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In Praise Of: Martin Jol

Slakr‘s inability to understand this whole “third-person journalism” thing has led to us giving him a new column. His need to deal with his rage issues has led to it being entitled “In Praise Of.” Today, he sings the praises of Martin Jol and Tottenham Hotspur:

So let me start off by admitting that I cannot stand Edgar Davids. I’ve hated him since the first time I saw those pretentious sunglasses. If there’s a good medical reason for him to be wearing them, but otherwise I’m not a fan of fashion accessories in football. There’s always a risk that they may catch on (see David Beckham, white shoes). So Martin Jol was far from my favorite manager at the start of the season. And it didn’t get a whole lot better early on — I believe the exact description I used was Fat, Ugly and Out Of His Mind. But Saturday’s encounter against my Liverpool side has me thinking again. He may still be fat, ugly and out of his mind, but he’s a manager worth admiring.

Spurs may have lost the game 1-0, and thrown away a chance to go up to third (albeit by two points over a Liverpool team with two games in hand), but there were a ton of positives, both for the fans and team. Lets start with the most staggering from where I’m sitting. Jermaine Jenas played his socks off for pretty much the whole game. There were periods where Spurs completely dominated the midfield (the early part of the second half stands out), and Jenas and Davids were extremely influential. For a player I’ve always rated as being extremely over-rated, this is one of the first times I’ve seen him show anywhere near the level of dominance that his “potential” has always suggested. Any manager who can get the lazy prat to play like that deserves an award in my book.

Second, is there a single Liverpool fan that wasn’t shitting himself/herself when facing a front line of Keane, Mido and Defoe? Maybe not at 1-0 down, but is there a single fan who at 2-0 down doesn’t wonder why their manager doesn’t completely throw caution to the wind and play for the goals they need? Jol did this, and gave Spurs fans the additional firepower of the young Lennon. Spectacular — I just wish I wasn’t an opposing spectator. They didn’t score the goal that was needed, but wow, what an effort on the part of the manager.

This Spurs team is also distinguished from previous ones in their ability to turn things around in a good way. While in previous years you could always count on them for an amusing example of grasping defeat from the jaws of victory, now they seem fairly good at doing the opposite.

Its mid-January now, and Spurs are (arguably) in a Champions League spot. They haven’t completely folded over the New Year’s schedule, and they competed admirably with a Liverpool team that is playing better than any in recent memory. At Anfield. Unlike everyone else around them, they’ve got no cups to worry about (thank you Leicester and Grimsby) for the rest of the season. They’ve got quality veterans in Keane and Davids, and the most promising collection of young footballers we’ve seen in any team in the Premiership for years. Guys like Defoe, Robinson, Carrick, King and Lennon are going to be stalwarts for Club and Country for many years to come. If Spurs can continue in their current vein, there’s no reason that they couldn’t hold on to some of them even with when the Chelsea billions come calling.

That’s not to say that Martin (along with Cock and Dick — could I really write about him without mentioning the dear brothers?) doesn’t have a lot of work to do. Young-Pyo Lee seems to be more suited to the Newcastle back line — he’s pants. At times during Saturday’s game (almost the entire first half), it seemed like Spurs had decided that the game wasn’t challenging enough, and so had decided not to play a left back. Gerrard regularly had buckets of space and time, and even Momo Sissoko was able to make passes at times. Three goals shipped in to Leicester after being two goals up is reminiscent of the Spurs of the last few years, and an away loss at West Brom has to remain an abberation.

But overall, Jol is doing a bang-up job from where I’m sitting. So Ladies and Gentlemen, raise your glasses to Martin Jol, manager of Tottenham Hotspur. Cheers.