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Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Tuesday, 30 September 2008 09:56 UK

Ramos on the ropes

Juande Ramos

By David Ornstein

Tottenham fans have turned on Juande Ramos for the first time.

The Spaniard won the Carling Cup within six months of joining the club, but since then Spurs have only won three of their 18 Premier League games and currently sit bottom of the table.

Their 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth on Sunday confirmed their worst start to a league campaign since 1955 and the travelling support let their feelings known with chants of "you don't know what you're doing".

Ahead of Thursday's critical Uefa Cup tie against Wisla Krakow in Poland, BBC Sport assesses what has gone wrong and considers how Ramos can turn things around.


After winning the Carling Cup at the end of February, Spurs seemed to start their summer holidays early.

"The drop-off in form was phenomenal," Bernie Kingsley of the Tottenham Supporters' Trust told BBC Sport.

Dimitar Berbatov
Ins: Luka Modric, Giovani, Heurelho Gomes John Bostock, David Bentley, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Vedran Corluka
Outs: Teemu Tainio, Joe Martin, Tommy Forecast, Paul Robinson, Pascal Chimbonda, Anthony Gardner, Robbie Keane, Steed Malbranque, Younes Kaboul, Young-Pyo Lee, Dimitar Berbatov
"It was as if the players thought, 'we've got our Uefa Cup place, we're safe in the table, we don't have to worry any more'."

And with Champions League football off the menu, big clubs were always likely to show an interest in strikers Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane.

The pair accounted for 46 of Tottenham's 57 goals in the 2006-07 season, their first season together, and 44 of 66 in 2007-08.

Despite the club's stated desire to keep hold of their best players and break into the top four, the summer transfer window saw Keane join Liverpool and Berbatov go to Manchester United for a total of more than 51m.

Steed Malbranque headed a list of nine other players to leave the club over the summer, with Croatia's Luka Modric and David Bentley among the seven names coming in.

Keane was sold on 28 July but not replaced until Spartak Moscow's Roman Pavlyuchenko, who had already played half the domestic season in Russia, came in on 30 August.

Berbatov followed moments before the transfer window closed on 31 August, with United youngster Fraizer Campbell - a player with just two Premier League appearances to his name - coming in the opposite direction on loan.

"Tottenham changed too many players over the summer," said football advisor and former Spurs striker Ronnie Rosenthal.

"The number of players coming in and going out, and especially the departure of Berbatov, has affected the club."


Ramos has used four centre-backs, six central midfielders and four players on the left wing, failing to name the same starting XI in consecutive games so far this season.

Club captain Ledley King's ongoing fitness battle has robbed Spurs of a key stabilising force, and injuries to the likes of Gareth Bale and Alan Hutton have also weakened the squad.

"The biggest problem I could see was the defence - the centre-backs are struggling," said former Tottenham manager Keith Burkinshaw.

"The team is lacking leaders and centre-backs are normally the leaders in any side.

Middlesbrough 2-1 Tottenham
Tottenham 1-2 Sunderland
Chelsea 1-1 Tottenham
Tottenham 1-2 Aston Villa
Tottenham 2-1 Wisla Krakow
Tottenham 0-0 Wigan
Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham
Portsmouth 2-0 Tottenham
"They've got no genuine quality in attack since selling Keane and Berbatov. Add Jermain Defoe and they've got rid of three top-quality centre-forwards."

Worryingly for Tottenham supporters, assistant boss Gus Poyet admits the Pavlyuchenko-Bent axis is struggling.

"For the one-and-a-half games they played together, it did not work for us," said Poyet. "They are the same type of player, so it is difficult for them to play together."

BBC Sport football expert Alan Hansen added: "The biggest problem is that Spurs have a midfield that does not look like it can get possession back once they lose it.

"The consequence of that is that opposition teams are able to apply consistent pressure to their defence.

"They are not in a false position. The argument that a team is too good to go down is years out of date and doesn't wash any more."


Spurs were 2-0 down at Portsmouth on Sunday when Ramos decided to introduce Bent in place of Pavlyuchenko, instead of pairing them together in attack.

The move was greeted by the travelling support with chants of "you don't know what you're doing".

"It was seen as a rather bizarre decision," said Kingsley.

"When you're trailing in the match you want him to throw everything at Portsmouth, who had shipped 10 goals in their last two games.

"Each week we look at the team sheet and ask what's he doing. But I don't think there's a strong feeling that Ramos should be given the boot at the moment.

"We change managers too often and changing part of the way through a season is not a sensible thing."


It was not until 17 September - almost a year into his reign - that Ramos conducted his first press conference in English, and Poyet continues to take care of post-match broadcast duties.

"The language barrier is definitely a problem," former Spurs goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach Hans Segers told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"The players they will say speaking to Ramos one-on-one is OK. But at the moment he doesn't speak in English live on television or tries to avoid it, and that is not good."

Newspaper reports claimed Ramos is unhappy with life in London and would consider a return to Spain, but such suggestions were quashed by Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague.

Balague, who spoke to Ramos by telephone after the Portsmouth defeat, said the 54-year-old was due in Madrid on Monday for commercial commitments but stayed in London to work on his side's problems.

"The reports are rubbish," Balague told 5 Live. "There was a story made up about him being homesick but that's definitely not the case.

"Juande dreamed of coming to the Premier League, it's the strongest league in the world and he is enjoying his time here."


Damien Comolli
Comolli has been criticised for many of the players signed by Spurs
Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is a staunch believer in the continental system, with a director of football responsible for player recruitment and a manager in charge of coaching the first team.

After David Pleat and Frank Arnesen had spells as director of football, former Arsenal scout Damien Comolli was appointed in September 2005.

The Frenchman is reported to be responsible for all players coming in and out of White Hart Lane with Levy, renowned as a haggler, signing the cheques.

"When I was Tottenham manager I ran the club and the secretary looked after the administrative side of things," said Burkinshaw.

"I know that things have changed a lot over time but the manager has got to be the one who brings the players in.

"Would Arsene Wenger or Sir Alex Ferguson ever be told who they can or can't sign?"

The club insists all signings are a mutual decision between manager, director of football and board.

Football has become obsessed with money and Tottenham are an arch example of that

Bernie Kingsley of the Tottenham Supporters' Trust
But there were suspicions during Jol's reign he could do little more than inform Comolli of players he wanted and positions he needed to fill and then wait to see what happened.

And serious question marks have been raised about the signings of Kaboul, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Bent - at a combined value of 30m in 2007 - under Comolli's watch.

"The club is totally focused on money," said Kingsley.

"The people who run the club are obsessed by making money and they seem to think that volume, in terms of player transfer activity, adds up to quality. It isn't.

"Football has become obsessed with money and Tottenham are an arch example of that."


Levy's record of hiring and firing managers does not necessarily bode well for Ramos.

Since replacing Sir Alan Sugar as chairman in February 2001, Levy has gone through five managers.

Glenn Hoddle, Jacques Santini and Jol were all sacked after poor starts to a season, while George Graham lasted only a month after Levy's arrival and David Pleat was moved into a director of football role.

Daniel Levy and Juande Ramos
Levy went to great lengths to bring Ramos to White Hart Lane
"I was at the club for nearly nine years and I had six managers," said Segers.

"The board is not scared to make any decisions regarding the manager. If the manager is not performing he's out, simple as that.

"If the current situation doesn't improve, Ramos might be looking for another job as well."

Levy and his board went to great lengths to prise Ramos away from Sevilla and Rosenthal believes it is too early for the club to turn their back on him.

"It is only natural that, after winning the Carling Cup, the levels of expectancy rise," he said. "But it is still very early in the season, far too early to judge.

"Ramos is a fantastic manager and has proved it before. He is still learning and assessing the team.

"I'm sure they will give him time unless the situation gets a lot worse. Even if they go out of the Uefa Cup on Thursday, he's a good manager and needs more time with the new players."


Simply put, Ramos needs to start winning some matches.

"People will look at the amount of money that has been spent, see they are bottom of the league and ask what is going on," said Segers.

"It takes some time to get players settled but time is not what you have as a football manager."

Kingsley added: "It's very easy to say there's a lot of the season to go, but we've seen in the past that if you get stranded at the bottom it becomes increasingly hard to recover."

In the immediate term, progression to the Uefa Cup group stages would provide a timely fillip, although Krakow would need only a 1-0 victory on Thursday to send Tottenham tumbling to a disastrous defeat and out of the competition.

On the domestic front, Ramos will feel Premier League matches against Hull, Stoke and Bolton - before the trip to Arsenal on 29 October - represent a decent chance to pick up points, but none of those sides will provide easy opposition.

And in terms of playing staff, Kingsley believes continuity is the key.

Tottenham don't have the resources to compete with the top four clubs - for that you need people like Roman Abramovic

Former Spurs striker Ronny Rosenthal

"We say we need changes but, paradoxically, one thing we need to see is less changes - we never play the same team or keep the same tactics from one game to the next," he said.

"We can't bring any more players in until January. In the last 12 months we've pretty much turned around the whole team and you can't expect that many players to come in and all work together.

"The manager needs to make some hard decisions, decide on his team and play them. If that puts a few noses out of joint with the stars who have come in, then so be it."

In the longer term, Tottenham's board, who are reported to be considering a takeover from a south-east Asia investor, still have designs on breaking into the big four.

But Rosenthal warns: "Tottenham are not in the position to turn down 30m for Berbatov and 20m for Keane. Maybe one day they will be but today they are not.

"Tottenham don't have the resources to compete with the top four clubs.

"How do they get into this bracket? For that you need people like Roman Abramovic. Without that sort of investment it is difficult to break into that top four."

see also
Ramos stays calm over job future
29 Sep 08 |  Tottenham
Lee Dixon's tactical view
29 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Portsmouth 2-0 Tottenham
28 Sep 08 |  Premier League
Spurs manager pleads for patience
17 Sep 08 |  Tottenham
Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea
24 Feb 08 |  Football
Spurs pick Poyet to assist Ramos
29 Oct 07 |  Tottenham
Tottenham make Ramos head coach
27 Oct 07 |  Tottenham
Jol sacked as Tottenham manager
26 Oct 07 |  Tottenham
Comolli replaces Arnesen at Spurs
08 Sep 05 |  Tottenham

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