Although neither man knew it at the time it was Juande Ramos who helped end Gareth Southgate's 18-season long playing career. It was in Eindhoven in May of last year, when Ramos's Seville outclassed Middlesbrough in the final of the Uefa Cup. Today the fixture list sees Ramos take charge of his first Tottenham Hotspur Premier League match at Boro, where Southgate, of course, is now manager.
"It's one of those strange coincidences that happen in football, that my first game in the Premier League is against the team we beat to win our first trophy when I was at Seville," Ramos said. "It brings back happy memories but I don't give it too much importance."
A Tottenham win would not have the same dramatic impact as Seville's in the Netherlands, but Southgate is aware of the rising pressure on Teesside. Asked this week if he felt "bullet-proof" due to his excellent relationship with his chairman, Steve Gibson, Southgate replied: "Not at all, not at all."
The context of Southgate's response is managerial climate change in English football – 14 clubs have changed managers since July. Ramos is the latest in the Premier League, succeeding Martin Jol and, in doing so, the 53-year-old Spaniard became Spurs' eighth manager in the past decade.
"There's an expectation that, after four or five results, people will go," Southgate said. "I think it's ludicrous. Martin Jol had two fifth-placed finishes. I don't know what went on behind the scenes but I know the way our club is, that they are trying to build something and I know that there are few successful clubs that haven't had stability.
"All the top teams have had a manager for a long period. Sir Alex Ferguson said that when Martin Jol was sacked. He knows better than anyone else because he was in that situation in his first four years at United."
By contrast with Ramos, Southgate is only Boro's third change in 16 years. The 37-year-old in his second season as a manager was not going out of his way to highlight the differences between the clubs meeting at The Riverside, but Jol, Santini, Pleat, Hoddle and the rest – perhaps one day Ramos – will listen enviously to Southgate's description of Boro's working practices and long-term approach.
"He shares my view," Southgate said of Gibson. "It's pointless me having ideas and ideals about how I want things to go if they are not shared by the chairman. Unfortunately there is no magic wand. Growth takes time.
"You have to have faith and trust and I know the instruction I have been given. I know the aims of the chairman. There is a mutual understanding of where we want to go and how we want to go. The vision of the manager and the chairman have to combine otherwise there'll always be a clash."
That said, Southgate was told last summer, his first as a manager, about the importance of staying up. "Last year I was given the job of staying in this division and it was made clear it could cost us £30m if I didn't. Enough said."
So he knows the reality that comes with being fourth-bottom on a run of five consecutive defeats, a slide that began with a 2-0 loss at Tottenham in the League Cup.
Spurs have won only once since then, on Wednesday night against Blackpool in Ramos's first match. Of Dimitar Berbatov, the Bulgarian striker who was substituted in that match, Ramos said: "I would love to count on him not just now, but for a long time." Time will tell if that is merely Tottenham talk.Reuse content