring. I want to bring success to this football club and I want to bring European football to this football club and I want to bring it to where it deserves to be.
“As much as the excitement of joining a huge football club in the best competition in the world was attractive to me, the biggest thing about it was that there is a huge challenge here. I love it. That’s what I have done all my life. career. Every club I’ve taken over I’ve always taken over a team that’s had a disappointing season or disappointing seasons. For me, that’s something I’ve cherished the most in my career, doing things that will last and make a difference.
“To create something that will hopefully last beyond my tenure because I won’t be here forever. The kind of scenario you’ve painted of where we are at the moment is what attracted me most to this role. What a great challenge. What a great story if we get it right. So what does success look like? I think the fans will tell me.”
Every manager likes a good analogy, and Postecoglous came towards the end of the broadcast part of his press conference, although it mixed a little with the road becoming a railway and getting messy with a derailment that seemed to stop nothing.
It involved what we’ll now call ‘The Ange Train’, a locomotive that can derail but apparently bounces back onto the tracks, and the new Spurs boss made it very clear that if you don’t want a ticket on his train , then you only delay the inevitable.
“[I told the players] just to be open-minded and not get too tied down too much by expectation or history. Just to understand that we are going a different way. We’re going to do things differently, not because I think it’s better or anything, but because it’s me. I’m different from the other leaders who have been here and I want to do things my way,” he said.
“The more people buy into it, the faster we get to where we want to go, because when there’s resistance, it just slows down the process, but what I’ve made clear is that it’s not going to change the process.
“It’s not going to change where we’re going, it’s not going to change me or the way we do things, it just might derail it for a little bit and it won’t derail it for long because I won’t let it The faster they jump on the train, the faster we get to our destination.”
Everyone knew what he meant and Postecoglou’s track-jumping might just end up being the most exciting seen at Spurs in a long time.