If you North Londoners poke your heads out of your window this evening only to encounter the terrifyingly pathetic sight of a six foot ogre bawling his eyes out, you won’t be dreaming, you won’t have accidentally turned on your much-thumbed copy of the Shrek 2 DVD, and it won’t be because it’s Halloween. It will be none other than Jolly Martin, still trying to recover from the progressive humiliation suffered in the hands of the Spurs board.
In what may well be my last Soccerlens article for a while, I’d like to take a giant leap away from La Liga — okay, more like a baby step — and investigate the path of Juande Ramos, Del Nido’s deserter extreme, as he seeks to launch my hapless Tottenham into the upper echelons of English and European football. And above all, I’d like to examine the credentials of the man deemed Spurs’ 1829399th Messiah.
Whilst the legal battle between Spurs and Sevilla rages on — don’t expect a resolution any time soon — the homilies continue to pour forth from Spain about Tottenham’s multimillion pound manager. Freddy Kanoute, formerly a Spurs player (and let’s pray that we’re not about to do a Newcastle/Solano or a Birmingham/Johnson by buying back the Malian for three times the amount for which we sold him), was unwavering in his praise for his former manager. Kanoute was quoted as saying the following:
“He just gave me confidence since I’ve been here. He has always given me the confidence I needed and that’s it. He just said to me that I have to play how I know my best. He gave me quite a lot of freedom on the pitch also to do whatever I want.
“Maybe this is someone who is on the pitch, who works on the pitch every day. He’s there to give advice. He’s very serious in his job and he’s not the kind of man who likes to speak a lot about his job, but he’s doing it well.”
Now, before the start of the season, the general media were falling over themselves to proclaim Tottenham as challengers for fourth spot, citing the strength in depth and the calibre of a bunch of surely maturing youngsters, such as the unstoppable (if you don’t start running, then you can’t be stopped…) Jermaine Jenas. If we stubbornly stick with this view, then there’s no problem — Ramos is a proven man-manager (we hope that he is good enough even to get Berbatov in order), a stickler for discipline and a great tactician, and he will surely get the most out of such a talented group.
However, and this is a galling thought, perhaps the Spurs squad simply isn’t as good as it is billed to be. It is entirely possible that instead of underachieving over the last two seasons when failing to nab fourth spot, we have instead been overachieving. Ramos is of course no slouch, and will not necessarily require world superstars in order to build a successful team. Indeed, Ramos managed to revolutionize a Rayo Vallecano side who had never played in Europe, taking the club first to the Primera Liga and then qualifying them for their first ever foray into the UEFA Cup — clearly Ramos has the ability to maximise the talents of his players.
However, at Sevilla, where he has enjoyed the greatest amount of success, Ramos was able to rely on a constant stream of excellent signings, courtesy of the hard work, eye for talent and business know-how of Ramón RodrÃguez Monchi. The BBC’s coverage of the news has been comparatively extensive, and they were the only high-profile Sports site to mention by name, albeit a brief mention, of Juande Ramos’ technical director, Ramón RodrÃguez Monchi. Monchi was the man responsible for picking up cut-price signings such as Dani Alves, Freddy Kanoute, Luis Fabiano, Drago, and countless others, and it was left to Ramos to train players and put together the pieces.
Another issue of the utmost importance to the possible success of Juande Ramos at Tottenham will be the relationship between the Spaniard and Director of Football Damien Commoli. Many will be quick to point out that Ramos had little problem working under Monchi, as a sort of proof that Ramos is not of a conflictive character and that he will work with what he’s given.
However, Martin Jol could hardly be accused of inciting argument with his technical assistants — indeed, the eager-to-please Dutchman was known to have an excellent working relationship with Frank Arnesen, and despite the rumours of backstabbing Ã la Avram Grant, Jol has steadfastly refused to criticise any of his colleagues.
Damien Commoli, however, as the BBC’s Phil McNulty rightly observed, slimed his way uncomfortably through the presentation of Juande Ramos. Commoli is held by many Spurs fans to be the real reason for Jol’s untimely demise. Numerous signings were forced on the Dutchman (Darren Bent is known to have been Commoli’s choice) whilst his few demands (another centre back, the signing of Elano) were ignored outright by the technical staff.
Commoli the chameleon is supposed to be a difficult man to get on with, is always present to celebrate good news, but is rarely available to take responsibility for his actions — yet it is conspicuously clear that many of the Frenchman’s top-name signings have quite simply not made the cut. Ramos has never succeeded at a club surrounded by instability and in-fighting (he left the Espanyol hotseat after just five games because of rows with the board), and his every move will be under the microscope both of English and world football in a way he would never have previously experienced.
If Ramos is to enjoy any success, he will have to impose himself on Commoli, rather than the other way round, and some of the supposed “talents” of the Tottenham team will have to begin to perform.
As I said, the eyes of world football are on the situation developing at Tottenham, where Juande Ramos could turn out to be yet another expensive, unsuccessful risk. Because one thing remains quite clear — if Ramos fails, Spurs fans everywhere will be introducing Messrs Commoli and Levy to the magical land of last straws, egg-faces and bellowing fat ladies (Andy Reid? Thanks for that one Spooky). Again, I’m not talking about Halloween.
Though if you do see Jol tonight, please, my friends, be sure to give him a pack of sweets or a bag of popcorn, so that we can return to the Dutchman that “cheesy smile” (not in the Wenger way) that we love so much.