Sunday, October 26, 2008

Here Juande, gone the next: Levy and Spurs left with Hamburg-er all over their faces

If you thought that the now low-burning Newcastle crisis two months ago bordered on farce, the black comedy of Tottenham Hotspurs' season continues apace this weekend (which is lightened only slightly by my atrocious puns in the headline). In an astonishing move made all the more ruthless by the instantaneous appointment of Harry Redknapp, the Spurs board took the decision to remove Juande Ramos after one year in charge following the club's worst ever start to a Premier League season.

Daniel Levy is clearly, then, a man who doesn't agonise over delicate decisions. Subtlety may even be an alien concept to the Spurs chairman. Just 12 months ago, the protracted but very public seduction of Juande Ramos from Sevilla to replace Martin Jol dominated the headlines, causing outrage and disgust in many circles at the embarrassing treatment of Martin Jol's at the hands of his employers. On a side note, the irony of Levy complaining about Manchester United's courting of Dimitar Berbatov this summer, when much the same had occurred in Spurs' capture of Ramos, appeared to be lost on him. Anyway, Jol's crime was to oversee a poor start to a season after two consecutive fifth place finishes - the best any team outside of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool can realistically expect. While Jol's Spurs' bad form was not to be denied, that Levy judged succeeding the Dutchman with a new face as an instant solution now looks to be an obvious mistake.

Spurs had had two very successful domestic seasons in a row, playing exciting football, albeit resulting in often dramatic scenes at both ends of the pitch. Jol was well-liked by his squad and the fans, and while their form then might have been poor, it is positively flying by comparison to this season's start. Many questioned quite rightly the legitimacy of Levy's ousting of Martin Jol, in favour of giving him time to turn around the successful team he had managed for the previous two seasons.

And this weekend, many of those ugly elements have again darkened White Hart Lane's doors. Following two points from a possible 24, Juande Ramos, his two coaches and sporting director Damien Commoli were all shown the door, and another replacement instantly lined up in the (unmistakable) shape of Harry Redknapp. Less than a quarter of the way through the season, Levy's cherry-picked manager was removed, again without being given any time to rectify the situation, again without remorse, and again without Levy displaying any sort of awareness as to the hypocrisy of his decisions. You can't help but feel sorry for Ramos: as the object of Levy's affections just over a year ago, he can hardly be blamed for feeling stabbed in the back somewhat by the amount of faith shown in him by his former suitor.

What rankles particularly, though, is Levy's subsequent statements. While he explained away the sacking of Commoli as being a move back to a traditional footballing structure (fair enough - though many Premiership clubs currently work very well with sporting directors or directors of football) his quote that, "We are delighted to have secured the services of someone we have long since admired" is pretty outrageous. Levy was purported to have wanted the services of Redknapp at the time of Jol's dismissal: how long, then, has Redknapp been in his thoughts? Was Ramos doomed from day one? This is little short of an admittance that Ramos was the wrong man to replace Jol a year ago.

Levy goes on to say about Redknapp, "With his great knowledge of the game and his excellent motivational skills, Harry has inspired his teams to consistently over-perform". Levy clearly recognises these qualities; why, then does he not admit to Ramos's appointment being a mistake of his own in this respect? Redknapp gets results in English football, there's no denying, but Ramos was brought in to do the same but playing a certain way; see below.

The final dagger, in my opinion, is this highly hypocritical comment: "His [Redknapp's] preferred attacking style of playing the game sits comfortably with our club's history, heritage and the type of entertaining football our fans want and expect to see." That Redknapp's preferred style of football is attacking is certainly debatable. But either way, there can be no denying that 'entertaining football' is what Spurs were playing under Martin Jol. 'Entertaining football' is what attracted Levy, and many clubs in Europe, to Juande Ramos in the summer of 2007, following Sevilla's flamboyance and flair in winning back to back UEFA Cups with the likes of Freddie Kanoute, Luis Fabiano and Daniel Alves. While Spurs have won for the first time this season today, the substance to Levy's 'official statement' is left badly wanting, and so, perhaps, is the credibility behind Levy's position at the helm of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

The Hamburger, incidentally, comes from Martin Jol's new position. Currently employed by Hamburg, the team were last week top of the German Bundesliga, a long way ahead of teams like Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen and Leverkusen. There it looks like Jol had the last laugh, and one can only hope for Juande Ramos to do much the same in his next role as well.

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