Moving from Leeds United to Tottenham Hotspur at the present time may bring to mind the words "frying pan" and "fire" in either English or Spanish, but Gustavo Poyet is convincedthat what he has experiencedin the past 12 months at Elland Road will be beneficial in withstanding the heat on his return to north London.
Having walked out on Swindon Town for Leeds with Dennis Wise after only three months last October, the amiable Uruguayan found himself part of a mistrusted Cockney (sic) regime and suffered almost as much as Wise and the club chairman, Ken Bates, from his association with the hated Chelsea. Unable to win a fight against relegation from the Championship, Leeds were deducted 10 points at the end of last season for going into administration, then another15 to begin the current campaign. Only in the past few weeks, as their team effectively made up the deficit, have the managerial pair won over anything like a majority of supporters, but Poyet will not be around to enjoy the new popularity.
Instead, he has gone back to the club he played for after leaving Chelsea, as coach to Juande Ramos and as an important link between dressing room and manager, convinced that the bizarre events of the past year can only help him: "What I learned last year doesn't have a price. I can assure you I will never have in the next 20 years what happened at Leeds. Everything that was going on at the club from December 2006 to May 2007. What happened in the team, what happened indoors – I'm sorry, I can't tell you everything – you know a few [things], because it went into the press. Captain wanting to leave with 11 games to go... that never happened to me in all my career as a footballer. All that happened at my second team as a [coach] and I know it's not going to happen again."
At last week's media conference to introduce the new coaching team, he could nevertheless have been forgiven for wondering quite what he had walked into: the club chairman conspicuous only by his absence; Ramos publicly denying having met any Tottenham officials in August; and Damien Comolli, the director of football, being interrogatedabout his role in Martin Jol's downfall. "Too many rumours," Poyet said later. "It doesn't matter who started the rumours or who's responsible for that, that creates news and news creates that sort of press conference.
"So you have to be ready for anything that will happen in the press conference. You hear one thing, and then next minute, boom, there is something else."
It does all sound rather like life at Leeds. One of the differences will be that, unlike working with his old Chelsea muckerWise (they won the FA Cup and Cup-Winners' Cup together), Poyet knows more about the players than he does about the manager. "It's good to see Robbie Keane, Ledley King, Jermain Defoe and Anthony Gardner, who I played with. I didn't know [Ramos] personally. When I was in Spain [playing for Zaragoza], Seville had all the attributes to be a very good team but something was missing. Then Juande was there, and made them win the Uefa Cup twice, the Copa del Rey, the Super Cup. I think he's the right person to be here."
Poyet, 40 this month, will work specifically on players' technique. The third member of the new triumvirate, concentrating on training and fitness schedules, is Marcos Alvarez, who worked under Ramos at Malaga and Seville and has also trained one of Spain's leading bullfighters, Fran Rivera.
"Fit and brave," Alvarez calls the matadors. It is the least Tottenham supporters will expect of their players as Ars-enal's taunting red rag continues to be flourished at the other end of the Seven Sisters Road.Reuse content