He has had more than one stay of execution already, but it would now seem that the deciding game for Martin Jol's ailing Tottenham regime will be Sunday's visit of Blackburn Rovers. Should he lose that game at White Hart Lane then the Dutchman's replacement could be Mark Hughes, the man in the opposing dugout.
Having blown their chances with Juande Ramos until the summer at least – and been rejected by Jose Mourinho – the name now being tossed around at Tottenham is that of Hughes. In three years at Blackburn, the 43-year-old has established himself as the pre-eminent young British manager. He is also regarded as a much more realistic target than a foreign coach who could present Tottenham with the same recruitment difficulties as Ramos did.
Blackburn is regarded as the decisive game for Jol although his team play Getafe in the Uefa Cup tomorrow night. Should he go at the weekend it would be unlikely Hughes or any other candidate would be an immediate appointment. The Welshman signed a new three-year deal in May and would cost Tottenham compensation from Ewood Park. With Jol now seemingly at odds with three of his four strikers – Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent and now Dimitar Berbatov – the consequences of the club's dalliance with Ramos in August and Mourinho last month are starting to bite.
Having decided to stick with Jol the board will be forced to act if they lose on Sunday with Tottenham 18th in the Premier League. Tottenham have won just one Premier League game in 10 and the defeat to Newcastle on Monday night was made all the worse for Berbatov's blatant insubordination when asked to warm-up as a substitute. Previously, Jol has expressed private doubts about Bent and been rather more public on Defoe – urging him to sign a new contract. He has also given only one start to the £5m signing from Hertha Berlin, Kevin-Prince Boateng.
The Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy, has not proved a decisive leader this season, opting not to appoint Ramos at the very last moment after a Spurs delegation, including the outgoing vice-chairman Paul Kemsley, met with the Spanish coach. With the more hawkish Kemsley now due to step down in the next two weeks it will be left to Levy to make the decision to axe Jol on his own. Kemsley was always regarded as the main anti-Jol element on the board and the club will certainly be ruing their decision not to part company with the Dutchman over the summer. His fading has been prolonged and painful this season and the support of the players – which was noticeable in the 4-4 comeback against Aston Villa this month – is now eclipsed by Berbatov's reaction on Monday night.
Having offered the job to Ramos, and then to Mourinho when he left Chelsea, the Tottenham board find themselves in an impossible position with Jol. They do not want to pay him the full compensation on his contract which is believed to be a rolling deal and neither do they have a natural replacement in place. They had hoped he would take the vacant job at Ajax after Henk ten Cate left for Chelsea, but that has gone to Adrie Koster.
The Blackburn game will show just how much the club's fans have lost faith in Jol. Having supported him through the Ramos affair in August, it will be their reaction to a defeat that is likely to set Levy's mind. The chairman also has the extra possibility that he will sell the club at some point this season – which could yet make him delay. Prospective buyers are looking at a current market capitalisation value of £145m although the major shareholders would want more.
With his side now 18th in the Premier League after the 3-1 defeat to Newcastle, Jol has not had captain Ledley King fit all season and lost Gareth Bale to a foot problem on Monday night.
"You can go into any match with all the best intentions and game-plans but if you concede goals like we do you make almost impossible for yourself," Jol said. "Seventy per cent of the goals we have let in this season have been avoidable. I believe in the players, but they are young and we need someone to stand up and pull the strings. Every match we make mistakes and we have to cut out that rubbish."Reuse content