Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I (don’t) love Martin Jol

Not on Sunday. Certainly not when Jol’s Fulham stand between Spurs and a return to the Champions League. There has been a suggestion by some fanciful dreamers that Jol will be happy for his former team to win. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jol is still nursing puncture marks a few inches below his shoulder blades after he was stabbed in the back by a small balding man we all know in October 2007. The Dutchman had just delivered two fifth place Premier League finishes after SIXTEEN straight seasons where Spurs lounged in seventh place or below. Generally, below.

Yet in a tawdry episode that rankles with many fans to this day, the Jol era was abruptly ended during Spurs’ home UEFA Cup defeat to Getafe not long after Chairman Daniel Levy and entourage were spotted in Spain courting (then) highly-rated coach Juande Ramos at the Hotel Alfonso XIII hotel in Seville. Levy justified his position on the official website with the woefully misguided quote: “I am an ambitious chairman.” A statement which has not been reflected in the transfer windows of the last two seasons.

Spurs had started the 2007/8 campaign sluggishly (some things never change!), but it was a measure of the Dutchman’s immense popularity that when rumours surfaced of his imminent sacking an online petition generated more signatures than the one that demanded Spurs not abandon Tottenham for the charms of Stratford. Fan support wasn’t enough to save Jol and Levy failed to turn up at the press conference to announce the unfortunate Ramos’s arrival leaving 2007’s fall guy du jour Damien Comolli to sheepishly conduct proceedings.

Jol was by no means the perfect manager. Those with memories longer than the average goldfish will remember some dire away performances and a consistent failure in the big matches. He also flirted heavily with the manager’s positions at Newcastle and Ajax. It is said Jol’s secret meeting with Newcastle was the primary motivation for Levy seeking a coaching alternative.

But under the Dutchman’s stewardship, fans and the manager shared solidarity, even in tricky times, and this cannot be underestimated. Early results under Ramos showed promise but he assumed control shortly before a run of winnable home games where Jol, too, would surely have triumphed. But after the joy of the Carling Cup semi-final and final victories over Arsenal and Chelsea (essentially achieved with Jol’s team), Ramos’s dour brand of football degenerated into the worst I have ever seen at Tottenham. And that’s saying something!

In October 2006, I was fortunate enough to share a flight back to Stansted with Jol and the first team the morning after Spurs’ 2-0 triumph over Besiktas in the cauldron of the Inonu Stadium, Istanbul. The players had been allowed by Jol to celebrate the win and were in a highly relaxed mood, mingling with fans, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

Halfway through the return journey, Jol strode down the aircraft to shake hands and briefly exchange words with those lucky Spurs fans at the back of the VIP flight. For whatever reason, the big Dutchman chose to engage with my dad and I and spoke to us for almost twenty minutes despite Chris Hughton’s repeated attempts to ferry him back to the front of the aircraft!

Jol was remarkably candid and answered any Spurs question one could conjure with refreshing honesty (unlike someone else we could mention!). The insight was fascinating. The Tottenham manager was incredibly frustrated that Levy had not stumped up the wages to pay for Bulgarian winger Martin Petrov (then at Wolfsburg) who he felt would provide the perfect ammunition for compatriot Dimitar Berbatov. The Spurs team had been crying out for a left winger for several seasons and yet transfer window after window never managed to buy one (sound familiar?). The cracks in the Jol-Levy relationship were already apparent.

The Dutchman confided that Spurs had identified three striker targets in Berbatov, Fernando Torres and Dirk Kuyt (then a hot goal-scoring property at Feyenoord). Notably, he seemed less keen on Berbatov than the others. Jol spoke with genuine passion about European competition in stark contrast to this season’s throwaway performances in the Europa League. He felt Spurs could win the tournament and, bar some highly dubious refereeing against Ramos’s Sevilla, we probably would have lifted that trophy. Until my dying day, I will believe that was a bent match and will never forget Teemu Tainio telling me the following morning at Seville airport, "The referee was shiiiiiiiit!"

So Jol’s return will bring back many happy memories, but if you do share my fond feelings for the big Dutchman I suggest you don’t make these apparent during Sunday’s must-win game and focus your support solely on the current Spurs team. They need your support not Martin. We don’t need a repeat of the Jol idolatry that took place in sections of the away support at Craven Cottage. Not appropriate. Anything that undermines Tottenham on Sunday could cost the club a Champions League place and Jol’s lively Fulham team are more than capable of taking advantage.

I do love Martin Jol (I understand he throws good parties). Just not on Sunday.


The Retro Brothers said...

What a brilliant article

I agree with everything 100%

'Lust Doctor' said...

Cheers Retro Bros. It's important all Spurs fans are 'on message' and back the team fully on Sunday. Still so much at stake and Jol's Fulham will be a tough test.

Talisman said...

As previously mentioned on more than one occasion, your blogs are beautifully written with passion & honesty & always brighten the poorest of days. They keep me highly amused, as you have a unique wit which would go down well at any comedy store. Don't forget, Keep em coming! Dont starve us from them like you did momentarily a short while ago!

'Lust Doctor' said...

Thank you, Talisman. That kind comment certainly brightened my day. Time constraints stopped the blog in its tracks for a while (like a flat-footed Stuart Nethercott) but I hope to keep providing leftfield Spurs insights for a while yet. It's cheaper than therapy!

Frank @SW19fh said...

It is therapy (more like)!

'Lust Doctor' said...

Frank, I often find the Spurs experience masochistic.