Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy deserves more credit - Gary Mabbutt
LONDON -- Gary Mabbutt believes Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy deserves more credit for the club's success.
Spurs are second in the Premier League, three points clear of Arsenal, and eyeing both a first league title for over half a century and a first league finish above their neighbours since the 1994-95 season, when Mabbutt was captain.
There is plenty to admire about the way head coach Mauricio Pochettino has transformed Tottenham, whose success has been based on a core of homegrown players and a relentless work ethic.
Levy has faced criticism in the past for not backing his managers -- with Andre Villas-Boas, sacked in December 2013, claiming the chairman made signings over his head -- but he has allowed Pochettino free reign to dispense of unwanted players, and appointed the Argentine's former Southampton ally Paul Mitchell as head of recruitment.
Meanwhile, Spurs are the only top-flight club to have made a profit over the last five years and have a new state-of-the-art stadium on the way.
Mabbutt, who made 619 appearances in a 16-year spell at Tottenham, believes Levy deserves more praise for his part in Spurs' rise.
"The club as a whole is doing an excellent job. People ask me, 'Which jobs would you least like to have in football?' and there are two: one is a referee and the other is a chairman. Chairmen only got mentioned when they're doing badly. When things are going well, they never get mentioned," Mabbutt told ESPN FC.
"But we've actually got a board of directors who have worked really hard to put the club on a great footing. That's off the field, with the new stadium, and on the field by bringing together Mauricio and his backroom team which has got us to where we are now in the table.
"Things are looking very bright."
Last week's defeat at West Ham and draw with Arsenal left Spurs five points behind league leaders Leicester City but Mabbutt believes "slips-ups" are inevitable and he also praised Pochettino's personality and work.
"Wherever you go, Mauricio has huge respect for the way that he works with youngsters, brings them through, nurtures them. He's given an opportunity to a lot of players at Tottenham and it's fallen into place this year. He's got a great manner about it -- everyone who knows him will say he's a gentleman and a lovely guy. He's doing an excellent job with the club.
"What Pochettino has installed is confidence. He's got a group of players that are playing for each other. They want to win together -- as a team. That's a vital component of any successful side. As the season's moved along, I've seen this team getting stronger and stronger. Yes, there's been slip-ups along the way -- there's always going to be.
"But I see a lot of characters emerging. There's a lot of quality in the side, a lot of players performing. Whatever happens this season, the future of Tottenham Hotspur over the next few years, both on and off the field, is very exciting."
Despite having an average age of 24 -- the youngest in the Premier League -- Mabbutt believes there are characters emerging throughout the Tottenham squad but singled out club captain Hugo Lloris, 29.
"There's characters all through the side but particularly Hugo Lloris. He's one of the best goalkeepers in the world and a great lad as well. I went with him to the Christmas party for the Spurs disabled supporters and we were supposed to be there for and an hour or so, but he stayed a lot longer. He met everybody, shook their hands and had photographs taken... He's a great character in the dressing room.
"But throughout the side there's characters. In front of the back two, there's Eric Dier, and the back two of Jan Vertonghen and Toby [Alderweireld]. It was inspired to sign Toby and put him alongside Jan, and we're looking very solid defensively, giving very little away and if you look at our goal difference, that says a lot.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.