Is Jose In The Lame Duck Zone?

I’ve always been quite positive about Jose but last night’s debacle at Brighton was my ‘line in the sand’ moment. All the indications suggest that the players are not with him anymore. There’s a difference between those ‘bad days at the office’ which in time prove just to be something of a blip. Everyone has these but when you witness a clear lack of motivation, desire and confidence to the extent on display last night you have to decide whether this is going to be a slightly more permanent state of affairs.

Jose Mourinho

We’ve had a few bad days at the office under Jose – the game against Everton on the opening day of the season and even the first 45 minutes the following week at Southampton suggested something might be badly wrong but this slump was instantly addressed. We had bad days under Poch – who remembers the two defeats to Stoke In his first season; the alarming dip at the crucial point of the 2015/6 season and the uninspiring cup ties at Newport and Rochdale in 2018.

It’s important to consider the macro-climate i.e. how are our adversaries faring in what is in itself a highly irregular season. We’ve seen both Woolwich and Man Utd appear to be in fairly terminal moments this season – ironically both appeared at their particular nadirs after defeats to us. Yet, both are now riding the crest of a wave and could, by the time of you reading this, both be ahead of us in the table. Even Manchester City and Liverpool have hit rocky spells this season and raised questions about their supposed declines. It is therefore just possible that we’re enduring a bad streak that might be reversed again in just a few games or weeks. Two home wins this week against Chelsea and WBA would likely propel back up into the top 4 and a result at an Everton team, who lost 2-0 at home to Newcastle at the weekend, would see us heading into March in pursuit of 3 trophy possibilities.

At a quick mental count, in my 33 years of watching Spurs I have seen 11 proper full-time managers come and go (there’s also been Sherwood, Pleat as caretaker and Santini) – Venables in my mind should have been manager for life and is the only one who was removed for non-footballing reasons.

It got me thinking when was the point that their time was up? It is easy to find the date they actually left the club but in each case they endured the ‘Lame Duck period’ where they had lost the changing room – a very subjective pinpoint in time but one I’m keen to explore as this may provide some clues as to what will happen next with Jose – if indeed we are now in that Lame Duck zone.

Looking just at the ENIC area (which neatly covers a 20 year period) here are my reflections on the lame duck periods and when they were eventually terminated

George Graham – appointed October 1998; fired 16 March 2001 (Lame Duck period began 27 Dec 2000)

Perhaps this one is a little left field as there were probably other factors in why a new ownership wished to make its mark on a new club. George Graham was fired virtually on the eve of our FA Cup Semi Final with Arsenal (it was actually just over 3 weeks beforehand) but with an international break and the remaining league campaign nothing more than an inconvenience ahead of a semi final it was earth shattering that Graham should be fired. Of course he was never popular amongst the fan base and perhaps in a parallel to today there were those desperate for him to fail from the moment he arrived in October 1998. For me the Lame Duck moment was created over 3 days between Christmas and New Year in 2000 – just as ENIC took over. Two hopeless displays at Southampton (0-2) and Ipswich (0-3) – the former against a tactically superior Southampton team managed by Glenn Hoddle was the point I gave up. He would manage Spurs on another 12 games which included four successive 0-0 league draws but also that 3-2 FA Cup win at West Ham in what turned out to be his final game as Spurs manager.

League Record in this period:

PLD 10 – W2; D4; L4 – ave 1 point per game

Glenn Hoddle – appointed 31 March 2001, sacked 21 September 2003 (began March 2003)

Hoddle sparked the exact opposite emotions from his predecessor. Who knows what would have happened had we beaten Blackburn in the 2002 Worthington Cup Final. It felt as if everything had been building up to that moment but alas it was not the case. With an ageing squad, some expensive flops (Dean Richards – RIP, Helder Postiga) we really wan out of steam quickly throughout the 2002/3 season. It was the way the season ended with 1-5 defeats at Middlesbrough and then a 0-4 home reversal by Blackburn on the final day that suggested it was only a matter of time before Hod was sacked. However, I recall an awful 1-0 defeat at relegation plagued Bolton on a Monday Night in March of that season that felt as if the writing was on the wall. He was well backed that Summer but a disasterous start to the following season saw him axed ironically following a comprehensive home defeat against former club Southampton in September. Just 3 wins in 13 games between that Bolton and Southampton game.

League record in this period:

PLD 14; W3; D2; L9 ave 0.78 pts pg

Martin Jol – appointed November 2004, sacked 25 October 2007 (period began August 2007).

On reflection this is definitely the harshest of sackings. We of course missed out on Top 4 in 2006 due to lasagnegate and then lost Carrick that summer. Yet the 2006/7 season was very enjoyable with three good cup runs and not least because of the Berbatov-Keane partnership. We rallied towards the end of that season finishing 5th albeit quite a bit off Arsenal in the final Champions League spot. Summer 2007 was a time of optimism and togetherness amongst Spurs fans and this harmony had been in place since Jol had established himself as Manager in 2004.

Word has it that Jol was not an easy character to manage and that there were discrepancies between manager and board about what constituted success in 2007/8. The team was invested in reasonably heavily with the somewhat unnecessary purchase of Darren Bent for a club record £16m (when we already had Keane, Berbatov and Defoe) but all optimism was burst on the opening day with a truly insipid defeat in the opening game of the league season on a gorgeous august Saturday at newly promoted Sunderland. This may have appeared as just ‘a bad day at the office’ but the 1-3 midweek loss at home to Everton did not bode well. Late collapses at Fulham and Liverpool denied us vital points and even the thriller with Villa couldn’t rescue Jol with the media hacks circling. In what has become known as one of the most unedifying moments in the club’s history the final nail in the popular Dutchman’s coffin was nailed during home defeat to Getafe in the UEFA Cup on 25th October 2007. A swift fall from grace consisting of just 14 games at the start of the 2007/8 season.

League record in this period:

PLD 10; W1; D5; L5 ave 0.8 pts pg

Juande Ramos – appointed 27 October 2007, sacked 25 October 2008

One of the most bizarre managerial reigns in the club’s history. Heralded as one of the best coaches in Europe – a reputation that was all too well known when Sevilla blitzed us in a devastating half of football in April 2007 – Ramos was recruited to bring winning football to White Hart Lane. Some 13 years on and I still cannot decide whether he was any good or not. The highs of the League Cup victories over Arsenal and Chelsea to lift our last silverware quickly became a distant memory as fast swashbuckling attacking football was replaced by turgid incompetence. I have some sympathy for Ramos who lost Berbatov and Keane in Summer 2008 but the alarm bells were ringing almost immediately after Ledley had recovered from his post final hangover. The 4-1 defeat at Birmingham the following weekend could arguably be written off as something between a bad day at the office and ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ but I recall a sobering 4-1 home defeat by Newcastle United on 30th March that really raised the red flag. Following that moment we drew 4 successive league games (with Wigan, Blackburn, Bolton and Boro) all 1-1 and were unerringly swashed aside by a Liverpool team whom we hoped to compete with on the final day of the season. Another summer of huge turnaround in the transfer window of 2008 created a totally unbalanced squad which famously only delivered 2 points from the first 8 games before Ramos was sacked. Including cup and European ties Ramos lasted 19 games in his lame duck period.

League record in this period:

PLD 15; W1; D6; L8 ave 0.6 pts pg

Harry Redknapp appointed October 2008, sacked Summer 2012)

Harry is something of an outlier in this list as he is the only one who was replaced during the off-season which perhaps dilutes his appearance on a lame duck manager list. Clearly there came a point that Levy felt Redknapp had taken the team as far as he could – 2 fourth place finishes which tragically only yielded one Champions League qualification – even though he was presumably only ever appointed a short-term fire fighter when recruited to mop up the mess Ramos had created.

It appeared that Levy finally lost patience with Redknapp’s habit of speaking too freely to many of his trusted media friends and his public courting of the England job just hours after the Spurs board had publicly and financially backed Redknapp’s court case in February. A mutual parting was agreed on the eve of Euro 2012 in which England were led by Roy Hodgson and not Harry Redknapp. Assuming it was onfield matters though that caused Redknapp’s downfall…..

The obvious moment to revisit at the start of his downfall was the 5-2 defeat at Arsenal on 25 February; we led 2-0 against a dispirited Woolwich team who were in real danger of finally slipping beneath us in the table. Yet to consider this the turning point is perhaps forgetting the abysmal record we have across North London. The subsequent defeats against Manchester Utd and Everton began a dramatic slide into the spring of 2012 but it was the Easter Monday league defeat at home to Norwich that I’m using as my Lame Duck start. It was certainly the point that many os realised Ledley’s days were up as he was bullied and outpaced by Grant Holt in a defeat that I guess cost us a top 3 finish that would have secured Champions League and a finish above Arsenal.

The defeat at The Emirates saw a return of just 5 wins in 16 games (one of which was against Stevenage in an FA Cup replay and two league victories came over relegated Bolton and Blackburn) to end the 2012 season and Redknapp era.

League record in this period:

PLD 13; W4; D4; L5 ave 1.23 pts pg

AVB – appointed June 2012, sacked 16 Dec 2013 – (period began 6 October)

I am startled looking back how quickly AVB’s fall from grace occurred. He enjoyed mixed results throughout 2012-13 with the highs being the win at Old Trafford in September but for the second year running Spurs suffered a Spring collapse meaning we missed out on the champions league, once again to Arsenal and once again having been above them for much of the season. AVB was undermined by the ongoing soap drama of Bale’s departure which lasted the entirety of the off season and reinforcemnets – in the form of the ‘Not to magnificent seven’ were only brought in late in the window meaning serious planning for the season was difficult for someone clearly as merticulous. The season started well enough, and despite the customary defeat at The Emirates (on the day Bale was finally sold) Spurs remained in the top 3 until a crushing smash and grab by West Ham on 6th October. This defeat came out of nowhere – the week prior we just missed out going top after a hard ought 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea – but it knocked manager and players for six…which Manchester did quite literally at the end of November. It wasn’t the number of defeats yet the pure size of them that did for AVB and this coupled with a dour style of possession football that seldom provided any big wins meant that the 5-0 home defeat to Liverpool on 15 December was the Portuguese last. 15 games separated the heavy home defeats.

League record in this period:

PLD 10; W4; D2; L4 ave 1.4 pts pg

Mauricio Pochettino – appointed May 2014, sacked 19 November 2019 (period began 3 October)

This one may still prove to be too raw to read or write about. The man gave us joys in two title challenges and a Champions League run beyond our wildest dreams but most importantly built and constructed a belief and a wonderful warm feeling about supporting Tottenham Hotspur.

Alas all good things come to an end. In hindsight Poch himself appeared to question his future and working relationship with his Chairman in the build up to the Champions League Final but as the 2019-20 season – our first full one in our magnificent new season – and with over £100m of new signings there was only the slightest murmurings that this wasn’t the way things would always be. With tonights result in mind it is surely no greater irony that the beginning of the end for Poch became loud and clear after the abysmal 3-0 defeat at Brighton. Sure – the Newcastle home loss in August was concerning and the 7-2 obliteration by Munich was thoroughly unpleasant but it was the nature and scale of defeat at Brighton – with Lloris’ remarkable error and subsequent arm break just about summing up the dark waters we were sailing into.

A few decent Champions League results followed against Red Star but what had been the most high intensity and dynamic teams in the league became insipid and turgid struggling to get draws against Watford and finally Sheffield United before the axe fell. It was just 6 games from the defeat at the AMEX so perhaps the writing had been on the wall beforehand

League record in this period:

PLD 6; W0; D2; L4 ave 0.33 pts pg

Jose Mourinho ??

You may decide that we were already in the Lame Duck zone before last night. At the time the defeat at Sheffield United in July perhaps felt like the beginning of the end; despite two horrific follow up performances against Everton and Bournemouth (still gaining 4 points) we kind of rallied for the remainder of the season and the transfer business of the summer at least gave the squad a fresh vibe.

I realise that there are plenty out there who want him to fail who couldn’t accept the results and being top of the league after beating Woolwich. I’m not blind to these sentiments but I’m prepared to give him some slack for the squad he inherited and the extraordinary situation that has developed.

The data above suggests that when over a 10 game league period points per game dips to around 1 then managers rarely last much longer. Since beating Arsenal we have gained 9 points from 9 league games….it makes the next few games hugely significant but makes you wonder whether the £15m per year contract would have Levy think twice about putting another Lame Duck out of its misery?

It’s A Grand Old Team

On this week’s pod, we each take a season and eulogize why that Spurs side meant so much to us. Enjoy recollections and reflections on Hoddle, Jol, Poch, Redknapp, Super David Howells and Davids among so many greats; guaranteed YOU were there to witness many of the moments mentioned!

There’s Something About Steff

This week, the team unpack topics ranging from Tanguy’s beautiful filth in the 3-1 win at Sheffield Utd to ice-hockey to big arses PLUS a genuine The Game Is About Glory appraisal of Moussa Sissoko, all fuelled by cheap Co-op beer and creme eggs! You know you want some…