Portu-Geezer

Originally featured in MEHSTG Vol. 2 Issue 18 - January 2001

Back in November, a player who had cost Tottenham £1.6M slipped quietly away from White Hart Lane and signed for German club Kaiserslautern for a more realistic fee of £250,000. Following on from Ruel Fox, Jose Dominguez became the second “surplus to requirements” winger, who had seemingly been quite content to play most of his football for Spurs at reserve team level, to leave the club in the space of a few months.

The diminutive Dominguez (please note that it is mandatory to include the word ‘diminutive’ at least once in any article about Jose Dominguez) joined us in August 1997 and made his debut in the Premiership match against Derby County (and was cover star of the programme for that game, pictured with Gerry Francis, with the manager holding a Spurs shirt with its back to the camera in front of the new signing, showing off the “20 Dominguez” emblazoned on it in dark blue) at the end of that month.

At the time it seemed a strange buy. Although a Portuguese international, Jose had already had a spell a season in English football, joining First Division Birmingham City (under the management of Barry Fry - whom Dominguez described as “a nice character, eccentric but very funny”) in March 1994 and he made a few appearances for his new club towards the end of the season but was unable to save the Blues from relegation. Although he played his part in helping the St Andrews club to promotion the following season, Dominguez certainly did nothing to suggest that he could establish himself as a player good enough to become established in the Premiership and, as an attacker, only scoring three goals in thirty five games in the Second Division was not a spectacular return. There certainly wasn’t a queue of top flight clubs trying to entice him away from St Andrews.

Having started his playing career with Benfica, Dominguez returned to Portugal in May 1995 after Sporting Lisbon made a £1.6M offer for his services which Birmingham felt unable to turn down. It was soon apparent that he was keen on another spell in English football and it was a good piece of business for Sporting Lisbon when they recouped their entire outlay on Jose and sold him to Spurs at the start of the 1997-8 season.

Despite being at White Hart Lane for over three years, Jose’s appearances for our first team definitely had rarity value. He only managed eight league starts during his first season. What didn’t help Dominguez was the fact that Gerry Francis, the manager who had signed him in the first place, resigned from his post less than four months after Jose had joined. Neither the hapless and hopeless Christian Gross, who succeeded Francis at the Lane, nor George Graham, who joined Spurs when Gross inevitably got the sack after less than a year in charge, rated Dominguez and the winger was left to ply his trade in the Avon Insurance Combination.

In the 1998-9 season Jose didn’t start a first team match until the end of April. During this time he was a rather expensive regular in the reserves. He was certainly a player that Tottenham were to keen to remove from their wage bill, but as he made only limited appearances he wasn’t in the proverbial “shop window”, there was little interest from other clubs to buy him and Dominguez seemed quite happy to turn out for the reserves and pick up his wages.

Last season followed the same pattern. Only two starts for the first team, both against West Ham United, and in neither game did Jose manage to last the ninety minutes. Placed on the transfer list, thus alerting other clubs to his availability, there continued to be a distinct lack of interest in him. In addition to his two starts, there were sporadic appearances as a substitute. This season started in the same vein (with the odd brief trip from the substitutes bench) until Kaiserslautern decided that the winger was worth a quarter of a million pounds and Dominguez finally left White Hart Lane.

On his departure, Jose launched an attack on manager George Graham for not giving him a chance, and was quoted in a tabloid as saying “My Tottenham career ended the day George Graham arrived. He killed me at Spurs. He left me with nothing”. Although not helped by the fact that Francis left Tottenham so soon after he arrived, Dominguez basically failed at White Hart Lane because he didn’t have enough quality to establish himself as a Premiership player. In many ways, he was a typical Tottenham signing, the flair player, the entertainer, and much-loved by the supporters (he was obviously also held in high-esteem by the Birmingham supporters, who gave Dominguez an excellent reception when he appeared as a substitute against the Blues in our disastrous Worthington Cup debacle at the end of last October).

The Spurs reputation for such players is legendary, the best example of the last few years being, of course, David Ginola. Dominguez, a pint-sized floppy-haired, slightly-unkempt looking winger with a few tricks, could be an exciting player, but all too often the end product wasn’t there. The fans of course loved the odd run at defenders, the drop of the shoulders, the twists and the turns and it was good to watch, but Jose’s contribution to the team was never sufficient to earn him a deserved regular place.

Compare him for example with Tony Galvin. Now Galvin was a different type of winger to Dominguez, big and bulky, but he too used to run at defenders. The difference was that Galvin would almost always get in a decent cross at the end of his runs. Dominguez would jink and dummy and tantalise, but the good crosses were often lacking at the end of it. There were too many occasions when he would perform a succession of turns and end up getting nowhere. Jose never really looked as if he could be a ninety minutes player and terrorise an opposing full back throughout a match.

His cameo appearances as substitute kept him in the public eye. The Spurs faithful would welcome the upcoming introduction of flair, of something a little bit different, as soon as Dominguez left the bench and started warming up. He was suited to the role of substitute, where he could come on for twenty minutes and be noticed for three or four runs, whereas if he played for the whole, or most of the game, he would be largely anonymous. However, if a manager doesn’t rate you, and the manager is someone as strong-willed as George Graham, who has never been keen on entertaining flair players (he sold Ginola of course and assembled a collection of crushing bores during his time as Arsenal boss), you are always going to be fighting a losing battle. So, in that respect, Jose can maybe count himself a bit unlucky, only getting the odd first team start in the two years he was at Spurs under George Graham.

Dominguez is still only twenty six years of age and it will be interesting to see how much progress he makes at Kaiserslautern.

ANDREW FORD

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