Tottenham still determined to capture O'Neill

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The Independent Football

Tottenham will make a move for the Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, straight after the Scottish Cup Final.

Tottenham will make a move for the Celtic manager, Martin O'Neill, straight after the Scottish Cup Final.

The Spurs chairman, Daniel Levy, is convinced O'Neill is the man to take charge and hopes he will succeed in one last, bold attempt. Spurs will offer O'Neill an open cheque book for players and complete control of playing matters and signings. And Levy will sacrifice the club's director of football, David Pleat, if O'Neill demands that there is no one above him in the pecking order at White Hart Lane.

O'Neill has been Tottenham's principal target since Glenn Hoddle was sacked, but his reluctance to move left Pleat in the post as caretaker. Giovanni Trapattoni had emerged as a leading contender, but he has dropped out of the running.

O'Neill is building up for a summer of change at Parkhead, with players like Henrik Larsson leaving and others needed to come in. The Ulsterman has dropped hints about wanting money for playersand has a family home near London, so it would be no problem for him on the domestic front. But the wrench of leaving Celtic would be the final hurdle.

Pleat will take charge of Spurs today for the last time, knowing that he will pay the price for failure this season - and to ease the way for his successor to feel more comfortable about taking over.

At the end of a week when Tottenham released Darren Anderton, Gus Poyet and Christian Ziege, whose combined age is exactly 100, it seemed right that Pleat should sign off as caretaker manager by talking up the youthful potential of the squad he leaves behind.

There has not been much else for fans of the north London club to crow about. Not only are their neighbours Arsenal on the verge of completing a league season unbeaten and as champions but Spurs' own league form has been as wretched as at any time in a poor campaign. One win in nine games sums up a season that only just recently shook off the spectre of relegation.

Their hopes of salvaging something from the FA Cup also disappeared with their 4-3 capitulation at home to Manchester City in January, but with the club's latest signing, Paul Robinson, on show yesterday, the green shoots of recovery might just be visible.

That, at least, is how Pleat sees it, with former youth team players now pushing for promotion to the first team for what is an almost meaningless game at Wolves today, bar the incentive of Premiership place money. Midfielders Rohan Ricketts, Johnnie Jackson and, more recently, right-back Stephen Kelly have all tasted senior action this season and Mark Yeates, a forward, could make his debut today as well.

Pleat said: "We've developed a group of younger players. Nine of the players involved today are British, not that that itself is a barometer of success. It's potentially a vibrant group here.

"We've had more players come through our academy and play in the first team than any other Premiership side. We're quite pleased with that. Whether they will establish themselves in the first team remains to be seen. It's how they cope mentally that's so important."

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