The sacking of Juande Ramos is just another mistake by the Tottenham Hotspur board, writes Martin Scanlon.
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, to put it bluntly, is a mess. Despite a recent mini-resurgence, they sit at the bottom of the Premier League and have lost their opening game in the group stage of the UEFA Cup.
One of their major summer signings, David Bentley recently gave his own damning verdict on their abysmal start to the season by saying; “It’s been difficult out on the pitch. We’ve not been together. We didn’t know where people were running, what people were doing. It’s been a difficult start. I wasn’t enjoying it. It’s been shocking.” Motivating words indeed.
So, the sacking of manager Juande Ramos and his management team after just twelve months in charge came as no major surprise to most football followers.
The task now falls to Harry Redknapp to re-establish Tottenham as potential Champions League contenders. Currently, his reputation is at an all time high after rescuing Portsmouth from certain relegation, turning them into FA Cup winners and bringing European football to Fratton Park for the first time in the club’s history.
However, prior to his return to Portsmouth, he suffered relegation at Southampton and was mediocre at best with the most talented bunch of youngsters of the generation (including Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Jermain Defoe) while at West Ham.
Redknapp will almost undoubtedly save Spurs from relegation and probably lead them to mid-table obscurity this season, but Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, he isn’t.
Also, at 61, he isn’t the long term appointment that Spurs need in order to secure a Champions League place on a regular basis.
Tottenham’s freefall from successive fifth place finishes has highlighted again the controversial role of the director of football. Redknapp’s appointment, according to chairman, Daniel Levy, signals a return to a “more traditional style of football management.”
Gone is the continental style of having a coach train and select the team and a director of football/technical director carry out the club’s recruitment. Redknapp, undoubtedly, would not have jumped ship without control of all transfers. He is, after all, the football equivalent of Del Trotter in Only Fools and Horses.
Interference in transfer policy has also led to the resignation of Kevin Keegan and Alan Curbishley this season. Many commentators believe that such a system will never work in the English game and the only way forward is a return to the ‘manager controls all approach’.
Yet, such a belief is flawed and the continental style can work in the English game, but only if appropriate conditions exist. One of the major benefits of the role of director of football is that it allows a continuity at a club following the departure of a coach and can avoid major upheaval in terms of players wanting to leave.
That is not to say that it is any better than the traditional English style, it simply depends on the personalities involved and their relationships.
Ramos came to Spurs with one of the most impressive recent managerial records in Europe following his time at Sevilla. He had built a team capable of challenging the Spanish giants of Real Madrid and Barcelona and won successive UEFA Cups. What many, including Spurs Chief Executive, Daniel Levy, failed to recognise was that his success was not totally self-generated.
He had established a strong working relationship with the director of football at Sevilla, Ramon Rodriguez Verdejo. In transplanting Ramos without his partner, Spurs failed to put in place all the pieces of the successful managerial team. Given time and his partner, Verdejo, Ramos could have led Spurs to the coveted Champions League spot on a regular basis.
Instead, Spurs attempted to replicate the relationship with Comolli as director of football. Comolli, it seems was given exclusive control on transfer dealings and Ramos was only given a consultative role. Such a relationship cannot work if no trust exists between the two parties in their respective abilities to carry out their roles.
The sale during the summer of one of the most prolific strike pairings in the Premiership by Comolli can’t have inspired confidence in Ramos. Up until the last minutes of deadline day, Ramos had to deal with the negative influence of Berbatov, who assumedly he would have preferred to have sold much earlier in the summer. Again, the replacements brought in, Frazier Campbell and Roman Pavluchenko, have no experience of two-flight football in major European leagues.
Chairman, and owners also seem insistent in putting in directors of football in place who have previous managerial experience. This creates a sort of paranoia within the existing manager that these people are ready made replacements thus undermining their confidence. This is especially so, if the director of football is appointed after the manager or insists on bringing in players who the manger doesn’t really want.
Harry Redknapp initially left Portsmouth following the appointment of Velimir Zajec, the arrival of Avram Grant hastened Mourinho’s Chelsea departure and similarly Keegan felt undermined by the arrival of Dennis Wise.
Results will soon tell whether this return to the traditional style of management by Spurs pays dividends, or if they simply revert to the pre-Martin Jol era of mid-table obscurity. But don’t be surprised to hear of Juande Ramos winning trophies on the continent in the short or medium term.