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Nuno Espirito Santo appointed

Nuno says, "We are going to make you proud!"

Just in time for pre-season training, which formally begins next Monday 5th July, Spurs yesterday (30th June, 2021) finally announced their new head coach (not manager) Nuno Espirito Santo more than two months after Spurs (and Nuno’s) former manager Jose Mourinho was sacked. Many names had been associated with the vacant Spurs job since our last game of the season on 23rd May. It would appear we came very close to appointing Mourinho’s predecessor at Roma – Paulo Fonseca – and then after that idea fell through, dangerously close to Gennaro Gattuso. Finally, with new "Managing Director, Football" Fabio Paratici at the helm, we have found someone to take our team forward. Nuno has signed an initial two-year contract. We must hope he makes a success of the job and gains an extension of that cautious term. Nuno says, "We are going to make you proud". Whilst I cannot honestly say I was excited by this appointment, it is of course a relief to have a coach, and I do sincerely wish Nuno the very best of luck, and with that - success!

Nuno Herlander Simões Espírito Santo was born in Sao Tome in the African two-island nation of Sao Tome and Principe about 155 miles off the west coast of Africa. Sao Tome and Principe was a Portuguese colony until they gained full independence in 1975. Incidentally, on the island of Sao Tome there is also a town called Neves, the name of a Portuguese-born Wolves player where Nuno previously managed.

As a player, Nuno was a goalkeeper, primarily playing in Portugal and Spain. His link with his Spurs predecessor comes from his membership of Mourinho’s Champions League winning Porto squad in 2004. He has a Champions League winners’ medal as a non-playing substitute.

Nuno’s coaching career began as goalkeeper coach with his former Porto manager Jesualdo Ferreira at Malaga in 2010. The pair then signed for Panathinaikos, who played Spurs in the Europa League in October 2012. By then, Nuno had moved on to his first managerial appointment back in Portugal with Rio Ave. He had further spells with Valencia and Porto before taking the Wolves appointment in May 2017, leading them to promotion the following season. Nuno and Wolves were famously heavily linked with Portuguese agent Jorges Mendes and the Wolves playing staff has included a number of Portuguese since their Championship success and their establishment in the Premier League.

Wolves had an excellent first season back in the Premier League (it was only their fifth such season and their third visit to the Premier League) finishing seventh and winning a place in the 2019-20 Europa League. With the interference of the Covid-19 and a successful run, this gave Wolves an arduously long season, which began on 25th July, 2019 with a Europa League second qualifying round game at home to Crusaders and lasted until 383 days later when on August 11th last year they lost a one-legged quarter-final 1-0 to eventual trophy winners Sevilla. That marathon season consisted of no less than 59 games, including 17 Europa League games.

Last season, having lost Diogo Jota to Liverpool and ace Mexican striker Raul Jimenez to a horrific head injury, Nuno’s Wolves suffered and finished 13th, although they were never in any danger of relegation. In Nuno’s three Premier League seasons in charge, Wolves continued a run in meetings with Spurs of 8 games where the home side failed to win. Spurs brought an end to that statistic with their 2-0 win in May this year.

Nuno’s Wolves often played three at the back, utilising wing-backs. One of those wing-backs moved to Spurs last year and we must hope that under Nuno’s resumed tutelage Matt Doherty can regain the form he showed with Wolves. Wolves were not so stringent with their formation last season, and at Spurs the head coach will need to vary his strategies.

In October 2017, Nuno’s Wolves (who were on their way to the Championship title) gave Manchester City (who were on their way to the Premier League title) a run for their money in a League Cup Fourth Round game. The game ended 0-0, but City won the penalty shoot-out 4-1. Guardiola’s men would go on to win the first of four consecutive League Cup trophies. Upon their return to the Premier League, Wolves gained a creditable draw with City, and they beat them at home and away in the 2019-20 season.

Nuno’s Wolves reached the FA Cup semi-final in April 2019, and might be thankful they lost to Watford, who were thrashed 6-0 at Wembley by Manchester City in the final. Other notable successes in that season were wins against Chelsea and Arsenal.

Nuno left Wolves by mutual consent at the end of last season. He had been linked with one or two vacancies, such as that at Goodison Park (now filled by Rafa Benitez). Fabio Paratici says, "..we appointed Nuno because we have to be logical in our choice, so we needed a coach who respects our key points ... to come back to discipline, to work physically hard, to develop our players, our young players and Nuno is very good in this job."

Nuno said following his appointment, “It’s an enormous pleasure, an honour, a joy to be here…… Having a squad like Tottenham’s, you can only have one DNA, you can only think one way. We have to enjoy the game; we have to play the game. When you have a squad of quality, talented players like we have, the DNA is to make the fans proud, make them enjoy watching. This is our DNA, to make our fans proud of us. There is no question about it that that will happen. We’re going to make them proud and they’re going to enjoy the team, for sure."

I assume that Nuno will have with him the back-up staff he worked with at Molineux. During his time at Wolves, I noticed the team spirit on and off the pitch, with particularly emotional celebrations by Nuno and his touchline team. I think he has always presented himself well on camera, and I like his words upon appointment. Let’s hope we have some happy times ahead!

My very good friend and occasional contributor, Ivan "Dr. Hotspur" Cohen wrote the following comments:-

So we finally have a new manager. The critical outpourings on social media remind me why freedom (of speech) needs to be tempered with a sense of responsibility.

A two-year contract has not been imposed on Nuno, but is the result of his voluntary agreement via negotiations. Additionally, in football contracts are often not worth the digital paper on which they are written.

That it has taken months to find a new manager may also be the result of increasing regulation in the world of football. The critics of Levy (but never the rest of the Board of Directors) need to understand that negotiations take place between legal and accounting advisors on both sides. Sometimes the difficulty may be with image rights, or pension rights, or even wealth management. From the outside we simply do not know, and neither should we. I know from my own job searches I often take time when offered a post to have others more qualified check it over, and that is for a fairly standard profession.

Finally, and especially for the younger critics who wonder what Nuno has achieved, perhaps a reminder that our two most winning managers were Billy Nicholson and Keith Burkinshaw, neither of whom had any managerial experience before taking up the reins at Spurs. At the other end of the spectrum we have Jose Mourinho, who had won almost everything in many countries in a long and illustrious career, but was unable to turn things around at Spurs (they had been going downhill under Poch for more than a year, nothwithstanding a Champions League final).

#COYS Good luck, Nuno.

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