`Sugar didn't want me to go' - Francis

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Tottenham yesterday confirmed the departure of their manager, Gerry Francis. The surprise is that Francis, rather than being sacked, had resigned against his chairman's wishes. Glenn Moore reports.

Not only did Gerry Francis jump, he did so with Alan Sugar attempting to hold him back rather than push him out.

That was the unexpected scenario at White Hart Lane, according to both the departing Tottenham manager and the football club's chairman. In front of a battery of TV cameras, photographers' lenses and tape recorders Francis yesterday revealed that he had forced Sugar into accepting his resignation not the other way around.

Sugar confirmed that Francis will be replaced by the 43-year-old Christian Gross who will be unveiled at White Hart Lane today before returning to Switzerland for Zurich Grasshopper's weekend fixture. He takes charge at Spurs in time for Monday's Premiership home match with Crystal Palace. Chris Hughton, the former Spurs player and current youth coach, will be his No 2.

The 45-year-old Francis, who managed Tottenham for three years and three days, said he was still not "exactly certain" he had made the right decision but, "once you've made it, you've made it."

His immediate future was to relax with his family - Julie, his wife, is expecting their third child. His long-term future is unsure. Francis has always insisted he does not need football but, while that is true financially, he may feel the need to prove himself again. He said he had already had "a couple of enquiries" and has, inevitably, been linked with his former club, managerless Queen's Park Rangers.

Sugar paid a glowing tribute to Francis citing accolades from senior players and a personal feeling that Francis would go on and make "some other chairman a very lucky person". However, he looked on less firm ground when he was asked if he would be just as supportive of Francis if Tottenham had still been in 16th position in March. "That's very hypothetical. One wouldn't know what one would be doing then," he said, adding that he was "annoyed" at being "forced to act against the best interests of the club".

Given that Sugar recently spoke of the difficulties of parting company with a manager mid-season when it is difficult to find a replacement, his comments did nothing to counter the widespread belief that, had Francis not resigned, he would have been released when his contract expired in the summer.

Sugar went on to blame the media for the team's results because they had created a climate of depression. There is some truth in this, but it ignores the impact on the fans of Spurs' departure, under Francis, from their stylish playing traditions.

"I have made this decision solely by myself. Alan Sugar has never once mentioned to me anything about resigning," Francis said. "He has consistently attempted to change my mind." He also spoke of his "deep regret" at finding it "necessary to resign". He said Spurs "had gone very close to achieving things" but, "this season, our results have not been good enough."

Francis went on to talk, inevitably, of injuries of which there have been many, notably Darren Anderton, and unwanted departures such as those of Jurgen Klinsmann. He spoke, again, of his pride at achieving the best record over the first 50 matches of any Spurs manager, and with sadness of the pain of recent defeats.

Though dented, Francis' reputation as a coach remains high - he was considered by England before they appointed Glenn Hoddle.

Spurs' fans, however, seem happy to see him go. A spokesman for the Spurs Action Group said: "Supporters have been calling for this for a long time." The Tottenham Independent Supporters' Association, was less triumphalist. "It is unfortunate, but when things don't go well it's the manager who carries the can," their spokesman, Bernie Kingsley, said.

For the players, Sol Campbell said: "Everyone is sad Gerry is going but we understand the situation." Clive Wilson said: "He has been withdrawn lately, not the Gerry I know." He added, of his new boss: "I'm sure it will be a case of Christian Who? for a lot of people, but they were saying Arsene Who? when Wenger took over at Arsenal."

The appointment of Gross was welcomed by John Barnwell, chief executive of the League Managers' Association. Barnwell was consulted by Sugar as the LMA could have objected to Gross' work permit, but Barnwell said Gross was among the top dozen foreign coaches and "very accomplished".

Gross already has one big advantage when it comes to coaching at Tottenham. Two seasons ago he faced a massive injury crisis at Grasshopper, using 30 players in 36 games, yet managed to win the title. If only Francis could have done the same.

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