Commoli pledges to help Spurs be 'great' again

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The Independent Football

Damien who? Tottenham fans, except those well-versed in Arsenal's scouting structure, would have asked that when Spurs announced their new sporting director a fortnight ago.

The answer is Damien Commoli but the question was valid, as the Frenchman had spent seven years underneath the radar in the Gunners' often successful quest to unearth the brightest talent from Europe and Africa. Of course, similar questions were raised when Arsenal appointed Arsène Wenger nine years ago. At White Hart Lane, Commoli will have to work hard to shake off the notion that he is simply a Wenger clone.

The hair is greying, at 33 a tad prematurely, but the open-necked shirt and brown suit do indeed suggest he has picked up every little detail from his more esteemed compatriot.

That is hardly surprising. As a young player he was at Monaco when Wenger was in charge. Aged 20 he took up coaching the club's youth teams with Wenger's encouragement and he eventually followed his mentor to Highbury in 1997.

After the previous sporting director, Frank Arnesen, left for Chelsea, Commoli's appointment can bring cheer to Spurs fans who have seen some promise and plenty of upheaval at their club in the past 14 months. He left Highbury last year and took on the sporting director's job in his homeland at St Etienne and they finished a creditable sixth. As greater proof of his ability, there are the gems he introduced at Highbury.

Names such as Kolo Touré and Gaël Clichy stand out among the untested players he brought to the club while he also helped sign Thierry Henry and Robert Pires.

Spurs will hope Commoli brings the magic touch with him. "It is a great challenge, the right time and a great club," he said yesterday. "I'm looking forward to it. I am very ambitious myself, like the club is, so anything we can do to get to the top will be a good thing."

Naturally, Commoli owes a great debt to the man who is now his rival in north London, and he quickly admits it. "I saw Wenger work at Monaco and then I joined him at Arsenal," he said. "I've great admiration for him. I admire anyone who has success on a long-term basis - that is the most difficult thing in football today."

Commoli will dovetail his work with the Spurs manager Martin Jol and neither will state what the club has as its ultimate objective, be it regular Cup success or qualification for European football. "There is not a strict line that we must follow. We must improve and it is a step-by-step process," the sporting director said.

A self-confessed footballholic - another Wenger trait - Commoli will be working seven days a week to help Spurs, who are without a trophy in six years. Wenger's habit of winning things would be another trait he would do well to follow.