Santini effortlessly picks up Spurs' language of farce

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The Independent Football

If he can flop with players like Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane in his side, just imagine what he can do with Gary Doherty and Anthony Gardner.

If he can flop with players like Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane in his side, just imagine what he can do with Gary Doherty and Anthony Gardner.

So were the red half of North London somewhat cruelly saying yesterday as, over at White Hart Lane, Spurs were introducing the former France manager Jacques Santini as the latest great redeemer to lead them back to those glory, glory days.

And just like all Tottenham grand unveilings of their new men in charge, the affair was tinged with the farcical. Where Christian Gross once brazenly waved a ticket to the London Underground, where Glenn Hoddle even more brazenly waved a ticket to the Promised Land, Santini merely waved a few England phrases he had obviously learned on his way up the Seven Sisters Road.

Whatever other qualities Santini possesses - and Daniel Levy, the club chairman, was keen to point out that it is his record with youth players that impressed the Spurs board - a linguist he is not. Indeed, yesterday he reminded of Claudio Ranieri's early days at Chelsea - although without the quick-witted interpreter who saved a thousand notebooks. But if perseverance is what it will take to pull the ailing North Londoners around, then the way Santini stuck to the task of trying to garble out coherent sentences was evidence itself of a canny appointment.

We did discover that Spurs is a "big club", and that "the start of the season is very important with new objective". And at one stage he did delight Levy by quashing the rumours that he only pitched up on this side of the Channel because the French federation were dragging their pieds with a contract extension. "I have a dream for many years to coach a big club in England," he said. "Which for me is perhaps best championship in Europe."

He also went some way to wiping the fevered brows of the squad, who had been party to the rumours of an immediate Santini clear-out. With old luminaries such as Darren Anderton, Gustavo Poyet and Christian Ziege already out the door, many were feared to be following. "It is very important to see the players to have many many information on them," he said.

But it was not until he was persuaded to converse in his mother tongue that the facts of Santini's new reign really started to come out. "I have a three-year plan," he said. "In the first year I shall assess the quality of the group and shall be allowed to recruit. It is important to pick up points in August, September and October and give a dynamic élan to the club."

A long-needed united front is the principal priority, however, and at least with Frank Arnesen, the sporting director, and Martin Jol, the assistant coach, flanking Santini yesterday, Levy believes Spurs at last have the makings of one, and a highly original one at that. "The Continental approach has never actually been tried in England, so if it is good enough for Real Madrid then I think it is good enough for Tottenham," he said.

"The previous structure we had was a bit of a hybrid. David Pleat, who was director of football, often gave the board different opinions to what the manager had and the board's attitude was always to back the manager. That is not the Continental structure, where the coach is responsible for coaching the players and the sporting director is responsible for bringing the best players into the club."

Whether such a rigid structure will work in the maelstrom of the Premiership remains to be seen, as does the question of whether Spurs will eventually emerge as Team Arnesen, Team Santini or even Team Levy. Arnesen, for his part, sees no reason for concern and as the man who discovered Ronaldo at PSV he is confident in his ability to help recreate the golden years of Ossie Ardiles and Co. "We have to persuade the Ardileses of this world that this is a good club to come to," said the Dane.

That more than hinted at out with the old, in with the new, although there was one familiar denizen of the Lane yesterday who was assured of his role in the new set-up. Chris Hughton, the popular assistant coach, was kept on for his knowledge of the Premiership. "He knows the English way inside out," said Levy. Santini should sign up for lessons immediately.

Six phrases to help santini settle

They tell me we won the Double in 1961 - we are a big club.

On m'a dit que nous avons gagné le Double en 1961 - Tottenham est un grand club.

We're three up, lads: it could be a close game.

On mène trois-zero, les gars: il faut se méfier.

Arsenal won again.

Arsenal a encore gagné.

It seems Thierry Henry is better than I thought.

Il paraît que Thierry Henry soit mieux que je croyais.

That Gary Doherty. He's no Zinedine Zidane, is he?

Ce Gary Doherty. Il n'est guère Zinedine Zidane, n'est-ce pas?

I have all Chas and Dave's hits.

J'ai tous les tubes de Charles et David.