Ramos 'the gentleman' had to go, says Levy
Tottenham chairman defends Spaniard's sacking and director of football role
Daniel Levy does not much care for the public inquests into Tottenham's latest managerial shambles but give the man his due yesterday – he faced the music at last. When Juande Ramos was appointed 12 months ago there was an empty seat where the Spurs chairman should have been; yesterday Levy uttered in person the truth that was evident in the dying days of the Spanish coach's regime: his players had lost faith in him.
As a man who chooses his words carefully, Levy evidently took no pleasure in having to fire Ramos – "an absolute gentleman" – on Saturday, but he said he could not ignore what he knew from his players about the team's dire situation. "For a club of this size to be in the position we were in until a week ago," he said, "when we weren't scoring goals and there were clearly some issues in the dressing-room, between the manager and some of the players, we could not allow this situation to go on for long.
"I think it was plain to see that some of the players weren't performing as well as you'd expect them to perform. Certain players were perhaps being more publicly vocal than you'd expect. The fact we were getting all those red cards [three in total against Stoke and Udinese] and we weren't scoring, losing games – all those things were having an impact and clearly it wasn't helping."
Levy was indignant at what he perceived as the unfair verdict that his sporting director-head coach system had completely failed, arguing instead that it has simply not been about using the right people. And he completely refused to accept that he should step down as chairman after the latest disappointments. Given that Enic, the investment company where he is one of the key figures, own 80 per cent of the club, Levy does not have to pay too much notice of mutiny in the stands.
Pragmatic and unsentimental, Levy also does not spend much time agonising over decisions he has made in the past and he has little time for criticisms made with the benefit of hindsight. He has, he said, always made what he believed were the right decisions for the club at that time. As for his own position, did he ever fear that he might be the problem? "No," Levy said. "The answer is I employ the managers, I indirectly employ the players, and when things don't go well, obviously I have to take responsibility but I also have to take responsibility for changing it around."
In his defence of the sporting director system, which was pioneered with David Pleat and Frank Arnesen and then floundered with Damien Comolli, Levy simply said that it was the people, not the system, that let him down. "I think everyone makes a big thing about this structure: we must not lose sight of the fact that we have had European football for three years under the structure. It's nothing to do with the structure, it's about the people. If we had brought in a different type of manager [to Harry Redknapp], if we had brought in a foreign coach, maybe the structure would have stayed."
It was just a case, Levy said, that Redknapp did not require a director of football. Later he suggested that it was just the job title that carried the stigma and "if you called him 'chief scout' or 'chief executive of football' you wouldn't have all the negativity that you have around it."
He denied that Comolli had hastened Martin Jol's exit by buying players – most notably Darren Bent – that the Dutch coach did not want. In fact, Levy was more cutting about the Spurs manager who achieved two fifth-place finishes than any other of the coaches, directors and managers he has sacked over the last 12 months. Evidently still hurt by the criticism of Jol's shoddy treatment, he questioned the Dutchman's integrity.
Asked whether it was appropriate for Spurs officials to be pictured speaking to Ramos in August last year in a hotel in Seville while Jol was still manager, Levy said that the Dutchman had done much the same himself. "You guys mention that, but you don't say anything about the fact about how Martin went for a job interview at Newcastle [in May 2006] while he was employed by us," Levy said. "Martin did it in a hotel in the centre of town."
He also attacked the suggestion that players had been bought in the summer of last year against Jol's wishes. "You guys write articles about [Jol] not wanting [Younes] Kaboul for instance, but I can tell you when Martin Jol went to Hamburg he wanted Kaboul. You get all these stories bouncing round, but I can assure you with every player that has been signed, the coach has approved the transfer."
Even with a new stadium in the pipeline and a new training ground in Enfield – not to mention a new manager – it is still not improbable that Levy and Enic will sell the club if they get the right offer. He would not say what price he would accept nor would he reveal why he rejected the offer made to him this summer. But he did have a word of warning for any potential new owner.
"First of all I would say money doesn't necessarily buy you success in this business," Levy said. "If you look at the amount of money we spent compared to Arsenal over three, five or 10 years – we have spent considerably more. So money definitely doesn't buy you success – I think it probably helps."
The Four Tops: Why Tottenham are the big draw in London
Tottenham's draw at Arsenal this week was the fourth time in five years that they have been involved in a 4-4 draw. A 3-1 lead was surrendered against Leicester City in February 2004, a 4-1 deficit at home to Aston Villa was wiped out in October 2007, and Juande Ramos' side hit back to draw with Chelsea last March. A 4-5 defeat against Arsenal (2004) and a 6-4 victory over Reading (2007) means Spurs are the side to watch for goals – at both ends of the pitch.
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