The departure of Tottenham Hotspur’s head of communications Simon Felstein will not be the most high profile exit from the club this summer but his absence is likely to be felt behind the scenes.
Felstein is the man always just out of shot at press conferences, sitting on the manager’s right-hand side as he deals with the media and their questions.
Across the past 15 years, the 39-year-old has risen up the ranks as the north London club has changed around him and grown in size.
He started off working part-time for the club before becoming a full-time press officer in 2006, then the press manager a year later, which transformed into head of press in 2012 and finally head of communications in 2016.
Then this summer, he handed in his notice to the powers-that-be at Tottenham, making it clear that he was seeking a new challenge.
The split will be amicable, although Felstein has been placed on three months’ worth of gardening leave before he can officially depart from N17.
Felstein has been a constant at the club and that not many Tottenham fans will be aware of him or know his face shows that he did his job well, standing just off stage as the performers spent their time in the spotlight.
There were a few occasions when he did have to step in. Footage of him outside Southwark Crown Court in 2012 with Harry Redknapp, showed him having to act as an impromptu security guard as the large throng of photographers and media swarmed around the then Spurs boss, preventing his exit to his car.
During the Mauricio Pochettino era, he temporarily shut down a press conference with the Argentine after one reporter refused to end a line of questioning about the manager’s future, amid links with Real Madrid.
Pochettino and Felstein grew very close over their five-and-a-half years together, friends outside the hustle and bustle of club life.
The Argentine’s successor Jose Mourinho would frequently involve Felstein in press conferences, poking fun at him, speaking well of him and referring to him in his media dealings.
Amid the caretaker and interim managers and head coaches, Felstein worked with Martin Jol, Juande Ramos, Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood before the Pochettino and Mourinho eras.
However, he will not be part of the Nuno Espirito Santo chapter in the club’s history, having decided to make it a clean break and a fresh start for the new man.
Others who have previously worked at the club have always said that if you succeed in working at Tottenham Hotspur within the parameters set then you can work anywhere.
That has been ever more the case with the challenges of recent years as Spurs built a huge new stadium, training complex on top of their managerial changes, involved themselves in the Super League controversy as well as the effect of dealing with a global pandemic.
Felstein managed to navigate his way through it all. He was popular among the players and staff as well as the media, generally fair in his dealings with journalists having previously been one himself.
Many within the club are believed to have been surprised by his departure, including new managing director of football Fabio Paratici.
Being head of communications at any football club is a tough gig, mainly because the fans only remember the bad times, the club mistakes that have needed to be explained or apologised for and a head of communications’ job also involves damage limitation.
Tottenham have had plenty of those instances in recent years, with the furloughing u-turn, the Super League u-turn, charging the most expensive match tickets in the Premier League when fans returned for one home game at the end of last season and their managerial decisions and that long, stumbling search for Mourinho’s successor.
There were also the protests outside the stadium towards the end of the campaign about chairman Daniel Levy‘s running of the club and the owners ENIC.
That Levy is not one who enjoys the limelight and rarely chooses to speak puts pressure on the club to get their communication right.
Even the head of communications can only ultimately suggest what is put out purposefully into the public domain but in Felstein, who grew up a Tottenham fan, the club at least had someone who knew how the supporters would react and could convey that to the hierarchy.
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In particular, Tottenham’s social media usage has been transformed in recent years and they are at the forefront of creative content as they look to reconnect with a fanbase that has been disenchanted by decisions made at the top.
The irony is that Paratici’s arrival will see the Italian provide the direct communication that has been so lacking from Tottenham’s hierarchy over the years, with the plan that he continues to be the public face he was at Juventus during 11 years with the Serie A club, but Felstein will now not benefit from that.
Coming in to Tottenham is Bournemouth’s head of communications Anthony Marshall, who begins work in north London on Monday.
His new job will take on elements of Felstein’s role, particularly in working with the club’s new head coach, as well as those of another Spurs press officer, Joe Bacon, who left for Chelsea at the end of the season.
It will be all change at Tottenham on and off the pitch this summer and while Felstein’s exit will not make the news in the way the coming transfers will, it’s something many at the north London club will have to adjust to in the months and years ahead.
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