Santini vows to turn Spurs into title challengers

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The Independent Football

Jacques Santini today vowed to bring down the curtain on Tottenham's era of under-achievement and transform the club into Barclays Premiership title challengers.

Jacques Santini today vowed to bring down the curtain on Tottenham's era of under-achievement and transform the club into Barclays Premiership title challengers.

Spurs' nine-month hunt for a successor to Glenn Hoddle ended yesterday when Santini was unveiled as their manager with France's boss taking over the White Hart Lane coaching reins after Euro 2004.

Fans' frustration at the club's failure to recruit Giovanni Trappatoni and Martin O'Neill swiftly transformed into euphoria as news of Santini's appointment filtered around the white half of north London.

Santini is one of the biggest names in football after suffering only a solitary defeat in his 23 matches as France coach and his arrival will represent a major coup for Tottenham, who flirted with relegation last season.

And today long-suffering Spurs supporters were given further reason to celebrate when the 52-year-old pledged to bring back the glory days to N17.

"Tottenham are a big club but could be even bigger. The standard of players that have represented them in the past proves this," said Santini.

"My wish is to make Spurs an even bigger club which is capable of challenging the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal."

News of Santini's appointment was leaked to the press yesterday, little over a week before France's crucial Euro 2004 Group B opener against England.

Chairman Daniel Levy drew heavy criticism as Tottenham's search for a new manager following a wretched spell under caretaker-boss David Pleat appeared to have drawn a blank.

But the Spurs chief - who two weeks ago lured Frank Arnesen from PSV Eindhoven to become sporting director at White Hart Lane - enjoyed the last laugh as he delivered the big name fans craved.

And Santini now hopes to forge a successful partnership with Arnesen after hearing of Levy's plans for a club which has fallen on lean times.

"I have a challenge to build a team with Mr Arnesen. The Tottenham chairman has filled me full of confidence over what the future holds," he said.

Santini was courted by several other clubs but insisted he joined for professional rather than financial reasons, relaying his decision to the France squad before the news was made public.

"The money was not a factor in making my decision, it was purely my own decision," he said.

"I was offered jobs by other clubs but after I spoke to Mr Arnesen my mind was made up. I made the decision to reveal my plans yesterday to make my future clear. I also made a point of telling France's players before the information was released."

Santini steered France to Euro 2004 without losing a single group game and he admitted the the French federation's refusal to offer him a new contract ahead of the tournament was instrumental in his decision to seek employment elsewhere.

"I did not receive an offer from the federation or I would have stayed on as manager. But that is in the past and now I have made my decision," he said.

"The French team will go on and I am not abandoning them - right now my focus is with France and my objective is to win Euro 2004."

Former Tottenham skipper Gary Mabbutt - who spent over 15 years at White Hart Lane - was delighted with Santini's appointment and felt it signalled the club's ambition.

"A lot of Tottenham fans will have been smiling over their breakfast this morning. The light has suddenly appeared at the end of a very long tunnel. It's a major coup for Spurs because Santini is a very astute coach," he said.

"His appointment makes a huge statement about the club's determination to be challenging for major honours.

"There were a lot of sceptics out there who never thought Santini would ever be at Tottenham."

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