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Ramos facing Titanic struggle

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Phil McNulty | 07:20 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008

Juande Ramos wandered across White Hart Lane's deserted car park with a companion's arm draped consolingly around his shoulder - a man who looked resigned even if he insisted he was not resigning.

An hour earlier a small group of fans gathered on Bill Nicholson Way and ordered Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to vacate the premises, a token protest that dispersed as quickly as this season's optimism as Hull again left north London with three points.

In the background we were brushing up on our history. It was the worst Spurs start since 1912 - the year the Titanic went down, the year Scott mounted a doomed mission to the South Pole.

As omens go they are not good. Take your pick, but whichever way you look the reign of Ramos at Spurs is in deep trouble as they prop up the Premier League.

Spurs did not play badly on Sunday, but there is a glaring lack of leadership on and off the pitch that is draining away any hopes they had of making a serious impression this season.

And in the centre of the vortex is Ramos, the man who knew only glory at Sevilla and who enjoyed a spectacularly false dawn with last season's Carling Cup triumph against Chelsea.

He told us, in faltering but improving English, that "all the people" were responsible for Spurs' almost unthinkable position at the foot of the table.

And yet he will know that if Spurs continue to lose, responsibility will ultimately be his - with director of football Damien Comolli possibly thrown in for good measure.

Ramos also struggles with the legacy of Martin Jol, with a straw poll among Spurs fans making it clear great affection remains for the Dutchman so ruthlessly and hastily dispatched by Levy last season.

They do not see Ramos as an upgrade on Jol and results bear out their opinion, with the latter flourishing at the Bundesliga summit with Hamburg.

Spurs have gifted players, but tactically there is no plan and Ramos's inertia was in sharp contrast to the pro-activity of his Hull counterpart Phil Brown as the media sat just yards away from the dug-out on Sunday.

Brown will empathise with the pressures placed on Ramos. After all, he was sacked in short order by Derby County (looks a great decision now does it not?), leaving with dignity before rebuilding his career at Hull.

But the two men looked poles apart when it came to motivation and body language as the rain lashed White Hart Lane.

Ramos was almost unmoved throughout the game, apart from the odd semaphore gesture. He wore a permanently mournful expression, and whatever messages he was trying to get across to his team looked to be falling on deaf ears.

Brown did everything apart from step on the pitch and play in the game. He warmed up in training kit with his players before switching to a sharp suit and fashionable ear-piece in time for the start.

He turned to his substitutes prior to kick-off and did a jig of anticipatory delight. An old-fashioned clearance from one of his defenders was met with a clenched fist and on one occasion he physically went through the motion of making a clearance for Michael Turner.

Brown provided almost minute-by-minute directions whereas Ramos looked lost as another game drifted away.

When Hull looked to the sidelines they got leadership, while Spurs got nothing apart from the odd wave of the arm and a quizzical glance from a man who almost seemed detached from the action.

Ramos's only contributions as the game slipped away were mystifying.

David Bentley came on for Chris Gunter and filled in at right-back. He actually did it with a measure of success but is this the sign of a considered strategy? The man who came for £17m from Blackburn to fill the right-flank role used as an auxiliary defender?


It is not going to improve his England chances, as he discovered shortly after the final whistle when he was jettisoned by Fabio Capello.

Roman Pavlyuchenko looked only vaguely interested before limping off, and with a faltering attack supported by a midfield lacking a general, it is only a matter of time before the defence comes under pressure.

And yet there were signs of promise amid the debris of another Spurs defeat. Jermaine Jenas drove them in the first 45 minutes, while Gareth Bale and Gunter form a promising young full-back pairing.

There is room for improvement and if Spurs repeat Sunday's performance on another day, then there will be occasions when they win, but this can be no consolation as they examine their current plight.

Spurs were backed by a hugely supportive White Hart Lane crowd, who were virtually unwavering until the final whistle, when they let out a frustrated chorus of jeering that was almost a reflex action.

But we get back to that lack of leadership and a transfer policy that looks more flawed with every passing week.

Luka Modric (or Luka Moderate as he was cruelly labelled by one critic) looks as if he is not enjoying the rough and tumble of the Premier League. He may blossom in a good team, but Spurs are not that team at present.

Giovani dos Santos looks a luxury Spurs cannot afford in the current climate. He does not appear part of any grand plan.

Ramos is under growing pressure, and he will not be protected by the lucrative terms of his contract forever if Spurs continue to lose.

So where has this Spurs malaise come from when the season was ushered in with such ambition and hope?

Ramos came perilously close to giving the game away when he said: "It is difficult for us to score goals. This is the main reason for no wins.

"The position of striker is the most weak. With only two strikers it is difficult."

In what was a harsh, but scrupulously fair, after-match interrogation, this was the question that drove at the heart of Spurs' problems.

If a lack of attacking options has taken Spurs on a voyage to the bottom of the Premier League, who is responsible for that?

Spurs chairman Levy must take his share, a man so intent on winning his battle for £30m with Manchester United for Dimitar Berbatov that he lost the war to boost his striking strength after the additional departures of Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane.

Comolli is also in the dock as the man who master-minds (a term used in its loosest sense admittedly) their transfer policy, and was reduced to accepting Fraizer Campbell on loan from United as part of the Berbatov deal with time ticking away before the transfer window closed.

Campbell looks exactly what he is. He is a promising youngster who is a work in progress and his presence drew more excitement from Hull fans than the home crowd after his loan spell on Humberside last season.

If he does well, United will take him back with thanks. A win-win in their dealings with the king of the hard bargain Levy.

If, as someone once said, you will not win anything with kids, there is another brutal footballing fact.

This states that you will not win trophies with an attack that is a blend of youth and mediocrity, which is currently what Spurs have at their disposal.

Pavlyuchenko looks a punt at £14m while Darren Bent carries the same demeanour that Chris Sutton had at Chelsea and James Beattie struggled with at Everton - right man wrong club.

Ramos cut a sorrowful figure as he faced the media. The downbeat, stony expression that passed for inner strength in his early days now looks like a mask of puzzled despair.

He needs to find it within himself to lead this talented but rudderless group of players and to stamp his own imprint on a squad seemingly fashioned by someone else.

Ramos summoned up his limited English to announce: "This is my job. I am the same whether we win or lose."

He was half right. It is his job if they win. If they lose, then it might be a different matter.


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