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Jury is out on Spurs chairman Levy and board

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Mihir Bose | 20:12 UK time, Sunday, 26 October 2008


Last Monday night the former Spurs manager Juande Ramos had dinner with the club's directors at London's Wolesley restaurant where the word seemed to be the board still believed that the manager should be given time.

The man for the chop was more likely to be the director of football Damien Comolli.

But late on Saturday at the Canary Wharf hotel where Tottenham prepare before a match Ramos learnt that he and his team were to join Comolli in a complete shake-up at Spurs.

So what changed between Monday night and Saturday night?


Very simply, it became evident to the board, particularly after the Uefa Cup defeat to Udinese, that Ramos had lost the dressing room as the comments of David Bentley, Jonathan Woodgate and Luka Modric made clear.

This is what made the Tottenham directors decide not merely to tinker by getting rid of Comolli, but have a clean sweep and remove Ramos and his assistants. Indeed, go back to old fashioned English management and having a manager in sole charge.

Levy, who feels he is a shrewd deal maker, will be pleased that he has handled the whole thing rather well.

Tottenham were aware Portsmouth could do with the money and would be tempted by the £5m compensation for Harry.

Spurs will probably have to pay an additional £3m to £5m as compensation to Ramos, Comolli and the rest of the departed team, but a total bill of £10m is still cheap if Premier League status is to be saved.

And, unlike previous changes of football management by Levy, this was done without any leaks or recriminations.

Back in 2001, when Levy got his first manager Glenn Hoddle from Southampton there was a huge row with the Saints chairman Rupert Lowe who called Levy and the Tottenham board "north London yobos".

The turmoil that accompanied the sacking of Martin Jol and the arrival of Ramos is little over a year old and too well chronicled to need repetition.

How Levy must now wish that he had discarded the advice of Comolli that he must go for a continental manager and gone for Redknapp last year.

A year ago Harry was on the Tottenham shortlist as they were looking for a replacement for Jol, but Comolli's view was that if Tottenham had serious European ambitions they should appoint a European.

And remember, the reason Jol got the sack, despite two fifth place finishes - the best by the club for almost 20 years - was the feeling that while this was good, he was not good enough to make sure Tottenham get into the Champions League, the long-term goal of Levy and the board.

Now, of course, the goal is to avoid having to go into the Championship.

Harry has certainly started well but it is worth recalling that he failed to keep Southampton up, although he did keep Portsmouth up the following season and, ironically, his first match in charge then was at Tottenham where Spurs won 3-1.

Whatever Harry does or does not achieve, the one question that will haunt Tottenham fans is why in the last 20 years Tottenham seem to always have an autumn surprise and more often than not end up with a new manager?

Of course, clubs in crisis often sack managers as the clocks are turning back.

Back in 1986 that is what Manchester United did, bringing in Alex Ferguson. In 1996 that is what Arsenal did hiring Arsene Wenger. And even Chelsea last year had a change of managers as the autumn began.

But well-managed clubs make sure this does not become a habit.

Tottenham, in contrast, are serial offenders who just cannot resist doing it again and again.

In the Alan Sugar regime, the autumns of 1994, 1997 and then 1998 saw new managers come in - Gerry Francis, Christian Gross and George Graham.

Under Levy this pattern has been repeated, with Hoddle going in September 2003, Santini in November 2004, Jol in October 2007 and Ramos in October 2008.

No football club can be successful if they play musical chairs with their football management every two or three years.

Sugar and Levy may have made sure that Tottenham's finances are in good order but they have lamentably failed in providing a stable football management environment.

It will be interesting to see if Redknapp serves out his four-and-a-half-year contract, or whether come the autumn of 2010 we will have the familiar White Hart Lane musical chairs.

One thing is sure, though.

Tottenham fans need no longer worry about the back pages of the newspapers.

Not since Terry Venables have they had such a silver-tongued manager who can charm the press and provide a quote or two that will make all the headlines.

Given that the likes of Jacques Santini, Jol, Ramos, and even Hoddle, could not make much of an impression on the back pages, this may be some comfort for Tottenham fans as they face a very difficult year.


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