Ange Postecoglou lost the sweepstake. Truth be told, the new Tottenham manager lost it by a distance. He and his coaches had speculated on how long it would take at his media unveiling before the subject of Harry Kane was raised. The answer was three questions. “I think Mile Jedinak has won,” Postecoglou said. “I had over six because I thought you’d care more about me.”
Written in black and white, the line can look a little chippy, which was not really the case. It was dry and quite funny, getting a few laughs. Yet there was an edge to it, just as there is an edge to the man who Spurs hope can turn around their fortunes.
Are we talking about Kane, already? Yes, Ange, we are. And there is a decent chance that the state of affairs will persist. This is what happens when a club talisman has 12 months to run on his contract, no immediate plans to re‑sign and is being aggressively courted by Bayern Munich.
Postecoglou knew what to expect when he entered the room. He had been briefed. And, essentially, his presentation came down to how he handled the Kane issue. He did so by focusing on what he knew and could control, staying resolutely on track, refusing to be drawn into speculation.
And his points with regard to the centre-forward, who will report for pre-season training on Wednesday before the departure for the tour of Australia (where Postecoglou was raised), Thailand and Singapore on Friday, chimed neatly with his broader message.
The Postecoglou project at Spurs will not be defined by any individual, no matter how talented; rather a team in the truest sense, playing and, as he stressed repeatedly, behaving in a particular way. There was a point, as he discussed the need for open minds, to avoid being dragged down by expectation levels or history, when he made clear that he would do things his way and his way alone. Players could either get on board, or look for alternative transport.
“When there is resistance, it slows the process down,” Postecoglou said. “What I’ve made clear is it won’t change the process, it won’t change me. It’ll maybe derail it for a little bit but it won’t derail it for long because I won’t allow it. The quicker they jump on the train, the quicker we’ll get to our destination.”
Postecoglou was not talking directly about Kane but it felt in keeping with the general tone towards him. Towards everybody, in fact. Tanguy Ndombele, for example, has returned from a loan at Napoli with a Serie A title winner’s medal, and supporters wondering whether he could revive his Spurs career.
Postecoglou said he was pleased to have Ndombele as part of the squad but at present it was difficult to be definitive. “He may decide that this is not for him, I’m not sure,” Postecoglou said. In other words, he could jump on or ship out.
Will Kane get on board? Postecoglou appeared relaxed about the situation, even though it threatens to dominate the countdown to the new season. “I haven’t had any assurances [from the club on Kane] and I wouldn’t expect any assurances,” he said. “Because when you’re dealing with these kind of things you’re never dealing with definites or certainties. I concentrate on the things I know right now. What I know right now is that Harry is part of this squad and he’s looking forward to coming back to training. If I spend too much time worrying about the impact it might have either way, I’m going to miss trying to build a team because ultimately that’s what’s going to make us successful.
“I don’t think it’s my role to sit down and treat people in a [certain] manner because of their circumstances. I’m really big on treating everyone the same. Harry has already entrenched himself in the history of this football club. He’s one of the premier strikers in the world and I want him involved. My conversation with him will be about how we can make this club successful.”
Postecoglou denied that Bayern’s public courtship was annoying. “It doesn’t register,” he insisted, and it would only do so if it affected Kane or the squad. “I guess it’s how we react as a football club that’s going to be important and that will get tested, for sure,” Postecoglou said.
“In the meantime, I’m not going to lose time or sleep on conjecture because then you’re jumping at shadows. Nothing’s landed on my desk from anybody at the club to say there’s a decision to be made there. Not even close to that.”
Postecoglou talked about playing on the front foot, about being proactive and dominant. He said in response to more than one question that he did not want to set limits, and that included any targets for the season. He opened up on leaving Celtic, saying it was hard but also necessary.
“I’ve needed to have that instinct inside me to know when to move on because I’ve had to be faultless in my career to get to this point. It’s because no one’s going to rate an Australian manager, are they? If I had any significant failures, I was never going to get here. Part of that process is knowing that I need to keep moving to be at my best.”
What lingered after Postecoglou had taken his leave was the relish he had for the rebuild in hand – whether that proves to be with or without Kane. “I can’t resist a challenge,” Postecoglou said. “That’s when I’m at my best … when the challenge is the biggest. I love a build, I love a rebuild. All my career, I’ve always taken over a side who have one. This challenge had all the elements I need to get going again.”