Football: Freund to make friends at Spurs

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The Independent Online
GEORGE GRAHAM can hardly wait for Steffen Freund, Tottenham's latest German import, to arrive in the new year and provide the glint of steel which he believes is fundamental to his White Hart Lane revolution.

But having wrapped up the pounds 750,000 signing of the tough-tackling international midfielder from Borussia Dortmund last week, Graham has agreed to honour Freund's commitment to a family holiday with his wife, Ilka, and their two children during the Bundesliga's mid-season winter break.

Freund, a qualified locksmith, is expected to make his Tottenham debut at Sheffield Wednesday on 9 January.

Graham is convinced he will soon become known to the Spurs fans as their midfield enforcer as well as a player who can open more doors for an already well-equipped attack.

Jurgen Klinsmann was the star who restored charisma to Tottenham - even during some dark days under previous managers, Ossie Ardiles, Gerry Francis and Christian Gross - but Freund is the battler Graham believes Spurs now need most of all to help establish an era of lasting success.

The Spurs manager said: "I'm delighted to have signed him and he will be coming here to do what he is good at - winning the ball and then passing it.

"There is great enthusiasm running through the side now, but we still need something more to make sure the improvement continues.

"It's something that the top teams like Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea all have, players who dominate the midfield and make others play.

"This guy has all the experience in the world with Borussia Dortmund in their European campaigns and with Germany as part of their squad in Euro 96 and the World Cup finals. It will be a couple of weeks before he's here, but he'll soon become a big favourite with the fans."

Monday's 4-1 win over Everton was Tottenham's most conclusive White Hart Lane victory for two years and further proof that Graham is getting the maximum out of a squad who flirted dangerously with relegation last season. The win extended an unbeaten home record under Graham to eight matches, but he is far from satisfied with a respectable mid-table position.

Freund is only Graham's second signing for Spurs, and he is still waiting for the pounds 1.6m former Ipswich full-back, Mauricio Taricco, to recover fully from an ankle injury after his move to Tottenham five weeks ago.

Freund has 21 German caps, but his international career has been dogged by injuries and he has not yet figured in the plans of the new German coach, Erich Ribbeck. Freund was born in Brandenburg and was one of the first East German players to be capped by the unified international side. He played for Schalke 04 before joining Borussia Dortmund in 1993.

His contract at Dortmund was due to expire at the end of this season and he would have become a free agent. The Tottenham director of football, David Pleat, said: "We wanted to do the deal now because Freund is the kind of midfield action man that every club needs."

Now Graham is looking at the French midfielders Alain Goma (Paris St Germain) and Michael Debeve (Lens) as possible targets.