You often get unexpected questions thrown by reporters at Tottenham’s foreign press conferences, but Saturday’s one away in Thailand took those odd moments to a new level.
Over the years we’ve had Mauricio Pochettino ask which Spurs player he thought had the best hair when asked if he’d lost weight ahead of the Champions League tie, prompting him to stand up and pose like a 1950s catalog model.
Then there was the odd moment when a random press conference intruder in Leipzig kept telling Jose Mourinho ‘everything will be ok’ at Tottenham as he walked out of the room after a Champions League defeat.
The mystery man couldn’t have been more wrong. It turned out to be the last in-person press conference for more than a year as the Covid pandemic then took a firm hold on the entire world. Mourinho was also sacked just over 12 months later. So if that guy ever tells you that you’re going to be fine, run in the other direction as fast as you can.
Sometimes managers themselves become the focal point, as Antonio Conte proved on that fateful evening in Southampton in March with an explosive press conference. Never before have the words ‘apologies’ and ‘players’ been spat out with such frustration and anger, as well as producing some unexpectedly loud syllables as the stunned media looked on.
So what did Ange Postecoglou, the new head coach of Tottenham Hotspur expect? The trip to his native Australia had been uneventful, albeit with the sort of Harry Kane future questions he would have expected. However, he did not expect what was in store for him in Bangkok.
READ MORE: Inside the mind of Ange Postecoglou – Flat tires with Ferenc Puskas, rejection and marking
The press conference at the Rajamangala National Stadium was busy, but not necessarily with journalists. The organizers had been well prepared and extremely polite and courteous, informing the soon-to-arrive media of flooding outside the ground due to the rain that had fallen during the day, and they suggested an alternative route to enter the building.
Inside the press conference room, it was a different view to the normal that awaited the media. For the first four or five rows of seats were occupied by people wearing football shirts, some Tottenham with Son on their backs. Some were YouTubers, some influencers with a few local journalists sprinkled around as well as journalists from all over Asia and other parts of the world behind them. The arriving English media sat at the back in the hope of being able to contribute questions from afar.
The German journalist from Bild, who would go on to cause all the controversy, sat in the front row and politely introduced himself to some members of the British press, showing no sign or indication of the stunt he was preparing.
The press conference, as it began with Spurs’ new signing James Maddison and Postecoglou, was situated in this unusual setting. Those in soccer jerseys on the rows of seats in the front half of the room trained their phones on the duo, recording each of their movements, then whipping them around as a reporter asked a question from behind.
It was a noisy room that backed up to a work area for other media and photographers, and the annoyed Postecoglou never looked entirely impressed beyond the background noise, which meant the British media had to shout their questions from the back just to be heard.
Those around Maddison, including Postecoglou, have cited his growing maturity the type of parenthood brings with the England midfielder, a father of a young boy, and this month celebrating the arrival of twins before embarking on the tour. He answered every question put to him with real thought and a desire to give something back that would help the inquiring journalist.
Then came the question of Spurs’ £40m signing from the German reporter, which in hindsight gave a nod to what was to come.
“Could you have shirt number 10?” he asked. Maddison replied with a smile at the attempt, “I just mentioned Harry and don’t really feel like talking about it. Not sure what I should and shouldn’t say in response to that question.”
Maddison was ushered out of the room not long after as his questions ended and Postecoglou took his turn to meet the media.
He spoke on a variety of topics including Maddison, Yves Bissouma, injury news, football in Thailand and various other topics. When soccer.london had asked their three questions to the Australian, so it was the German reporter in front.
It obviously started enough.
“Yesterday you said you weren’t so relaxed about the Harry situation, how are you feeling today?” he asked.
“That was two days ago and nothing has changed,” was the reply from the Spurs boss.
Then came the rustling of the reporter’s bag before he held up a new Bayern shirt, with Kane and the number nine printed on the back.
“How does it look? It looks pretty good, doesn’t it?” he declared to Postecoglou, more a statement than a question.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” came the reply from the Australian, a face as thunderous as the storm Tottenham had flown through the night before to land in the Thai capital.
Tottenham’s press manager quickly made it clear that they would move on to another question from another part of the room, but Postecoglou had chewed on it a bit more, his anger visibly rising, and he spoke again, his gaze never leaving the Bild reporter.
“Did you get a good laugh for it? Did you get what you came for? Yes? Maybe? Very good. You came a long way for that, thank you,” he said with a smile that was not friendly. It was the kind of ‘Big Ange’ the South Melbourne Hellas full-back undoubtedly provided before he rattled in a booming tackle on an unsuspecting winger.
Postecoglou was able to switch back to the press conference and answered three more questions before it ended. As he walked out of the room, locals in the front rows whipped around to take pictures of the German reporter proudly holding up the Kane jersey for them.
After enjoying his minute of fame – or infamy – in the room, Spurs’ press director reappeared to express his disappointment to the reporter at the moment and its unnecessary, disrespectful nature. The stunt was not received with any humor inside the club, who understandably felt it was disrespectful to both Postecoglou and Kane as well as Spurs.
Later that evening, the German reporter would receive a WhatsApp message from the same Tottenham press officer, informing him out of courtesy that the club had asked the organizer of the match against Leicester and also the match against Lion City Sailors in Singapore to revoke his accreditation to attend.
So incensed was the reporter that he printed the private WhatsApp message in his Bild report on the incident, naming the press director in a story that gave a slightly different version of the exchange with the Spurs manager, including the shirt’s response that “Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou wailed”.
It is unclear whether the gruff Postecoglou has ever cried over anything in his life.
It was a surreal moment, a publicity stunt more than journalism. It didn’t go down well at Spurs and it’s likely it didn’t go down well at Bayern Munich.
Because it’s the sort of thing that, added to the consistent noise coming from the Bundesliga club about their desire to sign Kane and their claims that he wants to move to Germany, will only make their task more difficult.
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy knows that losing Kane would be a big decision for many of the fans and being seen as being bullied into selling him to rowdy Bayern would only add to that. If ever there was a way to make Levy more entrenched in his desire to either keep Kane or demand a big fee, this has been the way to do it.
Kane would have been confused by the whole thing when he recounted the events at the press conference. He will have known that it does not benefit his cause either if he really wanted to leave the Bundesliga.
The England captain is the consummate professional and as the aftermath of the press conference rumbled on, he was out in the pouring rain on the pitch at the stadium throwing himself into challenges and working hard for Postecoglou and the Tottenham coaches as the team adapt to his very different methods and philosophy.
Kane wore black boots with the logos blacked out. soccer.london reported the news on Saturday that the England captain’s deal with Nike has expired and he will now wear his next new pair with black logos until the mega boot deal with the new company that made them is announced.
Kane, who turns 30 on Friday, has heard all about his future over the past few years, but even he would not have expected the stunt to be performed in his name on a very strange night in Bangkok.