James Lawton: Dear Daniel... if Damien Comolli is such hot stuff, why don't you make him boss?

James Lawton writes an open letter to the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, in the aftermath of Martin Jol's departure
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Dear Daniel,

I hope you don't think it impertinent at all writing you an open letter, but I'm afraid it's a habit I just can't shake, a bit like the one of saluting a single magpie and saying, "Morning Colonel, how's the wife?" I like to think it might just ward off some disaster, and I stick to it despite the fact that I wrote several to Jose Mourinho.

Frankly, though, I think you are in rather more urgent need of the good deed. The worst that could have happened to Mourinho was a massive pay-off as the former technical director of Portsmouth Avram Grant slid, however temporarily, into his office chair.

But how do you think you will remembered if you continue to preside over underachievement at one of the proudest of English clubs in a way which now suggests you may never see quite where you go wrong?

It certainly will not be as some one-off charmer who, for all his serious faults, grasped what professional football was about, which is of course winning and perhaps growing, but always, first, winning. No, your legacy will be nothing like that. It will, I'm afraid, come into the clueless category.

Your biggest, indeed it is colossal, mistake concerns something that many believe, amazingly enough, is a simple matter of club organisation. It is not, and it is so not the case that there is an overpowering need to pass on the advice of someone you, of all people, should listen to with the most rapt attention.

You certainly will not get anything like it from Damien Comolli, your technical director who is said to have won the battle for your ear ahead of the deposed Martin Jol. The wise word is passed on by courtesy of a football man of great knowledge and achievement who recently lunched with Arsène Wenger.

The great swami of the Emirates was asked what he thought of the concept of technical director, the role in which the previously obscure Comolli has apparently achieved such power at Tottenham that we are told the new manager, whether it indeed proves be Juande Ramos of Seville or a reincarnation of dear old, double-winning Bill Nicholson, simply cannot ignore him. Cannot say, for example, run along, sonny, and do a bit of paperwork or why not order some training cones?

Wenger paused, narrowed his eyes slightly and said, "My friend, the day you read that a technical director is coming to Arsenal, you will know it is the day before I leave."

But then of course he would say that, just as Ferguson or Hiddink or O'Neill, or any other football man who ever made a proper fist of the job, would, but I just thought it might be good for you to see it written down, all in black and white, without any equivocation, without any airy-fairy talk of split responsibilities – of someone crowding into the space of the one man who must make all the important decisions if a club is to make any real progress.

You should really answer a vital question, not just for the benefit of the Tottenham fans who feel so wretched again at the familiar sight of Wenger's Arsenal disappearing into the far distance, but also for your ability to rationalise a decision to follow in the footsteps of Chelsea's Roman Abramovich and attempt to do something that has never been achieved before. This is to gain sustained success without handing the reins to a football man who can impose his authority on both the dressing room and the boardroom, someone who doesn't have to watch his back – and deal with the problem of conflicting advice to the directors.

The question is simple enough: if Comolli, who has never won a significant trophy in his life, whose version of the mountain top of playing experience came in the Monaco youth team, who has never been a manager of men, is such hot stuff, why was he not put in charge of Spurs when they inevitably unravelled after all semblance of real control of his own and the club's destiny, not to mention basic professional dignity, was stripped away from Jol?

It has to be reported that some sources at Arsenal, with whom Comolli was associated as a European scout, confess to a certain mystification at his spellbinding impact on you and your fellow directors. While they acknowledge his good work in securing the excellent, potentially superb left-back Gaël Clichy, they are in less awe of some other examples of his work, not least a lack of enthusiasm for the potential of such as Peter Cech, Michael Essien and Didier Drogba to make a considerable impact on Premier League football.

Here, of course, we are in the realm of opinion, and in football that will always be a matter for individual assessment and judgement. However, some of the game's more basic realities are not for argument, Daniel.

One of them – maybe the most important of all – is that proper leadership is not divisible. It is absolute if a team is to go forward, and if the result is not satisfactory, if the money has been misspent, if the players who are brought in, whatever their particular talents, are not the ones to strengthen the team at places where weakness has been recognised, well then, of course, there must be a change of command.

But it is equally certain that there should no such thing as power without responsibililty, no one should been able to influence people like you and your fellow businessmen who are mere visitors to a game in which a man like Martin Jol has spent all his life, if they do not also have to present themselves after every game and say, "This was my team, my work – and I alone will answer for it."

More seasoned Tottenham fans can tell you when things first started to go wrong. It was when Bill Nicholson, who played in Arthur Rowe's brilliant push-and-run championship team and then produced, along with the double, the sublime football of such as John White, Cliff Jones, Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay and Jimmy Greaves, decided it was time to smell the flowers. He had a pretty clear idea of where the club should go, and had a carefully formulated plan. Blanchflower, artist and thinker, would be manager and keeper of the faith and the team would be coached by John Giles, the long-time field general of the then most formidable and expressive team in English football, Leeds United. He thought it was a dream ticket, but what did he know? When he told your predecessors his plan, he was – given all the brilliant work he had accomplished for so long – a little aghast to learn the directors had their own plan. It was to appoint Terry Neill of Hull City, a fine player in his time, a great character no doubt, but unfortunately a manager who was about to lose his lower division job.

Of course, Spurs have had their moments since then. Keith Burkenshaw raised a flurry of hope with the signings of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, Terry Venables also won the Cup and the faith of the fans, and George Graham proved again that he knew how to make a winning team, but Tottenham began the process of slipping out of the big league when the knowledge of Nicholson was cast aside.

It is a shocking waste of potential and dreams. The name Tottenham Hotspur, even after all these years of living in the Arsenal shadow, still means something. Tottenham represented class and poetry, even if Dave Mackay was arguably the hardest footballer who ever lived. Back then you couldn't have imagined that one day Spurs would represent so much of what is wrong, and ill-thought, about the way the modern game is run.

No doubt Jol is not too aggrieved. He played the waiting game, and why not? If you have to take the humiliations heaped upon him in recent months, a few million gives you plenty of leisure time to reflect that losing sometimes is just a matter of degree.

One last, practical thought, Daniel. The word is that you are about to lob £25m in the direction of Juande Ramos, but maybe you should know that with your way of running a football club, you could have doubled that and Arsène Wenger would still have shown you the door.

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