What Ange Postecoglou’s press conference breakdowns tell us about Tottenham’s collapse

Ange Postecoglou gives a press conference
Ange Postecoglou is not happy with the attitude of many Spurs supporters

Ange Postecoglou’s earliest encounters with the English media were greeted with glee. Here was a man of easy charm and modesty, nothing at all like those beastly non-winning serial winners who preceded him. There was delight about the frequency with which he referred to journalists as “mate”. It felt like the start of a beautiful friendship. Rather less levity around after Spurs’ defeat to Manchester City on Tuesday night.

Little has changed in Postecoglou’s demeanour or delivery. There is something low-key, measured and slightly harassed about Tottenham’s manager in both his best and worst moments. Three weeks ago, ahead of his side’s game against Arsenal, Postecoglou was asked about Spurs fans not wanting Arsenal to win the league. “It’s fair enough,” he said. “I’m not going to dictate how fans feel, how they feel is important.”

This week, on the same topic, and admittedly in the adrenalised aftermath of defeat to City, Postecoglou said: “I’m just not interested mate. Maybe I’m out of step but I just don’t care, I just want to win. I want to be successful at this football club.”

However angry he was about losing, it is unwise to dismiss Spurs’ rivalry with Arsenal and the complicated feelings fans had about Tuesday’s game. It illustrates the yawning gap between working within the game and supporting a team.

Consider the most-used adjective by footballers praising support. Fans are “unbelievable,” because footballers can not truly comprehend the deep bond between them and their club. How could they, when what would have been their formative years following a club were spent instead at training or playing matches against other Category One academies? One group can not fully understand the other, so aiming to instil an athlete’s win-at-all-costs mentality to fans is a stretch.

There have been further signs that the relationship between Postecoglou, Spurs and their followers has begun to fray. There was an unusually pointed criticism of his team in relation to Cristian Romero after the 3-2 home defeat to Arsenal: “He’s a World Cup winner and I’ve just got to get some of what’s in him into some of the others.”

He stayed steady after a 2-0 loss at Chelsea, but clearly struggled to take positives from going 4-0 down at Anfield, a game which finished a more respectable 4-2. “At least we tried to play and looked like a version of ourselves which gives me something to work with.”

Until Spurs’ losing streak was broken with a home win against Burnley, Postecoglou stuck mainly to his big picture, his laudable aim of lifting up the entire club. The win allowed him space to admit the losing run had taken its toll. “As much as you want to put it to one side, losing four games is bound to affect the players and there’s always a bit of stress and anxiety”

But after City he was seething, more than seemed reasonable given his team’s performance. “I think the last 48 hours have revealed to me the foundations are fairly fragile,” he said. “I’ve just got to go back to the drawing board with some things.”

This did not sound like the same manager who so deftly brushed off the first question about Harry Kane in his opening press conference in July, revealing he and his coaching staff had run a betting pool on when it would come up in the press conference. It was the third question for the record, and apparently Mile Jedinak won.

Now, with the prospect of a Champions League spot gone, we are seeing the darkness of Postecoglou, one shared with every manager who reaches the top of football. Losing hurts, even to teams you are expected to, even if your fans do not seem to care that much. Perhaps especially if your fans do not seem to care that much.

The descent of Ange this season can be blamed on the slog of a long campaign, injuries, the strain of the post-Kane rebuild and the pure irritation of losing tight games. There is no suggestion that he was anything more than angry in the aftermath of the City defeat, he is seemingly not harbouring existential doubt about his club. When the dust settles this will still go down as a good first season. But for him and Spurs summer can not come soon enough.