The Blog that's not always wrong.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

I wouldn't start from here in the first place

As the Irishman said when asked the way to Dublin: 'Well sir if I were you I wouldn't start from here in the first place'. Most fans would agree that where we are now is not a good place to start for anywhere.

When is the right time to take stock, to step off the merry-go-round, and see where we are and what we've got, to re-examine our decisions in the light of our history and tradition. In the middle of a season with a new manager when we are hovering close to, or even in, the relegation zone is perhaps not the best moment.

When is it a bad time to undertake such a process? Perhaps it was when we sacked Martin Jol. We were enjoying our best seasons for many years, two 5th place finishes, and someone decided that although we were on the threshold of moving to the next level this manager was not good enough to keep us there. At the hoped for moment of success we took a look at ourselves and said we are ready but we need a better manager to carry us forward. At that time Jol's record of 1.5 points per game was second only to Bill Nicholson himself.

We all know where that adventure ended: two points from eight games and the new man was gone. We re-evaluated and decided that a short term fix was required and that Premiership survival was the name of the game. It still remains to be seen whether that strategy will pay off. If it doesn't another new manager will be brought in, with a new management team, new tactics and inevitably another new squad. There is no stability and no continuity.

Sacking the manager has been the default setting for the football world in general for many years and for Tottenham in particular for at least the last two decades. It sometimes produces the new manager bounce but like the dead cat bounce on the stock exchange it doesn't usually last.
The average length of stay of a top level manager is just over two years but Tottenham have only managed just under 18 months in the 24 years since Keith Burkinshaw left in 1984. Since then we have had 15 managers.

A glance at the current top six shows that four of them have had their managers for well in excess of this. For over four years at Liverpool; seven years at Everton; twelve years at Arsenal; and the winner by a distance twenty two years at Man. Utd. Chelsea the other 'top four' side had unlimited resources on which to build their success and perhaps Man. City will one day demonstrate that building a side over the long term with a trusted manager is not the only way to go.

Recent discussions on the site have centred around whether certain players are 'good' enough for Spurs and that whether in our current position we should sacrifice our 'traditions' for a bit of pragmatism; do whatever is necessary and get back to tradition and style later; this is a crisis and anything goes.

But when you have a proud history and style of playing established over many years and a world wide fan base reared on the knowledge of what to expect from the club and the team on the pitch you cannot just abandon it for a few months or years. We have done that in the past with certain managers and players; people who didn't get what Tottenham was about and it has not done us any good except in the very short term. George Graham anyone ?

This has nothing to do with having a superior attitude or being under the delusion that we are a 'top four' club who just happen to be at the wrong end of the table. Or believing that we are the only club in the league that have a proud tradition. Every decision has to reflect the values of the club.


I want us to build a squad, not buy one in. I want us to stick with a manager and give them time. Surely we could have found a manager that had the right values and the requisite skills in the past quarter of a century. Or did we sack some of them before they had a chance? Ossie Ardiles for example.

Its the same with players. At present we have a lot of quality in the squad some of which is under performing. A new manager's job is to get the best out of the squad he has before he starts buying in players that are not necessarily better than the ones we have already. Kenwyn Jones for Bent , Palacios for Jenas or Zokora for example.

We are always searching and yearning for that magic player to finish the jigsaw who will pull the team together, or that midfield destroyer who will give the others room to play. A lot is resting on the shoulders of Wilson Palacios who at 24 and with only 18mths Premiership experience is being hailed as the signing that will do the trick.

I would like to see fewer players brought in and for us to be more selective; fewer stop gaps and more quality. I would like us to stop selling our best players. I would like to see more concentration on what happens on the pitch and less on the what goes on upstairs in the office. In the past ten years we have signed over 100 players. Even allowing for young players bought for the future this seems excessive; virtually a new team every year.

This constant changing of manager and players has undermined the progress of the club over many years. I am not a great fan of Harry Redknapp in general although I pay tribute to the fact that he has at least given us a chance of survival. But even if we go down I think he should at least be given the league average of two years.

I said the same about Ramos, and the sacking of Jol was a disaster and not just in hindsight. Let's ignore the Irishman's advice and start from here, think about the next decade and not just tomorrow. Its time to stick rather than twist.

Statistics courtesy of Wikipedia and the 'Topspurs' Archive by kind permission of Jim Duggan.

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