Exit Jol: What a sacking says.
Daniel Levy, Chairman of Spurs
ambitious and vicious
Jol though can point with justification to a great deal of success. Appointed when Jacques Santini resigned two years ago, the Dutchman has guided Tottenham to two successive fifth place finishes. In his first season he was desperately unlucky, as the night before the crucial match on the last day, his squad went down with food poisoning and Arsenal grabbed Champion's League football at Tottenham's expense. Jol has also survived a considerable quantity of backroom change- when he was appointed he came into work with Frank Arnesen, but Arnesen left to go to Chelsea and become director of football there and relations have not been so harmonious with Commolli. Jol despite that has achieved those two top five finishes, whilst fashioning an attractive young squad. Aaron Lennon, Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone and others demonstrate that Tottenham's future may well be bright. There might be doubts about some of Jol's substitutions and some of his coaching- but the Dutchman is also an obviously decent individual and a competent manager.
This season though has been a disaster. But the atmosphere inside the club can not have helped. Directors were briefing against Jol right from the beggining- public disclosures that they were examining other options led to fallings out between Jol and major players- such as the Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov. Essentially the directors paraded their scorn for their manager in front of the squad and the world- it can't be any surprise that the reaction has been that the squad haven't performed for a manager that is on the slip road out. The rather nasty political tactics of undermining performance in order to undermine a popular manager has been successful at the cost of making many neutrals see Tottenham as a club happy to undermine a decent and competent manager.
Spurs though have sacked him because the directors demand success that goes beyond what he has acheived. Daniel Levy the chairman stated earlier this season that for Jol only beating Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal into the Champions League would suffice. Anything else would be seen as failure and hence force the Dutchman out. That qualification does not seem to have changed despite this season proving how hard it is to sustain success. Tottenham think that they belong in Britain's elite- and consequently are courting the Sevilla manager Juande Ramos- strong rumours in both Spain and the UK suggest they will get their man and the search for Champion's League football will be back on.
Its worth contrasting Spurs with their neighbours in the bottom three Bolton. Bolton are playing this season in the same European competition as Tottenham- and yet their board have a different attitude. In the summer they too lost their long serving manager- Sam Allardyce who went to Newcastle. Instead of turning to Europe, the Bolton directors appointed from within- the Assistant Coach Sammy Lee. Having sacked Lee after a terrible start, again they've turned to a low profile candidate (a battler according to their chairmen) Gary Megson. Whereas Tottenham see themselves as European challengers, whose present manager fell because he didn't achieve the Champion's League, Bolton see themselves as strugglers who couldn't get a manager to propel them forwards and rather want to moderate their inevitable decline. The two boards have shown over the last few months contrasting ambitions- in both cases those ambitions have led to the club being undermined.
Phil Gartside, Bolton Chairman
not so confident
There are other managers of course in danger- what Jol's sacking also reflects is the fact that patience for what directors consider failure with a large ammount of money is not tolerated. Up at Liverpool Rafa ought to take notice- spending 40 million this summer- he has few excuses left particularly if Liverpool go out of the Champion's League (as it looks they may after an insipid performance against Besiktas midweek) for continuing failures to challenge United, Arsenal and Chelsea. Beware what you wish for could be the motto of this week for both managers and clubs- greater finance brings greater pressure, setting expectations too low or too high can lead to disturbing the fragile equilibrium that makes a good squad prosper.
Often we underrate the power of a board to influence a football team's season- but both Spurs and Bolton have sent signals this week. Spurs that they are ruthless with failure and that anything less than spectacular success is failure and Bolton that they are happy to drift into the bottom reaches of the Premiership. We shall have to see what effect the boards' actions will have at the Reebok and White Hart Lane. I suspect there will be more disappointment in Lancashire and more squabbling in North London.
But I could be wrong....