Antic added to 'target list' as Hoddle prepares for Saints

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The Independent Football

What goes around comes around, as Glenn Hoddle might say. So a poor result at home this afternoon against South-ampton, whom the Tottenham manager walked out on in March 2001, might be seen as an apt way for his managerial career at Spurs to end.

The wolves are certainly at the door. Some reports suggest that Hoddle has three matches at most to save his job, others that the feelers are already out for his replacement whatever happens.

To a list of possible targets to replace him that already includes Harry Redknapp, Martin O'Neill and Alex McLeish, the name of Barcelona's former coach, Raddy Antic, was added yesterday.

Tottenham's poor start to the season is one reason for the speculation. They have secured one win and only four points from five games. But a longer-term slump is behind the restlessness at White Hart Lane. Going back into last season, Spurs have lost 10 of their last 15 Premiership matches.

Hoddle seemed relaxed about his future in the run-up to today's match, hopeful that one good result is all he needs to stave off the doubters.

"I'm aware of what's going on outside the realms of this club," he said. "That goes with the territory of being a manager in the Premiership at the moment. But I'm working really hard with the staff and all the players here preparing to get a result against Southampton."

When he walked away from The Dell in 2001, leaving behind a club on the verge of a move to a new stadium and what is proving to be, so far, a new era, Hoddle said he only did so because it was Tottenham who had offered him a job.

He would not have left for any other team, but the emotional pull of north London, where he made his name and became a fans' favourite, was too strong to resist.

Does such an attachment, and the expectation from supporters who revered him as a player, make the current travails harder to bear?

"The pressure has always been there within myself, because I love this club and I'm part of the foundations of it, so that pressure is internal," he said. "But I can't control the external pressures. I'm aware of them, of course, but you get on with your job."

He had been "down this road before", he added, facing pressure as the manager of England, and before that with Chelsea.

"When I was England coach we lost 1-0 to Italy at Wembley when Gianfranco Zola scored, and I said then that we'd still win the qualifying group - and we did. We went to Rome and we qualified for the World Cup. That was a real testing time for me, so you think back and use that experience."

He also cited a poor run at Chelsea in 1993-94 when he turned round a bad start to finish the season in the FA Cup final, having lifted his side to 14th from the relegation mire.

The problem for Hoddle now is that mid-table safety is not the kind of return that the Spurs board is seeking.

They spent £12m in the summer to take Hoddle's transfer outlay to £30m in 28 months. For that, he achieved a ninth-place finish in his first season and 10th in May this year. With no legitimate claim that he has been more hampered by injuries than any other manager, the conclusion has to be that he is, at best, treading water. South-ampton today would like nothing better than to be the side who tug him under.

They relished their 4-0 FA Cup win over Spurs last season that came within days of a league win at St Mary's, and marked the cup win with a video called "White Hart Pain".

The Saints are unbeaten this season, having conceded no goals since the opening 10 minutes of the campaign. And they are looking for a third win on the bounce.

History is on Spurs' side, at least, with Southampton not having won at the Lane for nine years. And it might just need one good result, as Hoddle maintains, to secure a positive change of direction. He said that a few individual errors, plus one bad team performance against Fulham in a 3-0 home defeat, can explain the current predicament.

"There have been many periods in games we've lost where we've performed well. There's a story behind the results and I can see as a coach and with the experience that I've had that if you're performing like that you can turn the corner pretty quick."

If not, it could be the page that is turning.