Football: Pleat in pursuit of new happiness

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The Independent Online
DAVID PLEAT has promised to put the smile back into the Tottenham dressing-room while he is in charge of team affairs. The club's director of football has assumed the role of first-team coach until a successor is found to Christian Gross, who was sacked on Saturday.

Pleat hinted that Spurs would be a better place of work for the players under his rule than it was under that of his Swiss predecessor, who some feel may have had a communication problem with his players.

"I might have to say one or two things to the players in an English they understand," Pleat said. "They can relate to me - I am not into poetry or Shakespeare or Churchill's war memoirs, and I don't throw cold water buckets over them or whatever you have to do to get them going.

"There is a banter within that dressing-room that has to be understood. There are innuendoes and all sorts of things. Footballers are a strange breed and are of a certain culture."

Pleat also admitted there were times when he wanted to interfere in the way Gross ran the team but was unable to, which suggested he and Gross did not have a particularly good working relationship.

He said: "There was one particular occasion when I was sitting in the stand and I wanted to go and give some advice to Christian, and it was very frustrating. There was one particular game when I felt sure I could have helped.

"This director of football job can be done if there is sense on all sides. When Lawrie McMenemy was at Southampton he used to watch the games, because I do believe you need an overview. He would go down at half-time and have two minutes with Alan Ball in the boot room before he went in and spoke to the players.

"You can concur at half-time very quickly and give the manager one thing he needs to do, such as saying: `Keep Ginola on the touchline'. I don't see it as an awkward position if you can relate to people. It is only if you get jealous of people and want to take their job, and that is not what I came here for."

Pleat, who was one of Tottenham's more successful managers during his spell in charge at White Hart Lane towards the end of the Eighties, is relishing his temporary new role in the hot seat.

"I see my job description as having to maintain and revive the spirit and confidence; win one or two games and keep steady; don't shout too much, don't cry too much; just get on with the business and give the club a chance to find a realistic successor who genuinely can take the club forward," he said. "I shall try and enjoy it, although it is difficult when the pressure is on. If you feel you are capable, you shouldn't deny yourself the opportunity to do the job when you are asked to do it.

"Sometimes, what goes around comes around, and I am pleased to be here. I have come to terms with lots of things and as long as I am calm and sensible about this, we will be okay.

"They have given some responsibility to me and I am going to do my very best to help Tottenham. I shall be very proud if we can move forward. I have got something to offer and I want to help out. I am a democratic manager and I like to invite the views of the players - that is the way I have done things."

Tottenham's England duo, Sol Campbell and Darren Anderton, are both ruled out of Pleat's first game in charge, at home to Blackburn tonight, but there is some good news as Anderton's knee injury is not as bad as was first feared.

"Darren will not need to have an operation, and we hope to have him back as quickly as possible," Pleat said. "Sol had a dead leg but he is a very solid man and suggested he could be back for Sunday."

Espen Baardsen will continue in goal, and Pleat gave a vote of confidence to Ramon Vega, who was booed by Spurs fans on his last home appearance. "I give credit to Vega because he has had to put up with a lot here. Gerry Francis signed him, but I think there was an association that because he was Swiss you get at one man through another. He had a hard time in the last home game but he pulled himself around and did admirably at Everton in a backs-to-the-wall job, so he may be involved tomorrow.

"I don't think I need to change too much. The team had a resilient display at Everton and if there is a solidarity and determination amongst the group then they have the ability to achieve."