With one point from four games and rooted to the bottom of the Premier League, Tottenham have enduredÂ their worst start to a league campaign for 34 years. Booed off the pitch at half-time and full-time in their defeat to Aston Villa, all the high hopes that the fans possessed at the end of last season are dissipating quickly. Although it is premature to place too much significance on the league table at this early stage, many fans must be wondering if Daniel Levy will ever fulfil his lofty ambition to secure a top four finish and claim a lucrative Champions League place.
Levy is Chairman of Tottenham by way of his shareholding in ENIC which has a controlling interest in the club. A Spurs man through and through (he stood on the terraces of White Hart Lane) his stewardship followed Alan Sugar’s rocky ten year reign in which he alienated fans, managers and players. With Spurs not having finished in the top six since the Premiership’s inception it was time for fresh blood.
Levy quickly gained the fans trust. He sacked the unpopular George Graham who had never been accepted by the White Hart Lane faithful and installed Glen Hoddle, the fans favourite son, as manager. Furthermore, Levy ensured that the club interacted with the supporter groups and granted interviews to representatives of unofficial fan websites.
Nevertheless Levy’s tenure has not been a smooth one. He has sacked five managers since his appointment in 2001. Graham, Hoddle and Pleat were all given the marching orders after poor finishes in the league whilst Santini departed after a series of disagreements with then Sporting Director, Frank Arnesen.
By far and away Levy’s most contentious decision was to part with Martin Jol who had guided the team to fifth place in consecutive seasons. Under Jol’s tenure fans were treated to entertaining football and his honesty and endearing demeanor won their affection.
This was not enough to ensure Jol’s survival and after a shaky start to the 2007-2008 season he was summarily dismissed. Levy refused to admit any responsibility for Tottenham’s poor form. The Chairman had undermined Jol’s authority prior to the start of the season when news filtered out of a clandestine meeting between Juande Ramos, Paul Kemsley, the vice-chairman, Levy and Damien Comolli, the club’s sporting director, in which Jol’s position had been offered to the Sevilla coach.
The public and very tortuous divorce was confirmed when the Dutchman was sacked before overseeing a Uefa Cup defeat by Getafe. The cack-handed manner of Jol’s departure undid all of the Chairman’s earlier good work at the club. Levy’s popularity plunged as fans backed their ex-manager. They felt that not only had a good man been poorly treated but they had lost an excellent manager.
The club’s transfer dealings have also been poor. Levy enjoys claiming that under his reign Spurs enjoy a net surplus when it comes to transfer spending.Â Not only that, he has managed to exact the maximum price for the club’s players. Michael Carrick, Robbie Keane and Ditmar Berbatov were all sold for top dollar but at the expense of the team’s development.
Prior to the beginning of this season Spurs sold their first choice strike force and were unable to find any suitable replacements. Sergio Garcia, Emile Heskey and Kevin Doyle were all targeted but none were bought.Â The proposed acquisition of Kevin Doyle was farcical. Spurs put in a phone call to Reading at 10.30pm on transfer deadline day enquiring on Doyle’s availability when they had the whole summer to negotiate a deal.
The extra money that Levy managed to prise for the sales of Berbatov and Keane has been negated by the fact that they do not have the requisite fire power to push them up the table and into a Champions League position.
Even with the acquisition of Pavlyuchenko, you can not expect a new player who has not participated in pre-season games to immediately gel with his new team mates. If and when he does, it may be too late for Spurs to mount a challenge for a UEFA cup place let alone break the domination of the top four clubs.
Levy’s job has just got harder. Now it is not just the “Big Four” who Levy has to battle, but potentially a “Big Five.” Manchester City’s unlimited petrodollars mean that they will eventually attract some of the biggest names in football. The Holy Grail of Champions League football seems to disappearing quickly.
Don’t worry, if Ramos fails Levy already has his excuse prepared and Comolli is in the firing line. Levy stated when the Spaniard arrived that “as he [Comolli] recommended Juande Ramos, clearly he will have to take responsibility if it doesn’t work.”
Levy should realise that he can only blame others for so long. He would do well to remember that his predecessor was forced out by the fans and with the terraces making their voices felt at Newcastle it may turn out to be a perilous time for the Tottenham Chairman.
Still, spare a thought for Martin Jol, his new team Hamburg are sitting pretty on top of the Bundesliga.