Ange Postecoglou wanted to make a point about his love of Liverpool, which took hold in the 1970s as he grew up in Melbourne. Essentially, it is different now and not only because the Tottenham manager is about to face them in a competitive match for the first time.
“Like any kid, I had the posters up on my wall … Liverpool was my team,” Postecoglou said. “But you grow up. Things change. I used to love Happy Days back then, too, but I don’t have pictures of the Fonz on my wall today, either.”
Yet the more Postecoglou spoke before Saturday’s game, the latest test of what he is building at Spurs, the more he revealed that the old feelings will never go away; how they have shaped him and, perhaps, the way they have taught him about the importance of having an unwavering identity.
“I was fascinated by the culture at a club like Liverpool,” Postecoglou said. “The boot room, Shankly and Paisley, Ronnie Moran, all those guys. I loved reading about it. Certainly, Liverpool at the time … there was always a unique story there about this mythical boot room where all the magic happened. For me, it was almost like reading fairytales. That has an influence. Those seeds are usually sown at a young age where we’re in our rooms and we create those worlds for ourselves.”
One of the best things about Postecoglou is his authenticity. Other managers in his position, facing the club that they supported, would try to play it all down. But why hide, he seemed to be saying? This is who he is. It does not deflect him from his sense of purpose at Spurs. Postecoglou is a person who has come to own his narrative and it is an empowering example to his players.
Why Liverpool? Postecoglou explained that it was either them or Manchester United. “A couple of my best mates went Man U … I went the other way to keep it interesting.” And then he is into the memorable games; the heroes, as well.
Postecoglou remembers getting up at 4am to watch Liverpool’s first European Cup final win, against Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1977, aged 11. And the others that followed. But, really, he watched absolutely everything he could.
“They beat Tottenham 7-0, that was pretty memorable,” Postecoglou said of a 1978 game. “I didn’t miss anything. I taped them. You know what tapes are? Videos? Have I still got them? I do, bizarrely. I don’t know what to do with them. I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to stuff I grew up with so they’re in boxes somewhere.
“Who were my posters of? I was mad about Kenny Dalglish. I was 12 [when the Scot joined from Celtic]. He was it, for me. When you are a young kid, you are looking for heroes and it was him and the Fonz, mate. It was a sad existence!”
Postecoglou was full of praise for Jürgen Klopp, talking about how the Liverpool manager had had an impact on the whole of the English game, not just his club; taking high-intensity football to “another level”. But the admiration is rooted in how Liverpool bought into Klopp’s ideology and “fairly unique” style, and backed it through thick and thin.
“They’ve been a very good team for a while now,” Postecoglou said of Klopp’s team. “Obviously they fell off the pace last year but the elements of who they are have always been there. If you look at them or Arsenal or Brighton now, there’s a plan there they have stuck to. It hasn’t brought them short‑term success but they’ve believed in something and allowed that to grow. There are definitely lessons there.”
Postecoglou’s teams have always had a consistent identity, his Spurs simply the latest example – front‑footed, brave on the ball, hard running. There have been plenty of positives over his first six Premier League matches, which have brought four wins and two draws, including resilience; the loss of the dreaded “Spursy” tag, as the midfielder James Maddison put it after last Sunday’s 2-2 at Arsenal.
Postecoglou has provided as much security as possible for his young players, some of whom are new or new-ish to the league. “It’s about them knowing that there’s nothing that’s going to happen out there that’s going to be terminal in terms of their careers … ‘Don’t stress about the mistakes, I’ll back you,’” he said. “Because part of that stress as a young player is feeling like you need to play really well to keep your place and fearing that if you make a mistake in front of the whole world that’s going to cost you something.
“It’s not how I think. I don’t care about that. We’re going to go down this road and be successful. I try to provide that framework so at least it releases that anxiety and they can play as themselves.”
Postecoglou has felt his players buy in, some of them even describing him as a father figure. “It’s probably a reference to the way I dress,” he deadpanned.
So now for Liverpool and a challenge that Postecoglou will embrace. “The real emphasis for us has to be about our own development,” he said. “Can we impose our style? The more we go through these tests and show ourselves, the more it gives us the belief to keep going down this road and accelerating the growth.”