Football: Ardiles lured back to manage Tottenham

OSVALDO ARDILES was appointed the new manager of Tottenham Hotspur in the early hours of yesterday morning. The impressively swift operation, which saw Ardiles flown in from his home city of Cordoba, Argentina, where he was on holiday, and agreeing a four-year contract within hours of arrival at Heathrow, is a considerable coup for Alan Sugar, the Spurs chairman. Not only is Ardiles a manager of proven quality, but his appointment is a resounding public relations exercise for the internally ailing club.

Sugar's popularity with the club's supporters could hardly have dipped lower after last week's court case which had Terry Venables, the erstwhile club saviour, ousted from his position as chief executive and which prompted supporters' talk of a stay-away from next season's home games. Ardiles' popularity after 10 years as a player at Spurs and his proven dedication to Tottenham's playing philosophy - attractive, passing football - will go some way to persuading Venables diehards that White Hart Lane will be worth returning to.

The short time between Venables' departure and Ardiles' arrival may also herald an end to the unrest among the players, some of whom have said they wanted to leave. Gary Mabbutt, the captain, who in court five days earlier had given a statement declaring Venables' importance to the club, yesterday backed the new set-up. 'The past is past. Players and supporters have all got to pull together,' he said.

Sugar and Ardiles were meanwhile looking to the future, Sugar saying: 'We've got the best man to do the job,' and Ardiles describing Spurs as 'where I've wanted to be all the time'. On the same weekend two years ago, Sugar and Venables were officially united in what was described as the 'dream ticket'. Yesterday, Tony Berry, the directer who was integral to Ardiles' signing, said the new pairing was 'the reality ticket'.

Within minutes of the news at Spurs, West Bromwich Albion, where Ardiles had been manager, announced that Keith Burkinshaw, Ardiles' assistant, is to become manager. But the appointment of Burkinshaw, the former Spurs manager who had signed Ardiles from Argentina in 1978, could not disguise some bitter disappointment at Ardiles' decision.

Trevor Summers, the West Brom chairman, said: 'I'm totally devastated. He has let us all down. Fifty thousand Black Country lads had taken him - an Argentinian - to their hearts, and he's let them down.' Ardiles' view of the move was somewhat different. There was no bad feeling, he said, inviting reporters to ask Summers to confirm this. At almost exactly the same time, Summers' radio interview was rolling, with the statement: 'The apprentice has gone but the professional has stayed.'

Burkinshaw, however, had already been asked by Ardiles to go too. Quite what position Ardiles had in mind is uncertain; he said it was not the assistant managership. Having left Spurs so acrimoniously in 1984, and with the West Brom job offer on the table, Burkinshaw's decision presumably was not a tough one to make.

A question now remains over who will join Ardiles' staff. Doug Livermore and Ray Clemence, the first-team coach and assistant first-team coach respectively, remain at the club, but Ardiles' arrival can only mean a move downwards for them. 'I have one or two options in mind,' Ardiles said, 'but I will talk to Ray Clemence next week and Doug Livermore as soon as he returns from holiday.'

As to player unrest - Neil Ruddock and Nick Barmby have already put in transfer requests, the contracts of eight others are up for renewal - Ardiles said he is 'not envisaging any problems at all'. He said he finds it commendable that the players are so loyal to Venables, 'I hope they have this kind of loyalty to me.'

FACT FILE

3 August 1952: born in Cordoba, Argentina.

1970: began career with Huracan.

August 1978: moved to Tottenham with Ricky Villa in deal worth pounds 750,000.

April 1982: returned to Argentina during Falklands crisis, missing FA Cup final.

July 1982: joined Paris St Germain on one-year loan.

January 1983: returned early to Tottenham.

5 February 1983: suffered broken left leg in match v Manchester City .

March 1988: joined Blackburn Rovers on loan (five appearances).

May 1988: given free transfer by Tottenham.

August 1988: joined QPR (eight appearances).

January 1989: suffered broken right leg in Littlewoods Cup tie v Nottingham Forest. Did not play again.

July 1989: appointed manager of Swindon Town.

1990: Swindon beat Sunderland 1-0 in Second Division promotion play-off. Club demoted to Third because of irregular payments but reinstated on appeal.

31 March 1991: appointed manager of Newcastle United.

5 February 1992: sacked.

8 May 1992: appointed manager of West Bromwich Albion.

30 May 1993: West Brom beat Port Vale in Second Division play-off final.

19 June 1993: appointed manager of Tottenham Hotspur.

HONOURS

42 caps for Argentina.

World Cup winner: 1978.

Uefa Cup winner: 1984.

FA Cup winner: 1981.

(Photograph omitted)

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