It was shortly before the start of Thursday night's Uefa Cup tie that David Pleat, who could write a several-volume history of White Hart Lane politics, was moved to observe that Martin Jol "shouldn't go to too many dinners – he'll soon be going to the last supper". That less-than-uproarious line was one he could confidently rehearse.
It did not require any great prescience on his part. It was just the timing that caught him, indeed all of us, unawares. But then, even by football's doubtful standards of sacking etiquette, could anything be quite as bizarre as Tottenham shedding a manager who was then afforded a rapturous send-off, even at the conclusion of Spurs' first European home defeat in 22 years?
That vote of appreciation was about the only dignified element of the whole gory affair. Though Jol must presumably have come to some agreement with the Spurs board that the finale to his career would be so humiliatingly public, it still must have been like an out-of-body experience as he gazed up at the giant TV screens and caught glimpses of those emotional images of himself as the tumbrel finally conveyed him to the guillotine and a bloody end. The board may not have taken the decision "lightly",according to an anonymous Spurs statement, but ultimatelythe final act was completed with that same heavy-handedness that has characterised their previous decision-making this season. Naïveté, suggested someone. Sheer ineptitude, will be the response of most with Spurs' interests at heart.
At least they have avoided a long interregnum as Juande Ramos, their embarrassingly publicly revealed chosen replacement, accepted a four-year contract last night and said all the right things. "I genuinely believe that there is the potential to achieve great things together," was the Uruguayan encouraging opening line.
Tottenham's chairman, Daniel Levy, may be quite correct in his conclusion that Jol was not the man to restore glory, the concept on which Spurs' ambitions are founded, despite those consecutive seasons in which the north London side finished fifth in the Premier League.
Some fine managers have temporarily satisfied those daunting expectations at White Hart Lane: among them Keith Burkinshaw, who now works with Adrian Boothroyd at Watford; Terry Venables; and Pleat, who, during his first stewardship was forced to quit for "non-football" reasons. Jol came close to being regarded with equal affection. Until this season. With Tottenham having spent some £40 million in the summer, including that extravagance of £16m on Charlton's Darren Bent – reportedly the technical director Damien Comolli's choice rather than Jol's, although whatever the truth, his appearances have been minimal – their defensive frailties became all too evident.
So, how to respond? The board could have remained resolute and supportive of their manageruntil season's end. Or sought to replace him. Their failing was opting for the latter while, totallyunconvincingly, maintaining that they had adopted the former stance. It was always destined to fail. Once it was discovered that Spurs were in contact with Ramos it undermined Jol, and a consequential effect on the squad was inevitable. That said, we should not shed too many tears for the Dutchman, who leaves clutching a payoff reportedly in excess of £4m.
Levy's sullied reputation now hangs on his judgement that Ramos, described by one observer as "Fergie, Wenger and Jose rolled into one", will produce performances that go some way to justifying that hyperbole, particularly given the costs involved: a salary in the region of £20m over four years, and heavy compensation claims from both Seville and Leeds if Gus Poyet, as expected, leaves to become Ramos's assistant. With many Spurs followers arguing that Levy's own failures should result in him departing via the same exit as the manager, he desperately requires Ramos to be the Iberian Peninsular's nextSpecial One.
Tottenham prepare to confirm – and note this well – their 16th manager in 33 years and, perhaps more pertinently, their eighth since 1996; a year that is relevant because that is when Arsène Wenger joined their rivals Arsenal. Just imagine for a second that Tottenham had seduced the Frenchman into joining them instead. Would it all have been so different? Don't believe it. Certainly not down at the Lane, where every newcomer is measured against the late Bill Nicholson. Levy would do well to reflect on the fact that in " Billy Nick's" day, the directors were old school and dedicated supporters, and he enjoyed a mutually respectful rapport with them. He could also do worse than remind himself how Tottenham's neighbours have conducted their affairs over many a decade, and ponder particularly the relationship in the past 11 years between Wenger and the directors, something which even the loss of the Frenchman's great confidant, the former vice-chairman David Dein, has not destroyed.
Spurs and the Curious Case of Their Disappearing Managers reveals much, not just about the men concerned, but about the psyche of the club. One has to question whether Ramos, a man who has achieved managerial distinction but always in his homeland, knows quite what a Bermuda Triangle of uncertainty he is flying into. For Ramos, it is clearly a marriage made in the financial heavens. But once the honeymoon is over, what will be his thoughts, for instance, on the so-called "continental-style" coaching structure favoured by Levy, in which Comolli controlled the signing of players – a fact that so frustrated Jol? The question is: can that relationship yield the continuity, provided by an able manager and a supportive board, all Spurs supporters crave?
That is something Bolton long enjoyed, too, within their own limitations, during Sam Allardyce's eight-year tenure. Clearly their chairman, Phil Gartside, believed continuity and stability could be achieved when he promoted "Little Sam" [Lee]. It is a rarely the right rationale. Now Gartside surveys the abyss of his own creation. Yet his response has been not to recruit a proven Premier League manager, a young manager with well-regarded potential or a foreign genius, but to place Wanderers in the hands of Gary Megson, who was unemployed for 18 months following his departure from West Bromwich Albion before Leicester's chairman, Milan Mandaric, emerged two months ago to resuscitate his career.
The reaction at White Hart Lane could scarcely have contrasted more with the entrance of Bolton's new manager at the Reebok that same night. He was received by the Trotters faithful like farmers preparing for an outbreak of swine fever.
Well, evidently Mandaric did like Megson. Also on Thursday, the Leicester chairman was preaching the virtues of the new man he now sought, having had Megson inveigled from him by Gartside. "A stable guy, with some loyalty, " was Mandaric's plaintive appeal.
During the week in which red Merseyside, collectively incandescent over Liverpool's wretched Champions' League exhibition against Besiktas, prompted aheadline asking us to consider: "Can Rafa survive?" True, this was the newly bankrolled Benitez, his squad bolstered extravagantly in the summer, of whom a championship and possibly further European success was anti-cipated not so many weeks ago. Some analysis of his deployment of players and substitutions may be justified. But isn't all this just a touch precipitate?
There has been the first hint that the American owners, Bill Hicks and George Gillett, are not quite the patient kinda guys they first appeared. That £50m investment will increasingly dominate their thinking if Liverpool depart the Champions' League at the group stage and their Premier League prospects swiftly become remote. Hicks and Gillett are hunting major honours, not consolation prizes.
As, of course, are Spurs, which is why Jol had to go; and why so much faith will be placed in Ramos, their umpteenth manager in too few years, becoming the man to help them fulfil that elusive dream.Reuse content