Plus ca change…
Martin Jol was fired because despite playing well against the top sides, Tottenham players could not lift their games for low-profile games. The problem was identified as a lack of professionalism and training, and thus Ramos was brought in.
Jaunde Ramos was hailed as the Messiah – by fans and players alike. They loved his strict training regime, loved his tactical nous and when Tottenham won the Carling Cup (beating Arsenal and Chelsea along the way), Ramos was supposedly the man to do what Jol couldn’t – get the Tottenham players to play like they did against Arsenal and Chelsea all through out the season. Do that and they would be shoe-ins for a top-6 spot and strong contenders for a top 4 spot.
But things didn’t go according to plan.
The players didn’t respond to Ramos beyond the initial surge in performances, and post Carling Cup they were in cruise-control, waiting for the season to end so they could bring in new blood. Summer came and went, and unlike Football Manager 2009 where Tottenham have 50m to spend in July, Ramos only had 20m from Keane to spend and the 30m from Berbatov’s sale to United, thanks to Daniel Levy, only came around on the last day of the transfer window.
Levy is not solely responsible, nor is Berbatov for wanting to leave since 2007 nor is Ramos for his inability to forge a personal connection with the players when the players weren’t professional enough to do what was asked of them.
Redknapp’s signing, an English manager with his recent history of getting Portsmouth to over-achieve in the league, was again hailed as a great way forward for Tottenham. Here was a man who could motivate the players. And so Redknapp seemingly did, with Tottenham drawing at the Emirates before beating Liverpool twice at White Hart Lane. The stage was set for the Redknapp revolution to do what Jol and Ramos, two managers who have achieved more in the Premier League and La Liga than Redknapp, could ever do.
On Satuday at Craven Cottage Tottenham players, management and fans ran head-first into the reality of Tottenham’s nature – they cannot motivate themselves to play away from home against lower-quality opposition. It’s not a confidence issue – these are the same players who can beat Liverpool or score twice in extra time away to Arsenal or beat Chelsea in a cup final. It’s not an issue of ability – individually these players are good enough to play at the top clubs in England and Europe.
The weaknesses in certain areas of the pitch is not solely to blame – Liverpool lost despite Tottenham missing a holding midfielder, Spurs scored 4 goals at Arsenal despite lacking ‘adequate’ striking resources (on recent evidence Frazier Campbell will score plenty of goals for them).
Tottenham players, simply put, lack effective leadership and professionalism. This can be partially countered for big games by pumping the players up with stirring dressing room talks, but away to Fulham or away to Sunderland this team will not always fight, and that’s something Redknapp himself cannot solve.
Spurs need a hard taskmaster, a Ramos, as Redknapp’s assistant. Spurs also need to get over their love affair with King and install a new captain (this is potentially why Keane’s departure has probably hurt them as much as Berbatov’s). They need players in certain positions too, but that’s already been said.
The sad bit is, this is exactly how things were during Jol’s time. As the league has gotten tougher, Tottenham have failed to improve themselves and are now, 3-4 years later, still lacking professionalism, still over-relying on King and still lacking players in key positions on the pitch.
Maybe it’s time the players and management, heretofore happy to praise new managers and slate old ones, take some responsibility and work on putting things right before they take more steps back. A new stadium will be no good if they can win games they need to propel them to to the top of the league.