Come a change of regime, come more of the same. In an atmosphere as gloomy as the murky drizzle that enveloped White Hart Lane, Tottenham Hotspur contrived to lose another lead yesterday and remain locked in the bottom three after slumping to their sixth League defeat of the season.
Martin Jol's column was removed from the Tottenham match programme in the nick of time but according to the directory of officials, he was still the manager, and Chris Hughton still his assistant. The Tottenham dugout didn't have the same vibrancy without the little and large act who worked in tandem for three years before being unceremoniously shown the door late last week. But on the field, you would hardly have noticed anything had changed.
Juande Ramos, watching from the director's box after resigning from Seville to become the new head coach, will have seen certain attributes to admire, notably spirit and attacking intent. But he will have identified far more deficiencies. Spurs fought for the cause against an in-form Blackburn Rovers who were pegged back for long periods, but in the end the hosts' trademark defensive frailties and an alarming tendency to give the ball away in crucial positions cost them dearly.
In what was an uncharacteristically low-key atmosphere, Ramos received muted applause as he arrived to watch his new team whom he met briefly after the game. Clive Allen, in temporary charge as development director, picked a familiar-looking line-up. Spurs burst out of the traps but it was Blackburn who produced the crisper passing early on, David Bentley dragging an excellent chance wide.
Spurs improved and Brad Friedel twice saved the visitors, rushing off his line to thwart Aaron Lennon with his knees, then making a wonder reflex tip-over from Robbie Keane's header. The first half didn't produce much more though the impressive Steed Malbranque looked a changed man, the major plus in a general display that otherwise flattered to deceive. Without much to shout about, the home fans revelled in seeing Robbie Savage limp off after the midfielder succeeded only in injuring himself when lunging at Keane.
With Jol gone and Ramos not yet fully installed the fans didn't quite know who to praise and who to barrack. The expected backlash against Jol's unsavoury sacking failed to materialise but neither was there any semblance of support for the new incumbent. It was almost as if the diehards were in limbo waiting for something concrete to happen.
It did three minutes after half time. Lennon was clipped, though marginally, by Stephen Warnock, and Keane drove the resultant penalty high into the net. Given their notorious frailty at the back, one of the prime reasons Jol was forced out, a flimsy lead was never going to be decisive. So it proved. Just after Friedel had excelled himself again to keep out Lee Young-Pyo's short-range effort, Benni McCarthy's 20-yard drive on the hour struck Michael Dawson and looped up over Radek Cerny.
Spurs could justifiably claim the equaliser was a case of ill-luck rather than bad defending but with virtually the last kick of the game, the inevitable happened. Spurs backed off and Christopher Samba unleashed a ferocious drive that gave Cerny, replacing the injured Paul Robinson, no chance, the fifth time this season Tottenham have conceded in stoppage time.
"The lads have been fantastic in the couple of days I've been working with them and we deserved more," said Allen. "They know they have not reached their capabilities and we are at bit fragile because of a lack of confidence. It's natural that players are nervous when a new manager comes in with his own ideas and views but they have been really determined."
Allen said he hoped he would not go the same way as the rest of Jol's backroom staff. "I will report to work as usual, I'm passionate about the work I do here," he said. "I've been born into a footballing family and have a long association with this club. I met Juande Ramos with the players afterwards and spoke briefly to him. He told everyone, 'see you tomorrow'. He comes with a fantastic reputation in terms of the team he built at Seville."
Mark Hughes, himself linked with the Spurs post at one stage, admitted that his side were fortunate to have cashed in on all the turmoil to post their sixth straight win in all competitions. "We got away with it," he said. "If you are on a run of form where confidence is low, it can affect players in a negative way. You have to be mentally strong as a group. Technically Spurs are very adept but maybe they need to be more resolute."
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Cerny; Chimbonda, Kaboul, Dawson, Lee; Lennon, Huddlestone, Zakora, Malbranque (Bent, 75); Keane, Berbatov (Defoe, 88) Substitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Tainio, Staltieri
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel; Emerton, Samba, Ooijer, Warnock; Bentley, Tugay (Pedersen 59), Savage (Mokoena 45), Dunn (Derbyshire, 83); Santa Cruz, McCarthy. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Nelson
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).
Booked: Tottenham Huddlestone, Lee, Defoe; Blackburn Dunn, Pedersen, Warnock.
Man of the match: Friedel.
Attendance: 36,086.Reuse content