The Perfect One

Defenseman Jonathan Woodgate scored in overtime on a header to give Tottenahm its final win in a great Carling Cup run.

Defenseman Jonathan Woodgate scored in overtime on a header that became a rebound and turned into a cheek shot to give Tottenahm last week its final win in a great Carling Cup run in which the Spurs won the title by defeating the former champion Chelsea, 2-1.

This great run was highlighted by a huge semi-final victory destroying the other London archrival, Arsenal, 5-1.

“Yes!” shouted Juande Ramos –in English- after Woodgate’s goal. It was the first title for the Spurs since 1999, when they also won the Carling Cup, defeating Leicester City in the championship game.

Things have dramatically changed for the London club since last October when the team was in a relegation situation in the Premier League standings. Seven points and only one win in 11 matches plus a sad elimination in the UEFA Cup after a 2-1 loss at home vs. modest Spanish Getafe were the arguments to fire coach Martin Jol. In fact, Tottenham was seeking for a change in the summer, but could not manage to bring the manager the club wanted: Ramos.

Wanting Ramos to coach the Spurs was in ways contradictory. On one hand, the success achieved in Seville by this man who was born in Ciudad Real, Spain, had shocked all Europe. Also, Tottenham wanted to repeat the Spanish Benitez Model that has given many happy days to Liverpool fans. However, Ramos could not speak English and obviously Sevilla was not going to put him on the available list. 

But, after all, who is Juande Ramos a man that is already been defined in England as The Perfect One?

As a player, he got to Spanish top division as a member of not very well-known Elche, where he played four years before an injury forced him to retire. He exchanged the cleats for the bench and started coaching in Spain’s second division. At first, he managed in the “B” series with Alcoyano and Levante. Then he moved to the “A” class, where he had his first “great success”, helping Logroñés to be promoted to the Spanish top division.  

He caught FC Barcelona’s eye, and was hired by Barça… but to coach its farm team. He then managed a couple more almost unknown squads: Lleida and Rayo Vallecano. His first big job was to coach Betis the season after the team had returned to La Liga. Juande matched the goals the club wanted when he was hired, but moved over. After tenures in Español and Málaga with average results, he decided to take a year off.

Many thought his coaching days were over. But Sevilla hired him in 2005 and Juande emerged as quickly as he has adapted to British soccer in the past four months.

The job at Seville was not easy. The team had been very close to qualifying to the Champions League thanks to an excellent coaching performance by Joaquin Caparrós.

Juande, though, surpassed Caparrós’ achievements by far, making Sevilla’s fans enjoy the best two years in club history. He took them to winning back-to-back UEFA Cup championships, defeating Middlesbrough, 4-0, in 2006 and Español in penalty shots in 2007. Juande guided Sevilla to the Spanish Cup title as well and qualified the club for the Champions League for the fist time.

In White Hart Lane they had the chance to enjoy his soccer style live when Sevilla eliminated Tottenham in the UEFA Cup quarterfinals on a very exciting 2007 match. Anyhow, it seemed impossible that Juande could be signed after the excellent results his team was getting.

But things did not start so well for Sevilla in the present season. The team was touched when, in the first week of La Liga, left defender Antonio Puerta, a starter for the Spanish National Team, suffered a heart failure and died a couple days later. AC Milan beat them in the European Super Cup, 3-1.

The differences between Juande and club president José María del Nido became bigger and bigger. As a result, the manager surprised Europe’s soccer by announcing the last week of October that he was taking Tottenahm’s job. 

Spain in general was sceptical about Juande’s decision. Not many thought he was going to be successful in his British adventure. Even night TV talk-shows were making fun about his limited ability to speak English. 

But Juande remained strong about his coaching philosophy. He hired Gustavo Poyet from Uruguay as an assistant and translator. After playing in Spain, Poyet was a member of the Spurs for three seasons. Juande also brought from Sevilla trainer Marcos Álvarez and nutrition expert Antonio Escribano, whose job especially with goalkeeper Paul Robinson has been very impressive. Robinson has lost some weight which has led into better performances.

“The change has been enormous”, says Juande. “I found a team that was really down, depressed, that had lost seven out of 11 games and that could not finish winning matches in which it had the lead. Players did not trust themselves. We have transformed the team’s mentally with hard work. Players now believe in themselves. And we have recovered the passion for playing.”
He has definitely done it! In only four months, Juande has won his first title in British soil. In the Premier League, aside from draws, he has guided Tottenham to seven wins and only two losses. There is no doubt that in White Hart Lane they have found The Perfect One.