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.