Ange Postecoglou admits Tottenham may sign new centre-back and defends ‘tourist supporters’

By Staff

Ange Postecoglou has admitted that a new centre-back signing is part of his plans for Tottenham this summer and has defended those labelled ‘tourist’ or ‘plastic fans’.

Spurs signed Radu Dragusin from Genoa in January in order to fix a threadbare centre-back department within the squad which featured only Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven as natural centre-backs, with full-backs Ben Davies and Emerson Royal having to fill in when both were out.

Dragusin, 22, will now start against Fulham on Saturday at Craven Cottage after Van de Ven suffered a minor hamstring problem. Postecoglou was asked whether with only 18-year-old Ashley Phillips, currently on loan at Plymouth, as another natural centre-back and the out on loan Joe Rodon and Japhet Tanganga likely to leave the club, Spurs could look to enter the market again for another defender this summer.

“If you’re saying ‘is it an area we can strengthen?’, yes it’s an area we will probably look at,” he said. “With all these things it’s about trying to strengthen the group as much as anything else. If you think about when I first arrived, we had maybe six or seven centre-backs at the club. So it’s not just numbers. It’s more about the ability of those players to play the football we want and to fit in to what we’re trying to build here.

“I think it is an area of the park we will look to strengthen, but I think we’ll look to strengthen all areas of the park come the end of the season. That’s planning that’s already underway, and other people are in charge of it at the moment.”

Tottenham fans have been left unimpressed by the club’s decision to increase season tickets prices by six percent next season and to remove senior concession season tickets for new applicants after the next campaign while reducing the discount for those over the age of 66 who currently own one.

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“I want Spurs supporters in the stand, mate – I don’t just want anybody in there. I want people who are passionate about the football club. I want the stadium to reflect the attachment that they have,” said Postecoglou when asked what kind of fans he wanted in the stands.

“Supporters have a voice and they are allowed to use that to express how they feel. They can use that in the stadium or through other avenues. I’m never going to dictate how they should behave or what they should adhere to.”

Some Spurs supporters have also grumbled on social media about the number of day-trippers or ‘tourist fans’ getting one-off tickets for matches at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Postecoglou was asked whether the simplest plan for Premier League clubs nowadays was to sell expensive matchday tickets to such tourist supporters or those called “plastic fans’.

It’s fair to say that neither term went down well with the Australian who used to love the Premier League from afar as a child and then as an adult.

“That’s really harsh – and I’ll tell you why, because I’m probably plastic and touristy because I was coming from the other side of the world, really passionate about football and if I could get access to see a Premier League game that was the world to me,” he said.

“So to label people ‘plastic’ or ‘tourists’ I don’t think that’s fair just because people live on the other side of the world. This football club has supporters all over the world. It has supporters all over the UK who don’t always get access to the games and I think we should always be able to accommodate them.

“It doesn’t make them any less passionate and it’s really disrespectful to call fans who are willing to go to the expense of coming halfway round the world. You don’t know how passionate they are about their football club. Maybe they have only started supporting it in the last two years – but that doesn’t diminish who they are.”

When asked if ticket sales were a balancing act, he added: “It’s a balancing act only if your end means isn’t about growing your football club in every aspect. It’s why we do tours around the world – to take this team to places where I know people are passionate. I know there are passionate Spurs supporters in Australia – just as passionate as they are here. They don’t live here, they can’t come to the games or buy season tickets.

“In fact I have friends in Australia who did buy season tickets and could only get here a couple of times a year, that’s how passionate they are. As long as your overall objective is to grow your football club then you will find the balance you need.”

Postecoglou is trying to create a new Tottenham for the future, amid the mocking labels placed on the club such as ‘Spursy’ and he admits that the biggest cross-section of opinions came when he was first handed the role of head coach at the north London outfit.

“I think that (Spursy term) is OK but that’s an external viewpoint, it doesn’t help me and that’s my way of thinking my way through the process going into a new environment and turning it into something that I believe can be successful,” he said.

“I will give you an example – what do you reckon the first thing happened when I was appointed? It was that I got about a million different opinions about what needed to change here, and if I put them on a spreadsheet I would probably have had to get rid of all the players and all the staff, balanced by keeping all the players and all the staff. Just about everyone was great or not great.

“It’s not like people start with a clean slate because that doesn’t exist either, everyone has a history, but you have got to look beyond the obvious – and the obvious was that the club wanted change and very few people are willing to commit to real change. Real change means people, habits, behaviours and making strong decisions around those things – and not just a new manager comes in and everything’s going to be all right. It doesn’t work that way.”

He added: “It’s an on-going process but usually within the first month or six weeks you get a good pretty good indication with the direction and how strong I need to be. The reality is that sometimes you can’t make the changes anyway, there are people committed to the club and you can’t change. Then you have to find a way to work through that process.

“For me it’s usually the first month where I keep my mouth shut, look and listen and breathe in what information I can. Then I make my assessments from there.”

Postecoglou has helped oversee a successful recruitment strategy at Spurs with successes galore across the board with the incoming players. One player who was starting to show his worth only to suffer a knee injury in September that has kept him out since is Manor Solomon. The 24-year-old is not able to take on his former side Fulham this weekend because he is still having issues with his knee and the club are looking at alternative solutions to his problem.

Postecoglou was not able to say whether he will have the Israel international available again this season.

“I’m not really sure and I wouldn’t want to put that pressure on him. He’s had a tough time,” he said. “Whenever players go through these periods, the important thing is not to try to put any firm deadlines or firm statements around it. Bentancur went through it when he overlapped two seasons, but these things happen. We’ve got Sess going through it.

“All you’ve got to do is help them along the way, support them and give them as much guidance as you can, and put them in the hands of the people who know best and just see what the outcomes are.”

One January signing who has been able to make an impact is Timo Werner, with the 28-year-old German having scored in back-to-back matches as well as contributing an assist in each of his first couple of games for the club. Spurs have an option to make the attacker’s loan move from RB Leipzig permanent for around £15m but Postecoglou said it is too early to decide whether that will be taken up.

“I don’t think it’s the time for those kind of decisions and I don’t think it would be fair on Timo for me to [discuss it],” said the Australian. “Whenever I’ve signed a player on loan I say to them at the outset that I will treat them like I do everyone else, like they’ll be here for the long term.

“Then if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen because even the ones you hope are here for the long term sometimes aren’t. Timo has come in and really contributed to us from the first day. He’s had to. It’s been important for us, as I said when we signed him, because we were really short in that front third, when Sonny was away and then we lost Richy. If we didn’t sign Timo at that time, we would have had some real gaps. Then the burden on guys like Brennan and Kulusevski would have been even greater. I think all of the guys in the front half have handled it really well. Timo has done well, but the time for those kind of discussions is down the line for us, for me.”

Werner’s fellow January recruit Dragusin will get his chance to start at Craven Cottage on Saturday evening. The Romanian was known as ‘The Bodyguard’ in Italy but don’t go asking Postecoglou what his nickname is around Tottenham. “I call him Radu mate. I’ve got no idea,” came the response.

The Spurs boss is well aware though what strengths the big centre-back will bring to his team as he looks to fill in for a key player in the injured Van de Ven.

“In terms of profile he’s a young man who has already played significant minutes, which I think helps us when we’re recruiting,” he said. “We feel like we’re a squad that needs to develop and grow and we’re looking for that younger demographic, but at the same time you’re looking for guys that have played.

“I’ve liked his trajectory. He’s played at clubs where he’s had to fight for everything. The characteristics he’s had are around his defensive principles, which are really strong. In Serie A you get tested every week. There has been growth in him and he really wanted to come here. I don’t disregard that. When players have a strong desire to come here they have obviously thought carefully about and have evidence that it’s right for them. There’s plenty of room for growth as well, and from the moment he arrived he’s taken every opportunity to do that.”

When asked if Dragusin is ready to put pressure on Van de Ven and Romero for their places in the team, Postecoglou said without hesitation: “He has been already, but that doesn’t change. You don’t need much more evidence that you can’t do with just than two centre backs. No matter how good they are.

“We’ve been challenged in that space. We need players ready to play and push each other. Even when he wasn’t here, Micky and Romero were pushing themselves. That competition comes from within. I don’t want to create artificial scenarios where they have to push themselves. I want that because that’s who they are. I think we’ve got that with this group.”

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