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Thursday, September 24, 1998 Published at 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK


George Graham: Football's comeback king

Graham was the toast of Highbury after winning the Cup Winners' Cup

George Graham has been confirmed as the new manager of Tottenham after leaving Leeds - the latest twist in a remarkable career.

The world of football management is notorious for its rollercoaster nature.

But there are not too many managers who have scaled the peaks and suffered the lows like George Graham.

From winning a heap of silverware at Arsenal, to being banned by the FA for accepting 'bungs', he has seen it all.

Taking over as head coach at Tottenham merely proves Graham's liking for a challenge.

Because after the relative stability of a Leeds side who qualified for Europe with ease last season but never actually looked like winning anything, he will be taking on one of the toughest jobs in the game at White Hart Lane.

'Winning is everything'

Graham is a man who has always craved success - but he has never courted popularity.


[ image: Stroller: As a player he was open and sociable. It soon changed]
Stroller: As a player he was open and sociable. It soon changed
The 53-year-old Scot is an uncompromising figure who insists on doing it his way and seems to have no particular desire to be liked.

His pragmatic footballing ethos would appear to be at odds with the grandiose traditions of Tottenham, where style is often revered ahead of substance.

Arsenal's success under Graham, on the other hand, was based on solid defence - and his sterile tactics often led to abuse from the critics.

But Graham's response - which was always along the lines of "Yes, winning is boring, isn't it?" - said much about his single-mindedness and total self belief.

'Mr Graham' gets Gunners firing

From his days as a laid-back midfielder in Arsenal's Double-winning side of 1970-71, Graham has always set himself the ultimate challenges in his career.


[ image: The 1989 League title was one of Graham's greatest successes]
The 1989 League title was one of Graham's greatest successes
After a highly successful playing career with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Scotland, "The Stroller", as he was known in the 1970s, quickly moved into management at Millwall.

His success at the Den led to his return to Highbury, replacing Don Howe as manager in 1986.

When he arrived at the famous old stadium it is said that he was greeted by his new secretary, who had served faithfully under Howe. "Hello, George, it's nice to have you back," was the welcome. "It's Mister Graham now," was his clipped reply.

Under the pressures of top-flight management, Graham's public persona changed from good-humoured charmer to dour disciplinarian.

The laughs may have been in short supply, but with Graham's arrival, the good times returned for the Gunners. They won six trophies in the next nine years, inluding two league titles and the 1994 Cup Winners' Cup.

He had established himself as one of the finest tactians of his generation, who had taken on continental football's deep thinkers and beaten them at their own game.

Banned but not beaten

But just when he had reached the pinnacle of his career, it suddenly all went wrong.

In 1995 he was unceremoniously sacked by Arsenal following allegations he had accepted illegal payments from a transfer involving Danish midfielder John Jensen.

The decision was met with bitter resistance from Graham, who branded the club's verdict "a kangaroo-court judgment".

This feeling that he had been stabbed in the back by a club he had returned to greatness may well be one of the motivating factors for his up-coming move to Tottenham.

Because, while Spurs and George Graham are hardly the most compatible of bed-fellows, there is one important characteristic they have in common:

They both desperately want to exact their revenge on Arsenal.



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