The strains of Chas and Dave let me know I’d received a text message and the bedside clock informed me in no uncertain terms that it was indeed an ungodly hour of the night.
My eyes struggled to focus on the phone’s display, but the words still hit the mark - ‘Ramos gone, Redknapp taking over’. What the hell? Was I even awake or was this one of those freaky twists dreams seem to take just when you’re getting to the good part.
I have to lay my cards on the table from the beginning. For me, Spurs had lost a little of their lustre in the preceding months. I’d spent a year researching the life of Martin Jol for a biography I was working on for the Dutch market. I’d travelled across Europe, talking to his family, friends, colleagues and finally the big man himself after he offered to help me on my journey through his colourful past.
I spent day after day at his home, talking football, talking life and enjoying his partner’s wonderful Dutch cooking. It’s fair to say I grew close to Martin Jol and my lofty respect for the grinning bear of a man was only reinforced as I listened to the good and bad times life had brought him.
So the news that he’d been sacked on that October night hit me hard. I was recovering in a hotel room in The Hague after a day spent in the company of two of his brothers, Cornelis and Ger. At one point that afternoon, Cornelis’ phone had rung and he’d proudly shown me the name ‘Martin’ flashing up on the screen.
He stood up and his immediate tone was one of affection, but he soon moved away from the table as his face grew solemn. I couldn’t work out what was being said, despite my recent delight at learning the numbers one to ten in Dutch, but it didn’t look good. When he returned Cornelis would only say, ‘It’s tough for him at the moment”.
Martin was Spurs through and through. He knew the club inside out, from its history to every single person who worked at the training ground and the famous old stadium. He’d grown up idolising the double-winning side of the 60s - his first Spurs memory was watching the Cup Winners’ Cup final against Atletico Madrid on his black and white television as a child, sitting alongside Cornelis. Tottenham Hotspur represented the Dutch philosophy of football – it wasn’t just the sweeping play that defined them, but the way they carried themselves on the pitch.
Having seen firsthand the passion Martin had for the club and listened to the struggles he frequently faced behind the scenes, it felt like I’d caught my wife cheating when I first heard about the sleazy Ramos hotel meeting and then finally the revelation that the Dutchman had been sacked amid the chants of 36,000 Spurs fans.
Martin told me in the days after his departure: “It was and still is disappointing, because I still feel that if I could have done it in a different way, like Alex Ferguson, I could have gone on to do something.
“If they had sacked me last year it would have been more of a shock, but not now. This year I guess I was waiting for it. It’s the same with a marriage. If it’s not right, you have to do something else.
“In this structure, the manager is the scapegoat. I knew that, so it’s not a problem. I was expecting it to happen for months, but it was my mission to make Spurs great again.
“I still feel that if I was solely responsible I would still be there. It was about making that next step and I could have done it. I miss people at the Lodge. I miss Chris. I miss the staff. I miss the supporters. I had a bond with them. Sometimes things happen and life goes on, but I will always remember them.
“I looked back at the Getafe match in my home in The Hague. When I watched the scenes it plays like a movie. I look upset and the fans are all singing my name around the stadium. In Holland, they played it everywhere, all over the television. I didn’t know it at the time, but I could not have expected a better farewell.”
So with that in mind I cut a forlorn figure during the ensuing Ramos era, torn between my love for Spurs and my displeasure at the events that had ousted the man who’d reinvigorated my club. It was strange to watch the Spaniard lavished with the type of players Martin had begged for each summer, but never received.
I didn’t expect Ramos to fail or want him to – at the end of the day no man is bigger than the club, even a jolly Oranje giant. So to see that late night text last year made me think Tottenham Hotspur had finally lost the plot. Harry ‘Triffic’ Redknapp? How many fans would have been happy with it being Harry wined and dined in a South Coast hotel back in the summer of 2007?
Ironically, Martin had talked up Redknapp to me as one of the few English managers who deserved a crack at managing a big club. Little did he know the affable Cockney would eventually be warming his plush dugout seat.
Personally, I’d always liked Redknapp, but ultimately only ever associated him with mid-table mediocrity and wheeling and dealing. Yet his arrival offered me the chance to start afresh with Tottenham Hotspur, to wipe the slate clean with a wife who’d come back home repentant over her summer fling.
And my preconceptions have since bitten the dust. With the director of football a thing of the past, the likeable Londoner’s vision is now the sole one at the club, which can only be a good thing in the long run.
He does have the ability to say one thing with his hand on his heart one moment yet do the complete opposite the next, cue Carlo Cudicini waving a Spurs scarf behind Harry, who is strenuously denying any interest in the Italian stopper. However, there is no denying that he is blessed with the best group of players Spurs have employed in a long time and he is getting the best out of the majority of them.
In the soon to return Luka Modric, Harry boasts a playmaker who could comfortably slot into any team in the world. I’d still like to see the diminutive schemer run the game from the middle with action man Wilson Palacios alongside him, rather than trying to influence matters from the touchline. He proved against the brute power of Stoke last season that he won’t be bullied in the engine room and he’s had 10 months of further settling in since then.
With everyone fit, there are at least two quality players coveting every position on the pitch, meaning there are far more debates to be had than the old Keane-Defoe one – although that still appears to have spawned a much-talked about sequel.
The starlets of yesterday are growing up. Aaron Lennon is finally learning that simply speeding along like Road Runner is not enough to sustain his reputation and Tom Huddlestone no longer has the turning circle of an articulated lorry.
We’ve come up slightly short against Manchester United and Chelsea in recent matches, but the Liverpool victory and the merciless crushing of weaker sides show we’re slowly closing the gap that had re-opened between us and Sky’s beloved ‘Big Four’.
Our ruthlessness and physical strength will be tested in the coming weeks before another chance comes to finally turn over that lot up the road in the league. If we can go one better than last year’s thriller at Cashburden Grave, then it could take more than a dodgy lasagne to dent our aspirations. It’s a new dawn, a new day and I’m feeling good.