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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Pleat the Spurs survivor
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Pleat has come through the Spurs sackings
Spurs have again turned to David Pleat to fill the gap created by another managerial sacking - White Hart Lane's great survivor lives again.

Pleat is back on familiar territory in the role of caretaker manager, a job he stepped into when Spurs' new owners cruelly sacrificed George Graham to offer them fans' hero Glenn Hoddle in March 2001.

Hoddle has now suffered the same fate as Graham, and once more the veteran Pleat is solving the problem created by backroom instability.

But if Spurs see Pleat as the answer to the problem, albeit temporarily, others may suggest the 58-year-old White Hart Lane director of football is actually part of the problem.

Pleat's role has not appeared to dove-tail with strong characters such as Graham and Hoddle during their terms as manager.

It is hard to imagine the strong-minded Graham being swayed by Pleat in matters of vital importance, while he has admitted he was not always in agreement with Hoddle.

But while managers pay the price for poor results, Pleat not only survives, but appears to prosper in his job as overlord.

Now there is even talk that Pleat, one of the game's great philosophers, may actually emerge as an even more powerful figure after Hoddle's sacking.

There is a school of thought that Spurs may appoint what is effectively a high-profile coach to work with Pleat, who will handle transfers and contracts.

It may be no co-incidence that Raddy Antic, a long-time associate of Pleat from Luton and the man whose relegation-saving goal prompted his infamous two-step across Maine Road, is in the frame.

It would be the most retrograde of steps, with Pleat having enjoyed one season of relative success as Spurs boss in 1986/87.

My relationship with Glenn Hoddle was that between two football people - not necessarily always of the same views
David Pleat

Since his departure, he has enjoyed a less than distinguished managerial record at Leicester City, Luton Town and Sheffield Wednesday, where he was sacked only 12 games into a Premiership season.

He pitched up again at Spurs in 1998 - but evidence to suggest he is the man to guide Spurs through the next few years is virtually non-existent.

And if men of the calibre of Graeme Souness or Martin O'Neill do end up in the Spurs hot-seat, it is difficult to see Pleat exerting serious influence in that new era.

Pleat may be Spurs' director of football, but little flak appears to fly in his direction when crises crop up, or results go wrong and victims are being sought.

He was at pains to explain he is not responsible for first team activity.

Pleat says: "My relationship with Glenn was that between two football people - not necessarily always of the same views but we had a proper relationship.

"The football director is always, wherever he is, is going to be in that vulnerable position when something like this happens because people will think 'what is a football director's role?'

"I can only say it seems to have worked at other clubs whether it is PSV Eindhoven, Bayern Munich, Leicester City, Stoke City or Newcastle United.

"There are directors of football who are helping to run their club as a whole not just the senior team, and they will always have to have a view because that's their job within the club."

The sounds of straws being clutched can be heard with the names of Leicester and Stoke and the success of their respective directors of football.

And few outside Newcastle would know their director of football is the Coventry and Leicester manager of long ago Gordon Milne.

As for being "vulnerable", it is a fair bet Graham and Hoddle now wish they had been as vulnerable as Pleat.

Pleat insists he has a finger in many pies, with particular emphasis on the youth team.

But with Graham and Hoddle both gone and Pleat sailing serenely on, he would appear to occupy a position of power without ultimate responsibility when it comes to those whose jobs are at stake.

This may be about to change as Spurs contemplate a new era - with the stakes now as high for the director of football as they have been in the past for the manager.

Who will get the Spurs job?
Raddy Antic
Alan Curbishley
Alex McLeish
Martin O'Neill
David Pleat
Graeme Souness
Klaus Toppmoller
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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