Football: Gross finds he has some friends

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The Independent Online
GARY MABBUTT, the former Tottenham captain, has appealed for Spurs fans to give the club's beleaguered coach, Christian Gross, more time as they continue to turn against him and the chairman Alan Sugar in increasing numbers.

Tottenham's 3-0 weekend defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday, following a 3-1 opening day defeat at Wimbledon, led to angry demonstrations at White Hart Lane on Saturday calling for Gross and Sugar to quit the club. An offer from the former Atletico Madrid coach, Raddy Antic, to take over from Gross, as well as a report that Sugar had been driven to the point of deciding this week whether to sell his stake at the club, have hardly helped matters.

However, Mabbutt, who left the club in the summer after his contract was not renewed and enters hospital today for a knee operation, said: "Even in the harshest of circles, you can't be talking about managerial changes after just two games. Gross has got to be given time to implement his own ideas at the club and then be judged on what he has achieved."

The Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear, often tipped to be the next Spurs manager, has offered his backing to Gross.

A former Spurs player, Kinnear said: "The trouble is with Tottenham is that [they are] used to the best. After two games, there's a little bit of panic setting in. It's not just the two games. There's a little bit of anger from last year, and it has been carried on from there."

Nottingham Forest's on-strike striker, Pierre van Hooijdonk, has insisted he will not be returning to the County Ground this season.

Van Hooijdonk, who is training with the Dutch club NAC Breda, claims Forest were aware that he wanted to leave last December and that, had they allowed him to look elsewhere, he might still be at the City Ground now.

"I would have been playing if there were no offers for me," he said. "Because of the fact they turned it down right away, but they knew in December I was going to leave, I felt let down."

Van Hooijdonk claimed his refusal to play is not motivated by greed: "It's not about money. It's about my ambition and I'm careful about my career."

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