Football: Klinsmann and Pleat brought back to rescue Tottenham

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The Independent Online
Tottenham Hotspur yesterday announced the return of Jurgen Klinsmann and David Pleat. Klinsmann, who left the club amid acrimony in 1995, has been signed to save the club from relegation. Pleat, who left in disgrace a decade ago, has a wider brief. Glenn Moore reports on another extraordinary day at White Hart Lane.

If Chigwell's millionaire's row has the same Yuletide traditions as suburbia, one can expect to see the Bentley in front of Alan Sugar's house being washed with a white shirt bearing the legend KLINSMANN 18 on Christmas morning.

One would not expect Sugar to be doing it himself but, if his chauffeur has the day off, there will be no shortage of Tottenham fans willing to escape the kids and help out now that their chairman has decided Klinmann's shirt is fit not just to scrub the motor but also to lead Spurs out of a lather.

It is less than three years since Sugar derided the German after a glorious but truncated spell at White Hart Lane, but yesterday he welcomed back his club's most famous "Carlos Kickabout" with a mumbled dismissal of his former ire. Tellingly he also made very clear that Klinsmann has initially signed only until the summer, so there would be "no misunderstandings".

It was a "misunderstanding" about the length of Klinsmann's stay which caused the unsavoury breakdown in communications between the two after Klinsmann's summer 1995 departure to Bayern Munich. Sugar, who anticipated Klinsmann would stay another season, said a signed shirt Klinsmann had given him was not even fit for washing the car. Klinsmann, who had scored 29 goals in the season and been voted Footballer of the Year, said Sugar was "a man without honour".

Their harsh exchanges have long been replaced by mutual respect. This was evident when Klinsmann made a video contribution to a spoof This is Your Life Sugar's family arranged for his 50th birthday last Autumn.

They have remained in regular touch. Thus, when Christian Gross, Spurs' new manager, told Sugar striking reinforcements were needed in the wake of complications with Chris Armstrong's ankle injury, he knew who to call. That Gross and Klinsmann have mutual friends, and the same lawyer, made things easier.

The irony is that one of the barbs Sugar wrongly aimed at Klinsmann when they were estranged - that he needed his year at Spurs to re-launch his career - is now true. Klinsmann has been injured and out-of-favour at Sampdoria, further jeopardising a World Cup place already threatened by a poor scoring record since Euro 96.

"Berti Vogts [the German manager] is happy with the decision," Klinsmann said yesterday. "He wants me to approach the World Cup with confidence." Sugar added: "It is perfect for both of us."

Klinsmann, speaking in the same Bill Nicholson suite in which he announced his arrival in 1994, said: "I had a fantastic year here. I was made to feel very comfortable by everybody and you don't forget that. I have felt attached to the club ever since. I feel I am coming back home."

Christmas delays may prevent Klinsmann from making a debut on Boxing Day (against Aston Villa and his former nemesis Mark Bosnich) but, with Sampdoria eager enough to send a representative to London with Klinsmann yesterday, they hope to complete the paperwork for a home debut on Sunday 28 December. That would be against - who else? - Arsenal, who will be without their own talisman, Ian Wright, through suspension.

The deal, which cost Spurs pounds 175,000 plus wages estimated at pounds 30,000-plus a week, is to the end of the season, but talks about extending it may take place in the spring. "I'm not getting any younger," said the 33-year- old Klinsmann, but he added, referring to a knee injury which kept him out for two and a half months: "I am fit."

Pleat left the club under a cloud in 1987. He had taken a thrilling side to the FA Cup final and third place only to be forced to resign after it was reported that he had been stopped for kerb-crawling. He will be director of football responsible for youth development, scouting and contracts. He will doubtless advise Gross with transfers but will not be involved in team selection or coaching the first team.

He turned down a similar offer three years ago, later opting to join Sheffield Wednesday. Sacked by them earlier this season, Pleat, who will be given a seat on the board when he starts on 15 January, said: "I'm proud, privileged and pleased to be going back."

Suggestions last night that Alan Gilzean, Martin Chivers, Dave Mackay, Jimmy Greaves and Terry Venables were also returning to Tottenham are believed to be without foundation.

past imperfect: sugar v klinsmann

Klinsmann on Sugar

`He only ever talks about money. He never talks about the game. I would say there is a big question mark over whether Sugar's heart is in the club and in football. The big question is what he likes more, the business or the football?'

Sugar, in a televised interview, produces the shirt that Klinsmann wore in his last performance for Tottenham:

`I wouldn't wash my car with it now. There you are, you can have it if you want it.'