Levy ducks Spurs defence of Jol sacking
Juande Ramos' grand introduction at Tottenham was overshadowed yesterday by shambolic scenes at White Hart Lane where the chairman, Daniel Levy, failed to put in an appearance alongside his new manager in order to duck a public inquest over the Martin Jol saga. Instead, he left the defence of Spurs' appalling treatment of Jol to the director of football, Damien Comolli, who maintained that he was "not embarrassed" by the way in which the Dutchman had been undermined.
The beleaguered Comolli was sent out to answer the inquisition while Levy watched the press conference on television in another part of the stadium. A club spokeswoman said that Spurs' elusive chairman would speak publicly for the first time about the Jol saga at an EGM on 26 November, doubtless hoping that his team will have won a few games by then to take the heat off him.
It was very far from a glorious start for the man who is the seventh permanent Tottenham manager in the 11 years that Arsène Wenger has been in charge of Spurs' local rivals, Arsenal. However, once the niceties were over it was not upon Ramos – speaking through an interpreter – whom attention was concentrated but Comolli. The club said that the 53-year-old former Seville manager was "Damien's appointment" and it was the Frenchman who had to face the music for the style of it.
In scenes only slightly less excruciating than Peter Kenyon's public explanation for replacing Jose Mourinho with Avram Grant last month, Comolli was asked about his role in the slow expiration of Jol's Tottenham career. Questioned on how his position came with so much power but, as it seems, precious little accountability, Comolli said that he "didn't know" what it would take for him to be dismissed.
"That's probably something you have to ask Daniel [Levy]," he said. "I've got things to do for the club. If the chairman and the board are not happy with what I'm doing, they'll probably ask me to leave. But 50 per cent or 60 per cent is about the club in the future, and 40 per cent is about the club now. If they're not happy with what I'm doing, they'll ask me to leave. I'm not interested in this job [being manager himself]. Juande is very competent at what he does, he has a proven record of winning in style."
Incredibly, Comolli denied that the club had told Jol that the minimum requirement for Tottenham, after two fifth-placed finishes, was a Champions League spot this season. "We just said we wanted to do as well as possible and do better, year on year – that's all," Comolli said. "No one told Martin we had to achieve Champions League football."
The club's 35-year-old director of football had evidently not read one of the most crucial missives from Levy at the height of the uncertainty over Jol's future. On 21 August, the club released a statement outlining Levy's backing for his manager in which the Spurs chairman said: "We want Champions League football. We, the board, owe it to the club and the supporters to constantly assess our position and performance."
The amnesia appeared to be catching, however, when Ramos also tried to maintain that he had not met with a Spurs delegation in August, and that he had not said shortly afterwards that the club had made him a "dizzying offer". "I didn't say that," he said. "There were some pictures in Seville, but I can honestly say I didn't meet any one of the Tottenham directors."
At the time Ramos was photographed – coincidentally, according to his version of events – with the Spurs vice-president, Paul Kemsley, and club secretary, John Alexander, at the Hotel Alfonse XIII in Seville.
Having failed to convince anyone of their rewriting of recent history, Comolli maintained that the club had nothing to be embarrassed about in their treatment of Jol – with whom he was known to disagree on a number of major issues. "No, I'm not embarrassed," Comolli said. "Unfortunately, sometimes you have to make decisions like this in football. It was a decision we had to take. We are looking for stability. I'm a great believer in the people who are at the club. They are the people who make a club good or bad. With the appointment of Juande, we are bringing another good person into the club. I'm sure, with Juande here, we will have stability."
Under intense scrutiny for the first time in his two years at the club, Comolli will not thank Levy for sending him into battle alone. However, amid the half-truths and faltering explanations he did make the point that the current Spurs board has transformed the club in the last six years. Sadly for him, that was lost in the crossfire.
What Comolli seemed unwilling to explain was that the board's confidence in Jol was ebbing last season amid demands from him for wage hikes and a change of title from "head coach" to "manager". Jol was very nearly dismissed before the 4-0 FA Cup victory over Fulham in February and there were elements on the board who wanted to replace him in the summer. Comolli's relationship with Jol was difficult but not disastrous. A more brutal approach to the truth would have saved the embarrassing obfuscation yesterday.
As it turned out, it was an uncomfortable afternoon for Comolli and a baffling one for Ramos, who evidently did not expect such an exacting examination of Spurs' politics on his introduction to the press. He sat alongside his new first-team coaches, the former Tottenham midfielder, Gustavo Poyet, and fitness expert, Marcos Alvarez, who will be on the bench with him for tonight's Carling Cup game against Blackpool.
Ramos admitted that he knew nothing about the lower divisions and declined to identify a single Blackpool player or, indeed, where the Lancashire seaside town was located – "that's geographical, not football," he said. He answered his final question in halting English to prove he did have a grip on the language. "Don't worry, when I speak to the players, it will be in English," he said.
As for the man himself, he gave precious little away. Having built a reputation for liberated, attacking football at Seville, Ramos promised that he would do the same at White Hart Lane. "That's my philosophy," he said. "If you want to instil that in Tottenham, you need the right ingredients. Tottenham has a reputation of playing good, attacking football, albeit a little bit different from that played in Spain. But we'll do our best to play that attacking style everybody wants to see."
While Tottenham's hierarchy worked on a damage-limitation exercise, a prospective high-profile new owner in America said that he had not given up his ambitions of having some involvement with the club. The NBA basketball star Steve Nash, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, is one of America's biggest sports stars and has twice won the league's equivalent of the player of the year award.
A Canadian of British heritage, and a committed Tottenham fan, Nash said yesterday he would love to be owner of the club but "did not have a spare £300m". Having earned more than $100m (£50m) over his career, he said that quotes in the New York Times linking him to a takeover were "out of context". However, he is understood to be interested in being part of a consortium to take over the club.
A friend of Comolli, he was in the directors' box for the one Premier League win of the season against Derby County in August and has struck up a relationship with Levy. "I have no intention of buying the club," Nash said. "I'm proud to be a fan and I went to the Derby game because I had a free weekend to see a match and visit Damien.
"One day when my career is finished I would love to be involved with Tottenham and no other football club if I was invited. I would be excited to be part of having anything to do with Tottenham."
Team Ramos: White Hart Lane's new boot room
The director of football has kept his head down since arriving at White Hart Lane in September 2005 but got the flak yesterday for Martin Jol's sacking. The club say that Ramos is his appointment. He is responsible for buying players and will probably follow Ramos out of the door if the Spaniard fails.
The 39-year-old is the first-team coach in charge of what Tottenham call "technique". He won 26 caps for Uruguay and played more than 100 times for Chelsea and 82 times for Tottenham. He said yesterday that he owed his chance to Dennis Wise, to whom he was assistant at Leeds until this week.
The tough fitness trainer and first team coach, 36, is close to Ramos and worked with him at Malaga and Seville. Unlike his manager, he was confident enough to speak in English yesterday. A former tennis professional, he has worked at the Spanish club Elche and is personal trainer to the bullfighter Fran Rivera.