Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ramos Proves Jol’s Case

Ramos Proves Jol's Case
[first posted on Topspurs.com]

The final weeks of Martin Jol’s tenure as manager of Spurs brought much vitriolic criticism of him and the team as messageboard fanatics came alive as a consequence of the team’s failure to add to their August success over Derby County.

The fanatics’ unreasonable criticism, apart from calling for Jol’s dismissal, poured blame on Paul Robinson for every goal that was conceded and called him the worst Spurs’ goalkeeper ever, called as usual for the removal of another of Jol’s ‘favourites’, Robbie Keane to be replaced by Jermain Defoe, called Dimitar Berbatov moody and lazy and a hundred and one other names, never wanted to see Jemaine Jenas pull on the Spurs’ shirt again and so it went on. Also the ‘experts’ wanted to see the Adel Taarabt and Kevin Prince-Boateng selected and despite their lack of experience these young players were seen as the ‘saviours’ of the team.

Such over the top criticism was unnecessary and way off beam.

To regard Robinson as Spurs’ worst ever goalkeeper – you either haven’t supported the club very long or you have a very short memory when in the past we have had to endure such goalkeepers as Mark Kendall and Bobby Mimms. The calls for Cerny to replace him were based on adequate performances in pre-season friendlies and early Cup games. However, when he met with the high pressure games at Newcastle and against Getafe, he was less impressive and failed to suggest he was the answer to the ‘supposed’ goalkeeping crisis. Such was an indication as to why Jol persevered with Robinson who was low on confidence behind a defence lacking an experienced leader.

On his arrival Ramos tried out a few players and then for the game against Wigan, a must win match, he selected his strongest available team.

How disappointed the Jol critics must have been – he selected the exact same team that Martin Jol would have selected – the team that Jol regarded as his best formation for most of last season (Kaboul apart) – Robinson, Chimbonda, Dawson, Kaboul, Lee, Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Malbranque, Berbatov and Keane.

Perhaps Martin Jol actually knew what he was doing and what his best team was. I’m sure Jol felt vindicated when he saw that team selection – ‘his’ team was going out to play Wigan at White Hart Lane.

Then, of course, Jenas received plaudits for his two goal performance – ‘Ramos has got him playing well’ was the general opinion. Jenas has always been capable of performances like that in games when Spurs have been given plenty of space and time to display their skills – remember his Cup performance against Southend last season, his goal against Derby in August and many others. When Jenas puts in performances like that on a regular basis and against Arsenal, Chelsea or United, then will be the time to praise Ramos and Poyet for the influence they have had on the player.

Berbatov finally managed to show some interest and produce a performance akin to last season. Perhaps Ramos got through to him or perhaps it was his agent who had a word in his ear about trying to impress possible suitors.

Why did Ramos persist with Robbie Keane instead of Defoe – perhaps he saw, as Jol had done, that the team needed him to be creator as well as scorer and put in the extra work supporting the midfield.

Having watched the 125th Anniversary match against Aston Villa again, the performance against Wigan was similar to that earlier game but Wigan were unable to punish the defensive mistakes that Spurs made while Villa took advantage of every one of them.

In time Ramos will have a great influence on the team to get them playing in his way but for the present while the players will be putting in that extra effort to impress the new manager, Martin Jol can take some satisfaction that it was ‘his’ team that beat Wigan at White Hart Lane to bring Spurs three vital points.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jimmy Robertson - Unique at Tottenham Hotspur

Jimmy Robertson
This arose as a question on the COYS message board earlier today.

Which player who has played for both Spurs and Arsenal in a North London derby has scored for both clubs? - only one player has achieved this feat!

An update: (26th February, 2012) On this day, Jimmy Robertson lost his unique position in Tottenham history as Emmanuel Adebayor scored for Tottenham against Arsenal to add to his many goals scored against Spurs. (Read more)

Over Spurs' 125 years history there are only a small number of players who have played for both clubs and transfers between the two North London clubs are rare.

However, only one player has managed to score for both clubs in a North London derby and it was Jimmy Robertson.

He joined Spurs from St Mirren in 1963 and was a member of Spurs FA Cup winning team in 1967, scoring in the Final against Chelsea.

His goal for Spurs against Arsenal was in the 3-1 home win in October, 1964, the other goals scored by Jimmy Greaves and Frank Saul.

He was transferred to Arsenal in October, 1968, in exchange for David Jenkins - not one of manager Bill Nicholson's best transfer deals. Jenkins made only a few appearances for Spurs while Robertson played for Arsenal for two seasons before moving on to Ipswich Town and Stoke City.

His goal for Arsenal against Spurs was at Highbury in September, 1969 when Spurs won 3-2 with goals from Alan Gilzean, John Pratt and Martin Chivers.


From Hero to Zero in 50 Weeks

[first posted on Topspurs.com]

Martin Jol took charge of Spurs on 5th November, 2004 following the unexpected departure of Jacques Santini and two years later on 5th November, 2006 his team recorded the most impressive victory of his time as manager and raised expectations around White Hart Lane.

In his first full season in charge Martin Jol’s Spurs had finished fifth and only missed out on fourth place and the Champions League on the final day of the season when ‘Lasagnegate’ struck down many of the players before their game against West Ham at Upton Park. In reality, if Spurs had managed to resolve a persistent problem through the season of conceding injury time goals they would have been comfortable in the Champions League spot, ahead of Arsenal, well before the final game of the season.

However, throughout Jol’s time at White Hart Lane while his team had made steady progress they were unable to make an impression on the ‘top 4’ sides. Their best efforts had always fallen short – a draw or undeserving single goal defeat being the best they could achieve for all their endeavours.

So, their victory over Chelsea at White Hart Lane on 5th November, 2006 was so satisfying and a worthy reward for all the effort and the previous missed opportunities. It was taken as an indication that they had finally broken the Chelsea and ‘top 4’ hoodoo and would be a challenge to the top sides in the major competitions. Coming from a goal down, the win had been achieved with Spurs young ‘for the future’ players playing a prominent part – Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon scoring the important goals. The tension throughout the final minutes was unbearable as Spurs held on to record victory and ‘Martin Jol’s Blue and White Army’ reverberated from all sides of the ground. The players and manager were being lauded as heroes and optimism was high among many supporters that finally Spurs had found a manager who could take the club on to greater things and follow in the footsteps of Bill Nicholson and Keith Burkinshaw.

It was looking good for Jol and Spurs – he had a good array of international players and the team were starting to play more attractive football with Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane developing an understanding as strikers while the English strength in the team was prominent – Robinson, King, Dawson, Jenas, Lennon and Defoe. Following on from that win the team put together an impressive run of results through to the end of the year in League, Carling Cup and UEFA competition.

The climax of the season saw Spurs again claim fifth place in the League and a second season in the UEFA Cup. Martin Jol had achieved Spurs’ best back to back League finishes for twenty four years.

However, in the months from November to May questions had arisen about Martin Jol’s ability to take Spurs on to the next level which was seen as gaining a Champions League place and again it centred on his team’s performances and ability to take on and beat the top sides.

The first query arose when Spurs faced Liverpool at home in the final game of 2006. Having made White Hart Lane almost fortress-like with a good run of results and only one home defeat all season, Spurs succumbed rather timidly to a Liverpool side who showed greater determination and endeavour – it was a disappointing way to end 2006, a year which had seen Spurs make so much progress.

The next two months saw a downward turn in Spurs’ form – no League wins and only Cup success to keep the spirits up but defeat to Arsenal in the semi-final of the Carling Cup was another bitter disappointment. The ‘young’ Arsenal side had been two down in the first leg at White Hart Lane and Spurs seemed in a strong position but two second half goals for the visitors turned the tie and greatly increased Spurs’ difficulties for the second leg. Injury to Berbatov during the game had affected Spurs’ play and his unavailability for the second leg along with Lennon increased their problems. Eventual defeat in extra time left Spurs looking to the other Cups in hope of success.

A defeat at home in the League to Manchester United by four goals again raised doubts and rumours suggested that if Spurs lost their FA Cup tie at Fulham, then Spurs could be looking for a new manager. However, somewhat unexpectedly Spurs turned on an exciting display of football to win 4-0 and the manager was reprieved for the meantime.

The next meeting with a ‘top 4’ team saw Spurs visit Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup. At half-time Spurs were leading by two goals (3-1) and a semi-final place seemed a possibility. However, a determined Chelsea fight back saw them equalise and take the tie to White Hart Lane where they brought more heartache to the Spurs’ faithful.

The final disappointment came in the UEFA Cup where Spurs were undone in Sevilla by the award of an unwarranted penalty which gifted the home team an equaliser, enabling them to bring a one goal advantage to the second leg. However, within seven minutes the tie was effectively over as Juande Ramos’ side scored twice and although Spurs mounted a second half comeback to earn a draw, they had once again fallen short against a top side in a critical game.

Having qualified for Europe for a second season, any doubts about the manager seemed to be have been set aside during the summer as £40 million was spent on strengthening the team and many commentators were predicting a season which would see Spurs challenging for a top for place and even ousting Arsenal from that top group.

However, after opening the season with two uninspiring defeats, the concerns about the manager were brought into the public domain when directors of the club were seen in a hotel in Sevilla courting the manager of the UEFA Cup winners. Denials and statements were issued, Martin Jol was assured there was nothing sinister in the meeting and that his position was safe but the matter was never resolved and wouldn’t go away.

From that time in August Martin Jol knew that his days as Spurs’ manager were numbered. The players knew it, the supporters knew and with continuing media speculation on the back of poor results it was only a matter of time.

That time came fifty weeks after Jol was being hailed a hero following his side’s first success against a ‘top 4’ side and the first League victory over Chelsea since 1990. The match against Getafe in the UEFA Cup which had brought such exciting football to White Hart Lane last season, was the background to the manager’s departure. Rumours had circulated on the internet before the game that this was going to happen and during the match the spectators became aware of the situation and responded with a constant roar of support and appreciation for Martin Jol.

The deed has been done and it could have been handled so much better but while Juande Ramos has been installed as manager of Tottenham Hotspur, Martin Jol deserves credit for what he achieved at the club. He brought the club a respect that had long been missing from Tottenham Hotspur and he achieved more than any of his immediate predecessors and qualification for two successive UEFA Cup campaigns.

However, nothing is assured in football. Last year on the strength of that win over Chelsea it appeared that Martin Jol would be in post for a considerable period of time but in fact for Jol it went from ‘hero to zero’ and the dole in only fifty weeks.


The Undermining of Martin Jol at Spurs

[first posted on Topspurs.com]

Martin Jol started out with the ambition of emulating the success achieved by the great Bill Nicholson but ended up joining the long line of managers who have failed to bring success to White Hart Lane. His final match against Getafe in the UEFA Cup ended in defeat but in spite of everything Martin Jol left Tottenham Hotspur with dignity and honour.

It was a sad and disappointing way for the manager to leave the club after he had done so much to lift Spurs from the mediocrity that had preceded his almost three years in charge. To finish fifth for two consecutive seasons was way beyond anything that his immediate predecessors had achieved but it wasn’t enough for the Board or some of the more demanding supporters. His target for the season had been to break into the top four and the Champions League positions with his ‘card’ had been clearly marked by the Chairman, Daniel Levy. However, with the poor start to the season that was looking a forlorn hope and with the players’ confidence so obviously at a low ebb, there was no indication of an immediate improvement in the position.

Defeat at Liverpool before the break for international games would probably have brought a close to Jol’s managerial reign but a spirited performance from the players took them to within seconds of a historic victory. Another difficult away game at Newcastle last Monday saw a terrible defensive display contributing to their defeat and was probably the last straw for the Board.

Having taken the decision to remove Jol and his assistant, Chris Hughton, before the Getafe match, the subsequent defeat would have justified the decision in the minds of the Chairman and directors.

However, Martin Jol had been in an untenable position from the end of August when the initial approach was made to Juande Ramos at Seville. From then on everyone knew it was only a matter of time before he would be leaving White Hart Lane and as the weeks dragged on the situation only deteriorated with the manager looking more forlorn on every occasion.

Through those difficult weeks and the period last season when a poor sequence of results in the early weeks of 2007 had put his position under threat, Jol conducted himself quietly and with dignity, never speaking out or criticising those in charge at the club. Last season, the Cup victory at Fulham brought a stay of execution and a series of results that lifted the club to fifth but there was to be no reprieve this time.

As manager of Tottenham Jol did much to restore respect for the club which had suffered so many ignominies in the recent past. His style may have been over-cautious on occasions but when the team played well they could produce the attractive, exciting football associated with the club. Where he failed was in the inability to win the critical ‘big’ games against the top four or in the latter stages of the Cup competitions. When drawn to play a top side there was an inevitability about the result.

It was probably this last difficulty that influenced the decision of the Board who thought that Martin Jol was unable to take the club any further.

But was the manager helped by the policies of the club?
· the restrictive salary scales which prevented them signing top quality, experienced players
· the preference for signing young players with an improved sell on price
· the insistence on a Director of Football with a say in the players who were signed
· the refusal to sign a left-sided midfield player
· the prevarication on transfer deals which usually floundered after weeks of negotiations
· the sale of Michael Carrick, around whom Jol had built his team.

All of these issues contributed in making the manager’s job more difficult and undermined his position but through it all Martin Jol kept his countenance and his thoughts to himself, striving to make a team and produce results from the players with whom he had been provided.

Martin Jol was a gentleman – he had a feeling for Tottenham Hotspur and its historical success and he had a desire to bring success to the club and to the supporters who appreciated his endeavours.

Martin Jol didn’t deserve to be treated as he was by the Board and he didn’t deserve the harsh criticism that was dished out on some of the supporters’ internet message boards.

He has left now and rightly been well rewarded for the remaining period of his contract.

Thank you Martin Jol for your efforts on behalf of Spurs, you brought us great hope and perhaps it was that that lifted our expectations to a new level and brought about your own demise.

Best wishes for the future – you will be remembered at White Hart Lane as a gentleman but one who ultimately failed to achieve the success we all desired.