Martin Jol’s shaky position as Tottenham boss looks even more fragile following an apparent rift with Dimitar Berbatov during the defeat at Newcastle.
The Bulgarian striker, Tottenham’s outstanding player last season and a candidate for this year’s Ballon d’Or, began the game as a substitute after apparently being hit by a “slight injury” but took his seat on the bench looking less than happy.
When Jol asked Berbatov to warm up in the second half, the striker seemed to refuse his manager’s request on three occasions before eventually agreeing to replace Steed Malbranque.
But Jol later denied a rift. “I’ve heard about this and it’s rubbish – there was no problem,” he insisted. “Dimitar knows exactly what the schedule is for him and he is fine. I don’t know who this rubbish is coming from.
“He played when (Darren) Bent did not play for two weeks and he could train.
“I need him on Thursday (for the Uefa Cup clash with Getafe). He knows that and I don’t know where this rubbish is coming from.”
However, according to The Guardian Tottenham’s press officer attempted to block questions on Berbatov before Jol overrode him and answered regardless.
The defeat left Tottenham languishing in the bottom three, and Jol, who refuted suggestions that this could prove his last game in charge, admitted: “We lack a bit of leadership and mental strength.”
“Someone has to pull the strings at the back. Hopefully, Ledley King will be fit in a couple of weeks. He was not there and wasn’t there for the last seven months so we have to get results without him. You can’t expect to win games if you concede three goals like that. But I thought we played well. We looked comfortable for the first 40 minutes. The spirit is OK.”
Jol, whose position at Spurs has been under scrutiny from the start of the season, refused to admit the defeat had put him under even more pressure.
“I’m already used to it, even before the season started,” he said. “The only thing that counts is results. We’re still in a good position in the cups, and hopefully on Thursday [against Getafe in the Uefa Cup] we can get a result.”