Football: Graham could be the target for Tottenham

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GEORGE GRAHAM is believed to be the man Tottenham Hotspur want to replace Christian Gross as manager. Alan Sugar, the Tottenham chairman, is expected to make an official approach to Leeds United this week.

Sugar is understood to have decided that the former Arsenal manager is the man he wants, although he would have to agree a compensation package with Leeds.

Graham denied last week that he was interested in becoming Sugar's third appointment at Spurs, but it is thought that the former Arsenal manager would welcome a return to the capital, despite his achievement in taking Leeds into Europe this season.

Leeds have a limited transfer budget and if Sugar has cash to promise Graham, then the deal could go ahead. Tottenham would probably have to offer a huge salary, perhaps as much as pounds 1m a year. Leeds are sure to want a similar sum to let him go.

The arrival of Graham would put a question mark over the future of David Pleat, Tottenham's director of football, who favoured the Yugoslav coach, Raddy Antic, who until earlier this year was in charge of Atletico Madrid. Antic had even approached a player in anticipation of joining Spurs.

Any misgivings Sugar might have over the "bungs" scandal that cost Graham the Arsenal job could be outweighed by the Scot's reputation as an organiser and disciplinarian.

One of Graham's first tasks at Tottenham would be major signings. The London club are already believed to be contemplating a pounds 6m bid for Middlesbrough's unsettled Paul Merson. Aston Villa have already made a move for the Middlesbrough forward, but the lure of London would be greater still.

Middlesbrough are due to talk to Merson about his plans today, but that could be overtaken if Tottenham make a move.

Sugar, meanwhile, yesterday explained the reasoning behind his decision to sack Gross. "We were faced with an untenable situation created, with all due respect, by the media," he said. "The board felt that Christian, no matter how professional or how good he is, had been destroyed."

Gross said that he did not consider he had been a failure and added: "I think three games of this season was not long enough to judge me."