There was something rather special about Martin Jol and the relationship we shared with him. It was a two-way thing. He loved us as much as we loved him. Although he never broke out in song and serenaded the Park Lane he did take to the mic on one occasion to thank us all for the support. Poor bastard even thanked Daniel Levy on that day.
He’s the dad you had in that parallel universe you often dreamt about where you're half Dutch. He understood how to make a connection with the supporters without any of it appearing contrived. His personality was so infectious that for the first time in an absolute age Spurs would get decent press from the journos. Perhaps they were scared of a Jol bear-crush hug, but regardless we all lapped it up. He was sincere, jovial and yet commanded a presence strong enough to inspire team spirit and unity. Football was good too. His soundbites were also pretty decent. English cup of tea, anyone?
We all know how it ended. The Director of Football system corrupted and soured and destroyed, leaving Jol checking his text messages whilst sitting in the dugout mid-game to discover he was going to be sacked. At the time there was genuine guilt felt by myself. Not that I was taking responsibility for anything the chairman and the DoF were cooking up. Rather the fact that it was inevitable it would lead to this. The Berbatov saga and the overly ambitious agenda to step up a further level undermined him and although we don’t truly know what happens behind closed doors, the script had been written months earlier and everyone just went through the motions. The football suffered. Whether it was because of the problems behind the scenes or because Jol had reached the end of the road, we wont ever know. Bit of both perhaps.
I felt guilty because I struggled with the latter. I felt the end of the road had been reached.
The question marks surrounded our inability to compete with the Top Four clubs at the time in games against them. As much as I’d have loved to have found out if he had it in him to build on 2006 he had not a chance in hell to do so because of the interference. Club obviously believing a transitional season was too much of a risk and a better quality appointment was required (the irony, I know). Stories of him interviewing/inquiring about the Newcastle job didn't help either.
Since he’s left he’s not been outstanding in his other jobs, enough to perhaps answer some of the questions (I) we had. But life doesn’t work on such comparisons. Had he stayed, had he the support of the board, chairman and DoF then he might have found that extra spark we required. Instead, it went pear-shaped as we are accustomed and conditioned too. Ramos won us a cup (which I’m forever grateful for) but language and headaches relating to over-complicated selection and tactics left us with...a certain quota of points from a series of games played.
It’s sad because Jol was a fantastic bloke. What he did do is set the foundations for hope that there was a chance of breaking into the Top Four. Give him credit, at the time it was a far more difficult challenge to achieve. The Ramos dip proved to be the shortest of transitional seasons and we all know what happened in the aftermath (some back to basics reconstruction work to make us look pretty again).
There will always be an argument that Jol’s personality masks his weaknesses. The fact we took him into our hearts with such comparative ease made it difficult when he was eventually sacked because deep down it was the only conclusion to a sorry mess. But if you think back, quite a few of us quietly hoped for change. A most uncomfortable sacrifice.
Another argument is that there is nothing to suggest you need to necessarily like your manager. Jose Mourinho has a certain manner about the way he works. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but you’d hardly complain if he was your gaffer if he won you silverware but you might still do because his media siege mentality irks you. Jol managed to give us the two things that matter most: Pride and good football without the necessity of self-serving his own agendas.
That isn’t a dig at Harry Redknapp but parallels are always made between the two. Their game to game record is quite similar, but you can’t compare two different states of play (in terms of where football currently sits and where it sat when Jol was last with us).
The reality is; the past is the past and the future looks bright with Harry leading the way. Personally, if Redknapp wasn’t so mediacentric we’d probably not complain too much about him (don’t ignore the fact that Jol was susceptible to tactically questions and scratches of the head many a time during his tenure). Harry’s achievements are aided both by the squad we possess and the collapse of the monopoly’s overpowering dominance – but kudos to his man-management and he deserves credit. His associations with other clubs and his single-mindedness to look after number one actually rubs off on the club in a good way on the pitch as he knows the better he does the better the Redknapp brand looks. I’d rather he didn’t pretend to be one of us if he doesn’t truly feel affiliated and continue being a custodian of team affairs as we cement stability in the top tier.
Jol gave it a right old go and I'll be forever grateful for that. Redknapp did something very few expected and continues to prove many of us wrong. Its the state the club is left in when he leaves that will allow him to secure a legacy in our history regardless of whether his personality is not our cup of tea.
I’ll let you decide if Jol could achieve similar success with the current squad we have. But then it doesn't matter what you theorise, Harry is in charge now even if Harry doesn't have many songs sang for him.
So thanks Martin. My only regret is that you didn’t push Wenger to the floor when you squared up to him. Although that would have been a little bit like a Polar Bear fighting an Ostrich.
Thank you Harry. Might not agree with certain elements of how you handle team affairs and not a fan of your media work (yes, we're popular with the journos) and your them and me word plays, but you've got to take the good with the bad and thus far the good out weighs the bad.
Love the shirt.