Sam Wallace: Jol given final chance to save his job as Ramos waits his turn
Just when it seemed like English football was ready to take Tottenham Hotspur seriously again they find themselves in a pantomime of their own making.
At the very last moment yesterday they pulled out of the move to sack Martin Jol in favour of Juande Ramos and, in doing so, turned their Dutch manager into the Premier League's first dead man walking of the season.
This morning's newspapers will not make pleasant reading for the Tottenham board - the club will no doubt be presented as being left high and dry by an indecisive Ramos just at the moment they were about to pull the trigger on Jol. To compound that, Ramos is expected to say this evening that the prestige of Champions League football with Seville was just too good to turn down.
Sources at Tottenham however, say it was their decision not to appoint Ramos. They accept that they will gather little sympathy for their role in the affair, but decided that the time was not quite right to push Jol out of the door. Instead they believe that the 51-year-old will, in the coming weeks, make himself a much clearer candidate for the sack.
It is a risky strategy, not least in the way in which Spurs' board will be perceived as being left jilted by Ramos, but sources at the club say they still believe that they can get the Spaniard whenever the moment is right.
Levy's statement yesterday dictated that his club want Champions League football at White Hart Lane. Arsenal finished fourth last season with 68 points and were afforded the luxury of only seven defeats. Jol has two defeats already and, given that he has eight games left against the big four, starting with Manchester United on Sunday, it seems inconceivable he will not suffer at least a further five.
The question that remains as pertinent as ever, therefore, is why the club's board is so keen to be rid of its manager.
For evidence, look back to Stamford Bridge on 11 March when Jol's Spurs team were 3-1 up against Chelsea within 36 minutes. A famous victory beckoned and then, for little apparent reason, Jol substituted Dimitar Berbatov and Aaron Lennon in the last 30 minutes, Spurs lost their shape and Chelsea came back with two goals to take the tie to a replay that they ultimately won.
The performance only served to increase the fear among Tottenham's hierarchy, including the club's chairman, Daniel Levy, and director Paul Kemsley that Jol was not the man to take their club upwards into the top four.
These are two wealthy, ambitious young businessmen who have not made their own personal fortunes without taking risks. Watching their manager trying to consolidate and defend against Chelsea rather then kill off Jose Mourinho's side was not at all what they had hoped to see.
Kemsley has been forced to take much of the recent flak because it was he who was photographed meeting Ramos in Spain with the club secretary John Alexander, but Kemsley is not alone among the Tottenham hierarchy in wanting Jol out.
Still in his thirties and a multimillionaire in property - and a lifelong Spurs season-ticket holder - Kemsley simply has bigger plans and ambitions for Tottenham than he and the board believe that Jol is equipped to fulfil.
That day in March, Jol's substitutions were just a small part in the fraying of the relationship between Jol and his board. Before that game he had told them he was resting Berbatov, believing that the FA Cup game was unwinnable, and was informed he should re-think his decision. It was embarrassing for the board to have to overrule the manager on such a crucial decision but Jol's perceived negativity had become a problem.
It is one of the curiosities of White Hart Lane that while the fans have turned on Jol in the really bad times they still seem broadly to support him.
They have forgiven him defeats like the semi-final loss to Arsenal in the Carling Cup last season, where Jol's side tossed away a two-goal lead in the first leg at home. But the board has not forgotten that particular humiliation was inflicted upon Spurs' best team by the multinational band of young hopefuls plucked from Arsène Wenger's academy.
The disaffection which Jermain Defoe has developed towards his manager is also echoed in other younger players. They do not have the same rapport with the Dutchman that might be expected from a squad including many young English players, many of whom have found the constant changing in the line-up unsettling.
Jol has also clashed with Damien Comolli, the club's director of football, over tactics and, as the Frenchman is the golden boy in the eyes of the board, that is another crucial ally lost.
Jol had a stay of execution yesterday but his longevity over the course of the season is as fragile as Spurs' current hopes of finishing in fourth place in the Premier League.
Ten years of change at the Lane
Gerry Francis (1994-1997)
P142 W55 D42 L45
Resigned after poor start to season
Christian Gross (1997-1998)
P29 W10 D8 L11
Sacked after opening with two losses
David Pleat & Chris Hughton (1998)
P6 W3 D2 L1
Joint caretaker managers
George Graham (1998-2001)
P126 W50 D35 L41
Sacked for discussing transfer plans
David Pleat (2001)
P2 W1 D0 L1
Second caretaker stint at club
Glenn Hoddle (2001-2003)
P104 W41 D18 L45
Sacked after 4 pts from first 6 games
David Pleat (2003-2004)
P39 W16 D7 L16
Took control for remainder of season
Jacques Santini (2004)
P13 W5 D4 L4
Resigned citing personal problems
Martin Jol (2004-)
P137 W65 D32 L40
Under increasing pressure from board