Sunday, March 02, 2008

Spurs' Carling Cup Success Based on the 'Ramos way'

Tottenham’s Carling Cup Success Founded on Belief in the ‘Ramos Way’

It’s little over four months ago that Juande Ramos took over the helm at White Hart Lane for a Carling Cup tie against Blackpool. In that time he has turned an ailing Spurs team, totally lacking in confidence, into a team that was able to defeat the Carling Cup holders at Wembley. Chelsea are a club who take the Carling Cup seriously and over the years have always fielded a strong team in the competition. Their manager selected his best team but Spurs were deserving of their fourth League Cup success.

We all know the ‘Tottenham way’ but this was a victory very much based on the ‘Ramos way’.

There was much criticism about the way Martin Jol’s departure was handled by Spurs and everyone admits that it could have been handled better. However, as Ledley King lifted the Carling Cup on Sunday, Daniel Levy and his directors must have felt certain satisfaction and justification in the decision they took to appoint Ramos.

In his time in charge Jol had lifted Spurs out of mid-table mediocrity and to a certain level which has now given Ramos the opportunity to take the team a stage further.

The seeds for Sunday’s victory were sown, not in the past weeks or days, but at White Hart Lane on an early spring evening last April.

Was it at approximately, 7.52pm on Thursday, 12th April that Levy and the Board of Spurs were first attracted to the Spaniard’s managerial talents? That night White Hart Lane was abuzz and high with expectation for the most important match of the season. Spurs were unfortunate to be a goal down from the first leg against Sevilla in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals - it had taken a controversial penalty to bring the Spanish side back into the game a week earlier. Spurs had been gallant losers but everyone was expecting them to put things right in the home game and qualify for the semi-finals.

However, totally unexpectedly Ramos didn’t bring his team to defend their one goal advantage, he sent out his Sevilla side on the offensive. Spurs were caught cold and within seven minutes were two goals down. Every Spurs fan was deflated and while the team recovered in the second half to earn a draw, they were never in a position to seriously threaten Sevilla’s progress to the next round and eventually a second UEFA Cup victory. For the third time in the season Spurs had been knocked out in the latter stages of the Cup competition, having been in a strong position.

It was with similar impressive style that Spurs started out against Chelsea at Wembley. It’s the ‘Ramos way’. It had been evident in both of the recent games against Manchester United and was most effective in the 2nd leg of the semi-final victory over Arsenal when Jermaine Jenas scored in the opening minutes.

But even when that early play didn’t lead to a goal, Ramos showed against Chelsea that he had the tactical acumen to change the game and give them belief that they could win the match. Having taken a fortuitous lead before half-time Chelsea seemed capable of grinding out a result as they drew Spurs tighter into their web. The impetus had gone from Spurs’ play but rather than accept what appeared at the time to be the inevitable outcome, he made a few tactical changes which lifted Spurs and took them on to success. He had shown such ability in earlier games but to achieve it so successfully in the Final against Chelsea was masterful.

Tottenham deservedly won the game and have received considerable acclamation for their achievement. Fans are looking forward with optimism to more success in the future, starting with a UEFA Cup win in May.

Sceptics say that Spurs have been there before and look where it got them. In 1999 George Graham was appointed after sacked Christian Gross was sacked and he won the Worthington Cup within months of taking over and was unlucky not to take Spurs back to Wembley in that season’s FA Cup. To many, at the time, it looked as if that was going to be the start of something good but it all turned sour. Graham was never popular due to his Arsenal history and his style of play never appealed to the Spurs faithful. In addition the Spurs team of that time was composed of many players who had had the best days of their career.

This time it’s different. The Spurs fans have quickly accepted Ramos and Gus Poyet, their style of play and appreciation of the game is akin to the ‘Tottenham way’ and the current players at Tottenham are eager for success and realise that they have a manager who can bring it to the club.

The manager has brought in his own backroom staff and they have worked to build the confidence of the players. They are determined to instil good habits into the players both on and off the field and they have them working as a team for each other.

In the short period of time that they have been in charge there has been considerable improvement in the play of several of the players. Steed Malbranque has worked tirelessly in every game, Aaron Lennon has shown that not only can he be a threat going forward but that he can help in defence covering and supporting his full back while Jenas has at last started to use his obvious talent throughout the game and against top class opposition. Others have shown increased confidence and a willingness to play for the team while the new signings have added to the quality in defence.

Spurs have finally broken that hoodoo of the ‘top 4’ teams and hopefully they can now set about claiming more trophies and their place in that elite group. The top clubs have in recent years been concerned about a Spurs’ revival and have done everything in their power to unsettle them because they know how great a threat Tottenham could be to them. At this time they realise that that under Juande Ramos there is serious potential for Spurs to unsettle the cartel at the top of English football.