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Saturday, Nov. 13, 2004

PREMIER REPORT

Jol hoping to put a foot in Tottenham's revolving door


LONDON -- Tottenham Hotspur appointed a new man to take charge of the first-team this week -- so, no change there then.

Christopher Davies

Martin Jol is the 11th man in 13 years to occupy the White Hart Lane hot seat (complete with ejector button) and the fifth in chairman Daniel Levy's three years and nine months at the helm.

If the chairman of most companies had five CEO's in less than four years a lot of fingers would be pointed at the top man but on Planet Football life is different. Managers come and go but the man who makes the appointments stays.

When Levy welcomed Jacques Santini after France's underachieving Euro 2004 campaign he said: "He was by far and away the best candidate short-listed for the position."

Last Monday, after Santini had resigned "for personal reasons" Levy said: "I had an idea a few weeks ago things were not right. He had problems in France."

Which begs the question -- did Levy and Tottenham do their homework properly on Santini?

Having fired Glenn Hoddle in September 2003, David Pleat was caretaker-manager for the rest of the season while the club searched for the right man.

Clubs do background checks on players before a transfer.

What sort of character is he?

Is he married?

Does he have any off-field "hobbies" that could be problematic?

If we take Levy's assertion that Santini's decision to quit was personal and nothing to do with football -- doubted by many -- and the situation (his stepfather has cancer) that forced his departure was new or should more questions have been asked about the Frenchman, who came and went after 13 games?

There are few secrets in football and the suspicion is that Tottenham could have avoided yet another nameplate outside the office of "the boss" which should be fitted with a revolving door.

At the training ground Spurs players do not so much ask "where's the manager?" as "who's the manager?"

Levy has also been insistent on adopting the continental idea of a first team head coach plus a sporting director -- Frank Arnesen.

The Dane's job is to identify players the club needs and buy them. In effect Jol will train and coach the team which is selected from the pool of players Arnesen gives him.

Arnesen said he was the man who chose Santini yet it hard to believe that a club can have a head coach who had no previous relationship with either the sporting director or his assistant manager [Jol]. Two camps and the result was a quickie divorce. The only surprise is that anyone should be surprised.

English football has always had a manager who effectively controls the transfer of players in and out of the club. One can imagine the response if Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger was told by a sporting director: "Here's a player I like. He's now part of your squad."

Word has it that Santini was unhappy that Arnesen bought Michael Carrick from West Ham.

For his part Santini did not help his cause by ordering Spurs to play in a tactical strait-jacket with the fullbacks seemingly banned from crossing the halfway line.

With Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane and Freddie Kanoute in attack Spurs should have scored more that six goals in 11 Premiership matches under Santini.

Spurs supporters accept they will not win the Premiership but if they are to finish eighth let them do so by playing decent attacking football, not scrapping for a 1-0 win.

Try as he did, Santini's grasp of English was poor which made public relations difficult.

In contrast, Jol's acceptance speech at Tottenham's annual general meeting on Monday was carefully scripted and one that was guaranteed to appease the fans.

In excellent English Jol spoke of how he wanted to invoke the memory of the late Bill Nicholson, Tottenham's greatest ever manager, who died recently, and even said that as an 11-year-old he was disappointed when Spurs legend Jimmy Greaves was left out of England's 1966 World Cup-winning side.

As a charm offensive Jol -- or his script-writer -- could not have done better.

In Holland, Jol led Roda JC to Dutch Cup success and was named coach of the year during a four-year spell at RKC Waalwijk -- an impressive if limited resume without the experience of working at a major club.

Tottenham perceives itself as a big club but is a serial underachiever. Things have not been helped by the success of rival Arsenal.

Perhaps the moral is that clubs should not necessarily always look across the English Channel when appointing a new manager.

For every Wenger there can be a Christian Gross (Tottenham 1997-98), Ruud Gullit (Newcastle 1998-99), Attilio Lombardi (Crystal Palace 1998) or Jozef Venglos (Aston Villa 1990-91).

Sam Allardyce (Bolton), Steve McClaren (Middlesbrough), David Moyes (Everton), David O'Leary (Aston Villa), Harry Redknapp (Portsmouth) and Alan Curblsihey (Charlton) are proof that the best of British is considerably better than the second-best Europe may have to offer.

F.A. CHARGED two managers with misconduct this week -- Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) and Graeme Souness (Newcastle).

Wenger's charge relates to comments after the game against Manchester United when he left no one in any doubt he believed Ruud Van Nistelrooy is not adverse to a spot of cheating during games.

Souness was sent to the stands during the 4-1 home defeat by Fulham last Sunday -- the Scot claimed he merely kicked a bottle of water in frustration after a decision did not go Newcastle's way, but the F.A. has charged him for comments made to match officials.

It will be interesting to see Wenger's punishment -- if he is found guilty by an independent disciplinary commission made up of F.A. councilors, but which is not an official F.A. commission.

No, I can't work it out either.

Wenger effectively doubted the honesty and integrity of van Nistelrooy and Arsenal will no doubt produce video evidence that they hope will support its manager's views on the Dutch international.

For doubting the honesty and integrity of referees, managers have been let off very lightly. And while referees are capable of making bad decisions they are always honest mistakes.

Unlike players, a referee never cheats.

Kevin Keegan (Manchester City) was recently fined £8,500 for comments made to referee Steve Dunn.

Chris Coleman (Fulham) who called referee Mark Halsey "crap" after the defeat by Arsenal was fined £500.

Sam Allardyce (Bolton) who launched a vitriolic attack on Leeds official Mike Riley was £1,500 lighter for his outburst.

How will the F.A. view similar comments by a manager about a footballer?

Worse than those directed at match officials?

We will know by the end of the month.

Souness, meanwhile, is up on his fifth misconduct charge for comments made to officials since 2002.

His previous four charges saw the Scot fined a total of £45,000 and four games in touchline bans. The penny -- or rather a lot of them in his case -- has clearly not dropped.

Christopher Davies covers Arsenal and the Republic of Ireland for the London Daily Telegraph.


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