Football: Gross is the choice as Tottenham join the Continental club

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur have found a replacement for their underachieving manager, Gerry Francis.

Christian Gross, a 43-year-old Swiss, is expected to take over next Monday as Spurs follow their London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea in going Continental. Nick Duxbury reports.

It is Gerry Francis' birthday two weeks on Saturday, but it is unlikely there will be much celebrating when it comes to blowing out the 46 candles on his cake.

By then, Christian Gross, the coach of Zurich Grasshopper, will be settled in nicely at Tottenham Hotspur. The Grasshoppers president, Romano Spadaro, revealed yesterday that the 43-year-old Gross will be ensconced at White Hart Lane on Monday - the day Spurs entertain Crystal Palace - with his current assistant, Fritz Schmid, as his right-hand man.

Spadaro said that Gross, who had been thought to be joining a German club, had signed an 18-month contract, with the job title of head coach. The brief from the Tottenham chairman, Alan Sugar, will be straightforward - to bring the championship to Spurs for the first time since Bill Nicholson in 1961.

Francis, Tottenham's 13th manager since the war and the fifth in the last 10 years, is expected to leave, although there were suggestions yesterday that he might be given a new role at the club.

The only comment from Tottenham came from Daniel Sugar, the club's operations manager and son of the chairman. When asked if Francis had gone, he replied: "No. That's the answer in one word."

Tottenham's players have been told to report for training today at White Hart Lane - rather than the training ground - and are expected to be informed of the change of management.

Francis, who took over from Ossie Ardiles in November 1994, has come under increasing pressure as his team sit 16th in the table. He has been thwarted by injuries and expensive but ultimately disappointing signings. Some pounds 30m has been lavished on players, including Chris Armstrong, Ruel Fox, David Ginola, John Scales, Andy Sinton, Steffen Iversen, Alan Nielsen and the Grasshopper defender, Ramon Vega.

Francis has recouped pounds 16m on sales, but Sugar, whose expectation this season was a European place at the very least, recently admitted that the 30-year-old Les Ferdinand had been a pounds 6m buy born out of panic rather than business sense.

Francis has been on a knife edge since the recent 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, after which he said: "If Alan says to me it is time for something to happen then I would have to accept it. I've never managed a team that finished in the bottom half of the table and I don't intend to start now."

Gross, Grasshopper coach since 1993, has won two championships and the cup. However, his coaching experience has been confined to Switzerland.

It may be that the success of the Dutchman Ruud Gullit at Chelsea and the Frenchman Arsene Wenger at Arsenal has persuaded Sugar that the Continental approach is best. Only time will tell if Gross can hold a candle to either of them.

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