Football: Tottenham manager Conte the 'perfect' man to help club shed 'Spursy' tag

Antonio Conte was appointed Spurs manager in November 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - It is not quite accepted as part of the English language yet - even though a spoof article in 2016 claimed it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary - but the word "Spursy" is already part of many English Premier League fans' lexicon.

Generally, it means to have success within reach only to ultimately throw it away, and stems from Tottenham Hotspur being guilty of doing so on multiple occasions over the last two decades.

Over a breakfast chat at the Fairmont Singapore on Friday, however, former Spurs skipper and striker Teddy Sheringham believes the club have what it takes to shed that tag and win their first piece of silverware since the 2008 League Cup. The key ingredient, the 56-year-old said, is manager Antonio Conte.

"I think Conte is the perfect manager for Tottenham at this moment in time," said Sheringham, who scored 124 goals in 277 games for Spurs over two spells from 1992 to 2003.

"He might not be the most 'flaired' manager but Tottenham need the resilience, that determination in their team to stop them being 'Spursy'.

"If they're gonna win something they need that, and I think Conte is the perfect manager. There's no doubt about that.

"They've needed something over the last 10 to 20 years and hopefully he's the right man to change things around."

Conte, who won five domestic league titles in 10 years at Italian giants Juventus and Inter Milan and at EPL side Chelsea, was appointed Spurs manager in November 2021. He made an immediate impact, becoming the first manager at the club to go unbeaten in their first eight games, and steered them to Champions League qualification.

His teams are known not just for their ability to attack but also for their defensive prowess. For instance, in the 2020-21 season at Inter, the Nerazzuri were the strongest team defensively, conceding just 35 goals, six fewer than their closest rivals Milan, while scoring 89.

Before the start of this term, the Italian was backed in the transfer market by notoriously tight-fisted Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, who spent about £150 million (S$239.25 million) to bring in the likes of defender Cristian Romero, wing-back Ivan Perisic, midfielder Yves Bissouma and attacker Richarlison.

But Sheringham believes the team are still one player short of being a completely solid outfit.

"Probably that midfield general that you know, like a Roy Keane in midfield," he said. "If they could get Declan Rice from West Ham... that would make them a top team."

He cited 23-year-old England mainstay Rice's quality on the pitch, his professionalism as well as his mindset off it, which would help "change the whole philosophy" of a team struggling to reach success, like Spurs.

Former Spurs skipper and striker Teddy Sheringham believes the team are still one player short of being a completely solid outfit. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Sheringham is already looking forward to what he expects to be a "fantastic" derby between Spurs and North London rivals Arsenal next weekend, and said while the latter "probably have more flair", his former side have "a newfound resilience".

"They're both on a high. It's very unusual that both teams are in the top three and firing on all cylinders. I think anyone can win it," he said.

As he tucked into his scrambled eggs and sausages in the breakfast session which was arranged by Spurs' main sponsor AIA, Sheringham also sheepishly revealed there was no secret to the longevity of his playing career.

He holds the record as the oldest outfield player to feature in a Premier League game when he played for West Ham at 40 years, eight months and two days in 2006 but swears it was all down to genetics.

"My dad was very lean, very fit man and he's 83 now, so I'm lucky I've got his genes and hopefully that continues," he said.

"People used to come around my flat and think that, since I was still playing (at 40) I must have fish in the fridge and all the right pastas, but they open the fridge and they'd see chocolate, crisps in the cupboard, beers on the lower level and they go: 'What? This is what you live on?'"

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