We ill never know how long it would have taken Jacques Santini to learn that quintessential English football word "clogger", but Martin Jol used it yesterday without skipping a beat.
In that single moment, the new Tottenham head coach revealed he knew far more about the English game than maybe the recently-departed Frenchman would ever have.
Jol's first week in charge of Spurs has proved him to be a far more engaging and talkative character than his predecessor. Santini's final public discussions, and certainly his dealings with the media, were painful affairs. The more he was asked about why his team was slipping up on the pitch, the more he retreated into poorly explained answers. In the build-up to the recent Fulham game, he repeatedly said he had "no information" on several different subjects.
It did not help that he was having to learn English on the hoof, but still it did not stop the former France coach from making wry comments at a journalist's expense when the occasion arose.
Santini departed a week ago and after overseeing the 3-2 home defeat to Charlton last Saturday and then the 3-0 win at Burnley in the League Cup on Tuesday, Jol showed none of the reticence of the man he worked alongside for four months. Jol's past as a defender with, among others, West Brom and Coventry, helped the Dutchman's fluent English but he expanded, in a way that Santini never did, on why he is delighted to have the job for so long seen as a poisoned chalice.
"When I was 11, Spurs were one of my favourite clubs but I can't lie and say they were my single favourite," he said. "It was one of the clubs that appealed to me and after I played here, against Spurs, it was the same. Maybe it was the white shirt that they share with Real Madrid.
"Also, I scored a winner here once, one of only four or five goals in England but it was my second game. There was a terrific atmosphere as well, even though one of the stands was empty." And then came the C word. "I got sent off in that game where I scored," he continued, "but I wasn't a clogger. Tony Galvin did my cartilage, I played on for 45 minutes and then I chased him.
"I pulled his shirt and he slapped me. Tony got sent off and 20 seconds later the referee sent me off. It was unfair."
It is Jol's lot that the first League game he can properly prepare for is the first north London derby of the season, tomorrow at White Hart Lane, the size of which he is trying to comprehend. He said: "Every game is difficult but I don't think of negative things. I have heard so many things about this game . I can't imagine there is a bigger game for this club so the atmosphere must be terrific."
In preparation, Jol has been watching the Gunners' Champions' League games and noted their problems there. However, he watched in awe as their third team beat Everton in the League Cup, while his options were more limited in midweek. "I played with all the players I could against Burnley," he said. "There is a big difference between the clubs."
Yet for a purist such as Jol, the key is making sure his side is playing what he calls "organised, attractive football". He continued: "You can attack like we did against Charlton or you can do it in an organised way. My background is: if you don't please the crowds there is no future for you in the game. I always want to play good football."
It is true that Spurs' fans may still be learning about the former RKC Waalwijk coach but that comment shows he knows the short-cut to their hearts. For good measure, he added: "I want to give the players pleasure and give myself a good feeling when we play. But I can promise that if we play in an ugly way and beat Arsenal I will be very happy. Just for this game!" Words that would never have left Santini's lips.
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