Football: Ardiles now older and wiser

Croatia Zagreb's coach has changed his style since his managerial misfortunes in England.

A MORE suitable place than the Theatre of Dreams it is hard to imagine for the return of a dreamer like Ossie Ardiles, English football's original favourite foreigner. Playing the game the way Manchester United do, and the way he himself did as a player, represented the Holy Grail for the little Argentinian, who suffered so much in his search for it as a manager in England.

Few coaches this season in the Champions' League will look forward to a visit to the home of the European champions with as much relish as Ardiles does. "Old Trafford has always been one of my lucky grounds, I'm looking forward to it enormously," said Ardiles, who takes his new club, Croatia Zagreb, there on Tuesday in the opening match of Group D. He would be the first to concede that his luck was in before United established themselves as the force they are today, but he is unconcerned.

Ardiles has waited five years for this day, to be centre stage once more in England, which he still regards as his adopted home, having a house in Hertfordshire and both his sons, Frederico and Pablo, at university there. He even gave up his coaching job in Japan - after being awarded the accolade of manager of the year last December - in order to experience "the real thing" again in Europe. Not that he would say it, of course, but one senses that he hopes that Zagreb is a stopping-off point on his journey back to England.

Most men would have been soured forever by his experiences at Newcastle and Tottenham, and Ardiles admits that it took him a long time to recover from the shock of his sacking at White Hart Lane because he was "Spurs through and through". He has never been a bitter man and, of course, he was ever the diplomat, from the day Tommy Smith "introduced" himself in a League Cup tie at The Vetch with a tackle designed to send the little Argentinian straight back to Buenos Aires. "Tommy very nice man, very nice player," said Ardiles memorably.

Kevin Keegan, he believed, "benefited" from the young players like Steve Howey, Lee Clarke and Steve Watson, whom he brought through. Newcastle had been a "wonderful experience" - unlike his beloved "Tottingham". Surprisingly, he said he would never have taken the manager's job at Spurs if he had known what he was in for. "Before I arrived at Tottenham I didn't have any enemies among the football fraternity," he said, "but when I left I had quite a lot, really. The Alan Sugar-Terry Venables situation was incredible political. It was a terrible place to manage, it was impossible. It was like a big fire and I was the fireman who had to put it out. When Glenn [Hoddle] took the job at Chelsea rather than Spurs, I thought he was crazy, but I soon realised he had made the right decision.

"All the players were Terry Venables players, in fact the majority of them didn't want to play for us. Spurs were also the club to hit, so it was a kind of no-win situation. Alan was very confrontational with the FA, the League, other clubs. He learned more in his first year than he did in all the rest. Now he is a different person."

His timing as a manager, unlike that as a player, has always been a bit awry, usually through no fault of his own. He steered Swindon into the Premiership only to immediately suffer a double relegation at the hands of the FA because of other people's wrong-doing; at Newcastle, the money men arrived the moment he left, having been the only manager among the last half-dozen at St James' Park not to have a penny to spend on players; while at Spurs, the FA's six-point penalty, which had partly prompted the club into taking the drastic action it did when sacking Ardiles just three months into the season, was rescinded within a month of his departure.

He returns to England still besotted with the game, but older and wiser, he said. "Maybe Japan changed me a little bit," he said. "Before, it was really important to me that my team had to play good football. Now I'm more pragmatic. Here it's like Italy, you have to earn respect with every game you play. We drew our last game away from home and it was a kind of mini-crisis. In England it's more of a long-term situation. But I don't feel I have anything to prove to anyone in England."

Playing United would make a change from trying to break down massed defences, as his team has to do every week in the Croatian League. He will not, though, be playing with five forwards - home or away. He concedes that United nowadays are a harder team to play against because their threat comes from a variety of sources but, typically, the dilettante in him refuses to accept that they are a better team without Eric Cantona. "I don't want to think about how good they could be if Eric were still there. I would always have him in my team."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
News
i100
News
Prince Harry is clearing enjoying the Commonwealth Games judging by this photo
people(a real one this time)
Sport
Lionel Messi looks on at the end of the final
football
Extras
indybest
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments