First Blackpool, then the world – and last night Juande Ramos was left in no doubt as to the size of the task that awaits him as manager of Tottenham Hotspur. The Spanish coach is a lively touchline spectator – despairing, imploring, a bundle of nervous energy. But then watching Spurs makes you like that anyway.
Ramos oversaw Tottenham's first win in seven games although it would be fair to say that Blackpool ran them very close for a place in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup. Three excellent chances fell the way of Simon Grayson's gutsy Championship side and when Gary Taylor-Fletcher missed the third, Ramos responded by substituting the shaky Younes Kaboul and replacing him in the centre of defence with the full-back Pascal Chimbonda.
More than any other, that moment gave White Hart Lane their first glimpse of Ramos' personality on a night when the decisive goals were scored by Robbie Keane and Chimbonda himself. Kaboul, a £7m signing from Auxerre this summer, was dreadfully out of sorts and he looked liable to throw a temper tantrum as he approached the bench. Not that Ramos cared – he did not even spare his centre-back a look, let alone a handshake.
Apart from that one moment of icy decision-making, Ramos' antics on the touchline were about as entertaining as Spurs' half-baked attempts to see off their struggling Championship opposition. He threw his arms in the air, he buried his face in his hands and he gestured insistently for his players to do things they did not seem to comprehend. But last night had the feel of a first-day-at-school eagerness for Spurs' players and they threw themselves into the game with varying degrees of success.
Ramos said that he substituted Kaboul because he feared that the player, who was booked earlier, could be dismissed but he did not deny there were problems in defence. "It was important to get a victory," he said speaking through an interpreter, "and that's why I played a full-strength team. I wanted to calm the team down. The last few results have been negative and we needed to change that."
Tottenham's next five games are against Middlesbrough, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Wigan, West Ham and Aalborg – it is not a bad run for a new manager trying to turn around results. Last night Ramos saw just how little belief there is in this side, especially in defence where the dependable Michael Dawson seems to have been undermined by the unpredictable Kaboul.
There were strange scenes at the start when Ramos was not even presented over the public-address system – the club evidently judging that they have had enough of awkward presentations for a week. At the end of the game, Ramos stopped for a chat with his assistants Gustavo Poyet and Marcos Alvarez before breathing a sigh of relief, looking around and disappearing down the tunnel.
Spurs fans declined to pass judgment on their new coach and did not mention Martin Jol either. It was a good night for the Dutchman with Ronald Koeman taking over at Valencia, leaving the PSV Eindhoven job vacant. This was, after all, only the Carling Cup although Ramos knows plenty about second-rate cups: it was winning the Uefa Cup twice that led him to this job. Ramos had one more surprise when he got up yesterday. The Blackpool team were staying in the same hotel in which Spurs have billeted their new coach so he got to meet Grayson over breakfast. "I don't think he knew who I was," Grayson said. "The Blackpool badge on my shirt gave it away." A promising young manager who brought his side up through the play-offs last season, Grayson can have pride in his team's performance.
His midfielder David Fox should have scored after 12 minutes when a bad pass from Keane and a missed tackle from Kaboul allowed him in down the left. Tottenham's first goal was direct, a long clearance from Robinson flicked on by Dimitar Berbatov into the path of Keane who chipped the ball over the Blackpool goalkeeper Paul Rachubka.
There were two great chances for Blackpool at the start of the second half, both of them were made by the crosses of Keigan Parker and both fell to Taylor-Fletcher, who headed against the bar on 46 minutes and then, five minutes later, was brilliantly denied at close range by Robinson.
That was more like it from the man who revels in the "England's No 1" chants from his own fans. A few minutes later Robinson fell over while striking a goal-kick and was lucky that his skewed clearance did not fall to a tangerine shirt. Ever-keen to please his supporters he later gave them a mock bow. Tottenham's second goal came on 57 minutes when Steed Malbranque's corner was buried at the backpost by Chibonda's header. Ramos could calm down at last.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Kaboul (Tainio, 55), Dawson, Lee; Lennon, Zokora, Jenas, Malbranque; Berbatov (Bent, 71), Keane (Defoe, 59). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Boateng.
Blackpool (4-4-2): Rachubka; Barker, Michael Jackson (Coid, 67), Gorkss, Crainey; Hoolahan, Flynn (Welsh, 77), Fox, Taylor-Fletcher; Parker, Vernon (Morrell, 67). Substitutes not used: Jorgensen, Bean.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).Reuse content