Some things are written in the stars. In the case of Ange Postecoglou’s impending move to Tottenham Hotspur, it’s written at the bottom of the club’s old badge.
Audere est Facere. That’s Latin for ‘To Dare is to Do’. In Postecoglese, it can be roughly translated as ‘We Never Stop’, the slogan his Celtic team has adopted over the last two years, or ‘Never Take a Backward Step’, which was the identity he drilled into the Socceroos during his paradigm-shifting tenure at the helm of the national team.
Tottenham’s motto is believed to have been adopted as a nod to Sir Henry Percy, the famous English knight who lived in that part of London, and whose family owned land around the area. His nickname - which the club also borrowed - was ‘Harry Hotspur’, due to his speed and eagerness to advance into battle, and whose horse ran so fast it was said the spurs on his boots must have been ... well, hot.
Who gave him that nickname? The Scots.
Here’s another quote that sums up Tottenham’s ethos: “It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low,” said Bill Nicholson, the former Spurs player and manager who led them to the first-ever English double in 1960-61, and is arguably the most important figure in the club’s history. “And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.”
Let’s run that through the Postecoglese translator: “I’ve never owned a bus, mate.” That was in response to suggestions that he should perhaps wind back his all-action, high-octane, attacking tactics for Celtic’s UEFA Champions League campaign earlier this season.
“I’m sure there’ll be - as there has in my whole career - people telling me I need to adjust my approach and temper my aggression and all of those kind of things. I’ve done pretty well just sticking to it, to be fair, so I’ll just keep going.”
That he will. Postecoglou is expected to be confirmed as early as this week as Tottenham’s new manager. The deal is all but done, according to scores of reports from overseas and by sources contacted by this masthead, and an official announcement is imminent.
It will be a new high watermark for Australian football, to have a head coach working not only in the English Premier League, but at one of the competition’s biggest clubs - as it will be for the 57-year-old himself, who has always had the hunger to test his wits at the highest level possible, stretching as far back as his days as a junior at his boyhood club from South Melbourne.
Having slowly worked his way up every rung of the footballing ladder, from ‘Hellas’ to ‘Roarcelona’, to the AFC Asian Cup, a J.League title and then to Scotland, the chance of a lifetime has arrived.
Over the last week, sentiment among Spurs fans has shifted since they initially learned this little-known Greek-Australian was their number one target. While some still have no idea who Postecoglou is, and aren’t particularly interested in finding out, those who bothered to do their homework will have discovered that he is an almost perfect match for their club.
It’s a big job - Tottenham is one of the EPL’s “big six” and, according to Deloitte, the ninth-richest club in the world. And while the cobwebs in their trophy cabinet jar with their self-perception, this is a club that at least wants to try and win by playing the right way, through attacking football. Or, in Postecoglese, by “having a crack.”
Putting aside his “lost years” in the managerial wilderness - his 10 months at Greek third-tier club Panachaiki and his relegation campaign with Victorian state-league side Whittlesea Zebras - Postecoglou does not know what it is to fail. His mates call him a “serial winner”. He specialises in taking broken clubs and making them whole again.
Spurs are, certainly, broken. Since making the UEFA Champions League final in 2019, this will be their seventh managerial change. Some of their previous coaches, particularly Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, played a painful, defensive style of football that was the antithesis of what the club says it is about.
They have also blamed chairman Daniel Levy for their failure. There are few more despised off-field figures in the EPL than Levy; Sir Alex Ferguson once claimed that dealing with was “more painful than a hip replacement”. Fans hate him, and his chequered history on the transfer market gives them reason.
Levy is why this position is viewed as a poisoned chalice, although none of this will be lost on Postecoglou, a student of the game and a voracious consumer of football around the world. His agent, London-based Aussie Frank Trimboli, knows Levy well and has been pushing Postecoglou’s case for months behind the scenes.
Levy will know exactly who he’s getting, and the incoming appointment of former City Football Group administrator Scott Munn as chief football officer ensures another friendly face inside the club, along with whichever assistant coaches he brings with him. In taking the job, Postecoglou will have made the calculation that he can make this work.
In tandem with the reports that Postecoglou’s move to Spurs was happening came reports that Harry Kane, their captain, could be sold to Real Madrid. As good as he is, that won’t bother Postecoglou. He has always been happy to move on deadwood or other players who don’t want to be there, for whatever reason. In fact, losing a player as talismanic as Kane might give Postecoglou greater scope to build his squad in his image.
Of course, none of this guarantees success, and plenty of well-credential managers have been chewed up and spat out by the ruthless Premier League. Levy might go back on his word and stick his nose in. Postecoglou’s refusal to countenance a ‘plan B’ might prove problematic for the first time in his career. Fans might lack the patience to ride the inevitable early bumps and call for his head.
Just don’t be surprised if, soon enough, they’re all speaking the same language.