Jim White

Taxi for Comolli… and Juande?

Jim White

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By the time you read this it may already have happened. The rumours swishing around White Hart Lane suggest that it will be the sporting director Damien Comolli who is to shoulder the blame for Tottenham's woeful start.

The international break is never a particularly comfortable time for under-fire football employees. To quote a one-time government figure, it is a good time to bury bad news.

Juande Ramos, meanwhile, has apparently been given a vote of confidence by his board. Which means it is only a matter of time before he joins Comolli in the dole queue. Whatever public statement Daniel Levy and Spurs board might make, right now Ramos's condition remains woeful.

Few bosses can long remain in charge in the face of statistics like those banking up in evidence against the Spaniard: the poorest opening to a season since the launch of the Titanic is not something that enhances a managerial CV. Especially at Spurs, where patience has never been a conspicuous virtue. After all, Martin Jol, the last manager, was removed with a far less threatening charge sheet against his name.

You could see it all in Ramos's body language over the weekend. On the touchline during his team's defeat to Hull he clearly wasn't enjoying himself (but then who of a Spurs affiliation was?). The contrast with Hull's noisy, busy boss Phil Brown was enormous.

While Brown ranted and raged and ran up and down the touchline like parent who has just been fed cake laced with speed by a mischievous teenager, Ramos looked morose, forlorn, his shoulders slumped, his face ashen. He looked beaten. He looked - as the terrace critics suggest - as if he didn't know what to do next.

More to the point, to remove Ramos would be a simple thing. Bring in someone with a bit of bounce, a bit of lift, someone who could communicate the urgency of the situation to the players. Someone who might offer a more optimistic view to potential recruits come the opening of the transfer window.

And the queue of those offering themselves up for consideration is led by the former Spurs boss Terry Venables, making himself available for someone else's job via his many friends in the tabloid press. At least Tel would smile occasionally.

And yet, whenever the inevitable axe falls, to sack Ramos would not resolve Spurs' problems. It would be like changing the dressing on a gaping wound. As has been demonstrated by the excellence of the work being done at Hamburg by Martin Jol, the pilot is not the one who needs to be dropped.

Spurs's problems run much, much deeper than the occupant of the dug-out. Which is patently obvious, as the incumbent is a man with a hugely impressive winning track record. Not least in landing Spurs a trophy last season, an achievement now largely forgotten in the gathering panic of early-season failure.

The fact of the matter is, it is not within the manager's control that the club plays in a stadium too small to finance its ambitions. It is not within the manager's control that his club has spent the past couple of years providing the rest of the Premier League with strikers. It is not within the manager's control that Ledley King - his best player and the man whose presence transforms the team - is a semi-permanent crock. And most of all it is not within the manager's control that he is not presiding over Arsenal.

This is Spurs's biggest problem: the neighbours with whom they once enjoyed parity, the lot down the road who they once thought of as the inferior institution in terms of skill and tactics, have streaked far away over the horizon. Everything Spurs do is put into withering perspective by Arsenal achievement. The sense of inferiority infects every rivet at White Hart Lane and informs everything the board does. It has completely distorted the thinking and removed all patience or long-term planning.

And it is to Ramos's discomfort that while everyone might know this, the problem is now too entrenched to be properly addressed. Much easier to remove the public face of the club and get someone else in. Never mind Comolli or Ramos. The fact is there is only one sacking that really would lift the cloud now hovering over Tottenham. That of Arsene Wenger.

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