Tottenham's key men dodge the blame

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Juande Ramos stands on the Tottenham touchline, hands in pockets, shuffling his feet, for all the world giving the impression he is in a spot of bother not of his own making.

His assistant, Gus Poyet, then flits from one microphone to another to tell whoever will listen that Tottenham's management team are not entirely to blame for the shambles at White Hart Lane.

Meanwhile, chairman Daniel Levy and sporting director Damien Comolli sit up in the stand, like emperors not knowing which way to turn their thumbs as Tottenham's season goes from bad to potentially catastrophic.

And you have to wonder. You really do have to wonder whether the lot who run Tottenham Hotspur these days have grasped what football is all about.

It is, of course, first about winning. It is then about, well, winning. Sure, there are shades of colour along the way and every team would love to incorporate the swagger of Manchester United in their pomp and the eye-pleasing patterns of Arsenal.

But only when the core question of winning has been addressed. You protect that core value with every tool at your disposal.

The statistics do not lie. Spurs have won three games in 19 matches, taking 16 points from 57, since lifting the Carling Cup in February.

They have picked up only two points in their opening seven league matches this season and managed only four goals.

So swift and steep has been their decline that if Tottenham Hotspur were a car you suspect there are many who now would be charged with driving without due care and attention.

It is not difficult to pinpoint the source of that decline.

They sold their three best strikers, Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, worth conservatively a combined 50 to 60 goals a season, and bought £14m Roman Pavlyuchenko to partner £16m Darren Bent, two players they have admitted since cannot play together.

How can that happen? How can a business get it so wrong? How can a football club do what amounts to Gerald Ratner famously standing up and doing untold damage to his own product?

The answer, you suspect, has much to do with the blurring of responsibility and the presence of a sporting director in Comolli who speaks fluent French, Spanish and English but who perhaps does not understand the nuances of actually building a football team.

Comolli is the man who Levy sits by and listens to and in whom he trusts his millions.

Yet the fact is that the zenith of Comolli's playing experience came in the Monaco youth team. True, he had some success as Arsenal's European scout where he is credited with the discovery of Gael Clichy.

But he has never won a major trophy in his life. He has never juggled the complexities of a sporting team at the coal face.

It appears, however, that he has been given the power to shape the destiny of one of England's great clubs.

Ask yourself what Arsene Wenger might say if Arsenal insisted a director of football was being appointed at the Emirates Stadium. Ask the same question about Sir Alex Ferguson or Rafael Benitez or Martin O'Neill or any of the managers who regularly shoulder huge responsibility so lightly.

They are all leaders of men and successful ones because they know success comes from their own actions. From their decisions on which players to buy and how a team might be moulded.

Any manager who gets such things wrong, especially as spectacularly as Tottenham, can expect to lose his job.

That is part of football, one which is understood well and accepted, although with the best part of four years left on Ramos' £5m-a-year contract you can understand why Levy hesitates to pull the trigger and the manager is reluctant to walk.

The folly at Tottenham is that responsibility has been hopelessly blurred.

When men such as Ramos and Poyet and Levy and Comolli say everyone must take responsibility what they really mean is that no-one is prepared to accept the ultimate blame.

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