Jacques Santini’s surprise resignation from Spurs on Friday 5th November was a reminder to all us fans that our club is one great big, living, breathing crisis.
But how much of a crisis is it?
Santini arrived just before Euro 2004, appointed by Sporting Director, Frank Arnesen. Former RKC Waalwijk manager, Martin Jol, who became assistant coach, joined him in June. But the partnership lasted just 13 league games and Santini cited personal reasons as grounds for his sudden departure.
There is of course much speculation that Santini struggled to work in the format that saw Arnesen buy all the players and he and Jol coach and pick the team. Michael Carrick was apparently at the crux of a disagreement about players purchases with Santini not rating the former England midfielder.
But that is all conjecture and the facts are that Martin Jol has been promoted rather quickly to manager. Arnesen, it seems, has finally got his man.
At the Charlton game on Saturday I spoke to many fans who were not that bothered by Santini’s departure, and in fact seemed to embrace it. Despite a good start where Spurs remained unbeaten for six games (including wins at Newcastle, draws with Liverpool and Chelsea), the wheels began to fall off as poor defeats to Man United, Portsmouth, Bolton and Fulham showed the team had improved little since last season.
Santini’s defensive tactics, often a euphemism for dull, boring, negative football, was only part of the problem. What really grated with the fans was what seemed a to be a lack of interest from the players, a deficiency of attacking nuance and a total lack of fight. We watched seemingly inferior players at Everton (arguably) play each game like their lives depended on it. At Spurs, you doubted they would motivate themselves to that degree even if their lives did depend on it.
So, I shed no tears either when the Frenchman left. There was no bond with him, his sparse English (despite his gallant attempts to speak it all the time) not helping fans to warm to him.
But with Martin Jol it’s different. The Dutchman does speak English – fluently – and having played in English football in the 1980s, has a greater association with the country and its footballing philosophy.
We’re promised flowing football under Jol – that remains to be seen – but it is encouraging to see that he has already identified the major problem with Spurs. His target in January will be to recruit some width and pace for a midfield that is often lackluster at best. The Michael Brown-Jamie Redknapp-Pedro Mendes approach will not yield much success in the Premiership.
But with the likes of Sean Wright-Phillips, Wayne Routledge and Andy Reid on the radar one would hope Jol could spend this season transforming the team to compete with the better sides. Take a look at Chelsea, Arsenal, Man United. These are the most successful teams and they have players like Duff, Robben, Pires, Giggs and Ronaldo who can allow flexible tactics, whether it is all-out or counter-attacking, or playing a tight midfield unit.
Jol can be a success and unlike the last one, he has the fans attention.
Those summer purchases – thoughts so far
(GP/GC=Games played/Goals conceeded; GP/GS=Games played/Goals scored; SSFR=Season-so-far rating)
|Paul Robinson (Goalkeeper, signed for 1.5m from Leeds)|
|Outstanding performances have kept Spurs in several games this season. Great buy|
|Marton Fulop (Goalkeeper, signed for an undisclosed fee from MTK Hungaria)|
|Bought as a player for the future. Yet to feature in the first team.|
|Noureddine Naybet (Central Defender, signed for £700k from Deportivo La Coruna)|
|Brought in to add experience to a young back line. Has been inconsistent, often exposed by pace.|
|Rodrigo Defendi (Central defender, signed for £600k from Cruzeiro)|
|Highly-rated teenager who will look to break in to Spurs squads next season.|
|Calum Davenport (Central defender, signed for £3m from Coventry)|
|One of England’s most highly-rated young players, Davenport is currently out on loan at West Ham where he is becoming a fan’s favourite.|
|Erik Edman (Left back, signed for an undisclosed fee from Heerenveen)|
|Swedish international who is now injured after some mixed performances.|
|Reto Ziegler (Left midfielder, signed for an undisclosed fee from Grasshoppers Zurich)|
|Swiss under-21 international who has made the first-team ahead of time.|
|Noe Pamarot (Right back, signed for £1.7m from Nice)|
|Reportedly Santini’s only purchase, the right-back has confounded Spurs fans with outrageously poor positioning and questionable commitment.|
|Sean Davis (Central midfielder, signed for £3m from Fulham)|
|The injury bug hit Davis after only four games, but his performances up to then were very encouraging.|
|Miguel Pedro Mendes (Central midfielder, signed for £2m for Porto)|
|Disappointing contribution from Mendes, who won the Champions league last year. His passing is erratic and although he tries hard, he achieves little.|
|Michael Carrick (Central midfielder, signed for £3.5m from West Ham)|
|Not the choice of Santini they say, and his fears might be relevant. Carrick has never reached the potential he showed in the late ninties – now it’s time to step up to the plate. Turned the game on its head against Charlton when he helped inspire Spurs to within a whisker of over-turning a three goal deficit.|
|Timothee Atouba (Left midfielder, signed for an undisclosed fee from Basle)|
|Quite possibly Spurs answer to Emile Heskey. Full of skill but no footballing brain.|
|Edson Rolando Silva Sousa (Striker, signed on a free from PSV Eindhoven)|
|Remains to see if he ever plays for Spurs. On a one-year deal and playing behind Defoe, Keane and Kanouté.|
Bill Nicholson passed on a few weeks ago, aged 85. It might be difficult for people of my era to fully appreciate what Bill did for Spurs, but even I was reduced to an eerie silence and inner sadness when I heard the news. Nicholson was responsible for Spurs, and arguably England’s, finest team ever in the sixties. He won the first league and cup double of modern times in 1961, was the first manager to lead an English club to a European trophy in 1963, won two more FA Cups, two league cups and a UEFA Cup in 1972.
The style that his team played with is legendary and is the basis of much dreaming and lamenting by modern Spurs fans. Many of the supporters going to games now, moaning about the team not playing ‘The Spurs Way’ were not even born when Nicholson managed the club so successfully.