Inside Ange’s Spurs move: The 3 other PL clubs who made plays & powerful Aussie’s key role

David Davutovic takes you inside Ange Postecoglou’s move to Tottenham, revealing three other Premier League sides who made a play for him, and the powerful Aussie who made it his mission to get the former Celtic boss to England’s top tier.

It was exactly two years on from Ange Postecoglou’s latest coaching setback, that his Tottenham fate was sealed.

Having privately decided to call time on Yokohama F. Marinos in mid-2021, negotiations with AEK Athens were advanced, the Greek Super League side giving every indication he was their man.

While short of the lofty Premier League heights Postecoglou craved, he was confident his grasp of Greek language and culture would enable him to navigate the politics and inspire his team to silverware and European wins.

Never one to count his chickens, talks were so advanced that Postecoglou had mentally prepared for the move and importantly, his family would be settled, with mum and eldest son James recently relocating to Greece.

The bombshell news of AEK’s appointment of Vladan Milojevic left them crestfallen. Postecoglou was back to square one believing he’d have to pack his bags for Europe unemployed and searching for work, with his trailblazing J1 League title counting for little in the eyes of the continent.

Yet again, Postecoglou would have to prove himself. So forlorn was the then 55-year-old, 25 years into a trophy-laden career, that he was reluctant to jump on a virtual meeting with Celtic officials the next day, believing his persistent agent Frank Trimboli had crafted a radical plot to appease him.

The meeting with Celtic executives was life changing. A deal was done within days, Postecoglou finally had a foot in the Euro door and a glorious opportunity at that with the famous Celtic.

OFFICIAL: Full details of Postecoglou’s appointment at Spurs
ARNIE: Every word from an extraordinary press conference
TOM SMITHIES: 2017 interview that proves Spurs is perfect club for Ange
SCOTLAND VIEW: Words that Ange didn’t say send ‘clearest message’
IN-TRAY: Harry Kane’s future & uniting Spurs dressing room
FAN VIEW: Moment Ange must replicate after ‘most Tottenham decision ever’

“The reality is, there wasn’t really still too many doors opening for us, particularly here in Europe, which was the ultimate goal to come over here,” Postecoglou said in 2022.

“So I wasn’t really sure what the next step was going to be and to be honest, I wasn’t disheartened but I just felt, well, with everything I’ve done in my career, it was (still) either going to be somebody taking a real gamble on this side of the world or me just having certain things, sort of stars aligned for me to get an opportunity.

“Celtic went down a certain road with a candidate. It didn’t work out with Eddie Howe, and I was the next cab off the rank and it happened really quickly after that.”

Postecoglou oversaw mass progress in two years, claiming five of six possible Celtic trophies. Importantly for a coach with Premier League ambitions, his profile and credibility in England grew. But, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and the Spurs links triggered the usual fan criticism.

But the big breakthrough was the face-to-face interaction with the board.

Even the Celtic chat was done via Zoom, while previous phoners were out of courtesy to the respected Trimboli, with one Championship sports director conducting an “interview” while driving and doing zero preparation. Postecoglou remained courteous, but privately fumed.

His stunning first 18 months at Celtic prompted strong interest from south of the border. And he could have been a Premier League manager sooner than June 2023.

Postecoglou was in the mix for many of the 16 jobs that became available in the 2022/23 season and was understood to have been a frontrunner for at least three positions.

Brighton, Wolves and Southampton are believed to have made a play for Postecoglou in the last nine months.

But Postecoglou was adamant he did not want to leave Celtic in the lurch and his long-term plan – if and when the right job became available – was joining a Premier League club in pre-season, rather than following the Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard route of moving south mid-season.

When Postecoglou completed another productive transfer window in January, he remained focused on building a squad with the intent of staying at Celtic in 2023/24 and attacking the Champions League with vigour.

But interest grew and Antonio Conte’s sensational combustion and Spurs’ ensuing capitulation saw everything change.

Like Eddie Howe’s insistence on bringing in his entire coaching staff was the deal breaker that led to Celtic’s Postecoglou approach, several Tottenham contenders ruled themselves out or planted seeds of doubt in the minds of the Spurs board with questions around the London club’s football operations.

Postecoglou was not Tottenham’s first choice, but he was in the top echelon of candidates and before too long on the podium of contenders.

Postecoglou interviews well, but the challenge was always getting an executive board audience. In 2017, when he visited Europe as Socceroos coach, people barely recognised him and they certainly weren’t familiar with the Socceroos results or 2015 Asian Cup triumph.

His Yokohama F. Marinos feats helped his credibility somewhat – but a quick glance of the Wikipedia CV littered with Aussie clubs didn’t pique anyone’s interest.

In the two rounds of interviews with the Spurs board, it became evident to chairman Daniel Levy and the board that Postecoglou was a manager who would be privileged with the position, grow with the club but equally have the courage of his convictions to deliver the mass on and off field rebuild they require.

The Spurs board witnessed first-hand the sense of entitlement that came with some of the big-name predecessors like Jose Mourinho and Conte, and even Mauricio Pochettino left with an air of toxicity, which left Levy reluctant to make an approach – despite the fans’ insistent chants – before Chelsea swooped.

Unai Emery’s transformation of Aston Villa was admired by Spurs chiefs – but they were never going to make a play for him.

Julian Nagelsmann and Thomas Tuchel were courted, while Graham Potter and Marco Silva were considered.

Feyenoord title winner Arne Slot emerged as the favourite, as Conte imploded and departed on March 26. With Champions League or Europa League qualification still a possibility, Luis Enrique’s continental experience left him right in the mix.

But Postecoglou presented impeccably. And as the Spurs train kept careering off the track, with FIFA revealing Spurs football director Fabio Paratici’s 30-month Italian football ban was in fact global.

By May it was down to three – Slot, Enrique and Postecoglou. 

While Luis Enrique interviewed well and appears to be a fantastic person, the board felt that the ex-Barcelona, Roma and Spain coach’s signing smacked of the populist approach adopted with Mourinho and Conte.

The game-changer occurred on May 25 – on the eve of Celtic’s final league match against Aberdeen. Slot confirmed he would stay on at Feyenoord to tackle his first Champions League campaign.

With Postecoglou heading for the Celtic treble, and having ticked most of the boxes of the Spurs’ executive search, they were convinced Postecoglou was their man.

The Aussie passport and fan reaction – remembering they and particularly Levy are under siege – were the only factors counting against him. But as they considered the club motto, “To Dare is to Do”, the Spurs board, completing their most thorough search in years, were convinced it was time. The four-year contract proof of their conviction.

By the time Postecoglou went to the FA Cup final against Inverness, there was only one man Spurs were signing.

Postecoglou insisted he wanted to remain focused on the Celtic task at hand, and he delivered the famed treble with a 3-1 win over Inverness.

Key details still needed to be negotiated. But his ability to remain focused – as he did with the Socceroos and other jobs despite knowing he was moving on – was a testament to his professionalism.

The Spurs board was first made aware of Postecoglou when he sensationally delivered Yokohama F. Marinos the J1 League trophy in 2019. But back then it was hard-pressed getting a Championship or continental European club to seriously look at the Australian coach.

While Postecoglou kept doing the business on the field, his agent Trimboli was working away in the background.

Born in Perth, WA, Trimboli has spent 25 years in the UK and become one of football’s most powerful agents.

Neither is a shrinking violet and there have been moments of tension throughout, but they both believed in each other.

Trimboli’s strong relationship with Spurs, along with business partner and Base Soccer (now CAA Base) founder Leon Angel has been crucial throughout the process.

The groundwork done in recent years meant that Postecoglou was familiar to them when they lurched into their latest crisis last April.

A series of other events helped, including the appointment of ex-Melbourne City CEO Scott Munn as Spurs’ chief football officer. While Munn does not officially start until July 1, he has been on the tools after the Paratici debacle.

The City Football Group connections and validation have also been crucial. It opened the door at Marinos, put him on the tip of Celtic executives’ tongues which paved the way for the 2021 move and helped him with scouting networks.

If one of Trimboli or CFG were not so heavily involved in 2018, Postecoglou may have been sacked after narrowly avoiding relegation to the J2. Their faith was sensationally repaid the following year, when he won the J1 League with a brand of football dubbed transformational in conservative Japan.

All of these have purely served to open doors and provide support to a coach who deserved this opportunity sooner than 27 years into his coaching tenure and faced a tougher journey than any of the coaches in the big five European leagues.

The AEK experience and many other setbacks meant Postecoglou went into the Spurs process with eyes wide open.

He craved the job, but remained fully committed to Celtic and continued planning and recruiting as though he was staying on, plotting a Champions League knockout phase berth next season.

Some good judges believed that Rangers’ squad, pound for pound, was stronger than Celtic’s, certainly in Postecoglou’s first season – and that theory will be tested next campaign. 

But Postecoglou’s ability to overhaul Celtic, extract the best from his players and engineer a team greater than the sum of its parts, as was the case with the Socceroos, was not lost on Spurs. 

While the Scottish Premiership may be inferior in quality, the Spurs board recognised Postecoglou walked into a strikingly similar position at Celtic in June 2021.

The pressure on Levy is akin to Peter Lawwel, who was instrumental in Postecoglou’s appointment but had to quit just before the Aussie’s arrival due to fan unrest. He was reinstated 18 months later. The Spurs chairman hopes Postecoglou can alleviate the pressure on him.

The same could be said of Melbourne Victory in 2012, and the Socceroos in 2013, but as it stands in 2023, those experiences are still not deemed relevant at a Premier League club and Champions league aspirant – Postecoglou may change that.

Postecoglou’s 27-year apprenticeship, and school of hard knocks prepared him for this moment. So too the fact that he remains as obsessed with football as he was when he watched alongside his late dad as a young kid in Melbourne.

While Glasgow was a fishbowl for Postecoglou, he is a self-confessed homebody who loves nothing more than watching back-to-back matches of football. The Premier League and Champions League has always been a healthy part of his viewing diet and that would only have intensified over the past two years.

Hence Spurs would have been hugely impressed with his knowledge and his rebuild plan.

Cutting his teeth in the NSL, working with Australia’s youth national teams during a challenging transitional period and then the salary cap A-League competition has taught Postecoglou to be resourceful and in most roles he had full control of the football department and oversight on budgets.

“The biggest curiosity around me, particularly when I first got a job, was I came on my own. No staff, no entourage. And that’s very unusual, particularly here in Europe,” he said.

“One reason I can do that and I’m comfortable doing that, is that particularly when I was coaching in Australia, when I first started coaching at South Melbourne, I was doing everything – signing players, negotiating contracts, the analysis. the training.

“You literally did everything. Every job I’ve had, whether that’s, Brisbane (Roar), (Melbourne) Victory or Socceroos, then Yokohama, I got my hands in everything. And I’m comfortable doing that. 

“It’s why Australian coaches I think will do well overseas, because they have to do so much more with so much less. Whereas, here in Europe, particularly if you’ve been working in the top leagues, you can pretty much narrow your focus to doing one aspect of the job, whether that’s your manager or a coach and have great people around you.”

Postecoglou is odds on to turn his words into actions. His resourcefulness, recruiting network and global knowledge will likely deliver some off-Broadway transfer market gems, potentially from Asia. This will be crucial for a fiscally prudent club that has missed out on UEFA’s European riches.

From the moment they met, Trimboli made it his mission to make Postecoglou the first Australian to coach in the Premier League.

A few years ago, the thought of Postecoglou outfoxing Luis Enrique for a Premier League job was fantasy land.

For all of football’s advancements, the rarefied air of European club boardrooms largely retains decades-old stereotypes about homegrown talent exclusively having the nous and tools to manage clubs.

As the first Australian and Asian coach and one of only a handful from a non-European or South American nation to manage in the Premier League, Postecoglou now has the chance to not only change the course of Australian sport, but world football.