Death of the Gentleman at White Hart Lane

Erik Lamela theatrics direct from Jose’s need for Spurs to be ‘Intelligent Cunts’

Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary series has brought us incredible insight into both Manchester City’s record 2017/18 season, and this summer they opened the doors to Tottenham Hotspur’s chaotic 2019/20 – and what a show. If you have seen neither I strongly recommend them.

One of the major takeaways from White Hart Lane last season was the introduction of Jose Mourinho, replacing a dishevelled Pochettino in an ambitious move by Daniel Levy to bring success to the club. Jose has an undeniable record of winning trophies – the exact jigsaw puzzle missing from a Spursy team unable to get over the line in the domestic league, domestic cups, and very notably the Champions League final.

His arrival was divisive. Spurs fans were definitely split on his appointment. On one hand, Tottenham had not attracted a world class Manager (and very few players) in their living history. It was a landmark announcement, a Manager with proven pedigree and trophy success (lest not forget Poch has never won a trophy) and a sign of the huge growth Tottenham have made on the world stage.

However, Jose is a problem Manager. Arguably he had lost his way from the young ‘Special One’ that arrived at Chelsea to set them on their journey to stardom. Sacked from Real Madrid having failed to win the Champions League and some rather distasteful scenes including a brawl with the Barcelona bench. Sacked from Chelsea following poor form and distasteful comments about the Physio team. Sacked from Man Utd following poor form and distasteful comments about players – particularly Luke Shaw.

However you looked at it, it was controversial, it was dramatic, and it was going to be different. Spurs needed to be different. The All or Nothing documentary showed an early briefing where Mourinho explained to the team that they were too nice, and that on the field – for 90 minutes – they could not be nice. They needed to be cunts. Later in the series, during half-time of the Manchester City league match at White Hart Lane, he re-iterated the point to be ‘intelligent cunts’, in the below video:

If Jose has been brought in to drive Tottenham forward from their completely justified ‘Spursy’ tag to become winners – this is what Daniel Levy has bought into. Jose has a way. He knows how to bully, and expects that from his players on the pitch. Players like Didier Drogba and Diego Costa knew how to be ‘intelligent cunts’. John Terry knew how to bully. Jose is attempting to manufacture that winning mentality into his Spurs side and, this weekend we saw it come to fruition with perfect execution. Step forward Erik Lamela.

Firsly, Lamela pushes his arm into Martial’s neck. Then receiving a light strike from Martial, he feigns injury and goes down – incensing all of the United players, and invoking a red card from the referee (at this stage I would like to question why the referee does not consult the technology before issuing the red card but that is a VAR debate for another day).

Love him or hate him – this is Jose Mourinho, and this is how he wins. It’s not pretty, it’s not desirable, but it is effective. He demands that his players are suspicious and opportunists, to ensure they do not let the opposition gain any advantage – and to maximise all possible advantages for yourself.

Understandably the incident and Jose’s presence in the Spurs dugout is still somewhat divisive, as this post clearly shows:

No-one openly admits to wanting to win dirty, least of all Spurs fans that have prided themselves on playing a certain “nice” way. However, above all we do enjoy winning. Man Utd fans will talk of all the glory from Eric Cantona but reluctantly gloss over and avoid all of the dirt that be brought with him – the same could be said for Mark Hughes, Roy Keane etc. ‘Shithousery’ is often forgotten from the record books. Lamela’s actions will not be discussed again when the memory of this result appears in our timelines.

In the heat of the moment, this ability – to be an ‘intelligent cunt’ – is a key part of the modern game, but arguably high level sport as long as it has existed. Dennis Wise was a master of pulling the hairs on legs following a slide tackle. Vinny Jones may have been less subtle, but his brand of football brought an advantage over the opposition. Winners need to be that little bit more intelligent to take advantage of opportunities that can lead to 3 points or a knockout win.

I don’t condone play acting, I don’t condone violence, and I certainly do not condone Lamela’s actions – I want to watch the beautiful game, 11 versus 11, exquisite passing and long range screamers. But if you want to win, and hire a serial winner with the reputation that Jose has, do not be alarmed by these tactics – and do not believe they are held to just characters like Jose Mourinho. The game is full of this wide ranging ‘shithousery’, it just depends where you’re willing to draw your line in the sand – or which team you support at the time.