Tottenham’s Record with Foreign Managers – a Warning for Andre Villas-Boas


There’s a clear message for Andre Villas-Boas, the new Tottenham Head Coach, that he needs to work quickly to impress his new employers or he could be on his way out of White Hart Lane, as other foreign managers/coaches have gone before him. Tottenham’s record with foreign coaches is poor with only Martin Jol making any sort of positive impression and while Juande Ramos did oversee a Carling Cup success, it was all downhill from then on.

Tottenham first appointed a foreign manager/coach in 1993 and Andre Villas-Boas is the sixth foreign occupant of the manager’s chair at White Hart Lane.

Ossie Ardiles (July, 1993 – October, 1994)

Ossie Ardiles, Spurs’ first foreign manager

Ardiles was appointed in July, 1993 in the aftermath of the court cases and upheaval surrounding the removal of Terry Venables by Alan Sugar. Sugar needed an appointment to appease the irate supporters and he went for a fans’ favourite, former player Osvaldo Ardiles who had just completed a successful season with West Bromwich Albion. Ardiles was under pressure from the outset as players who still supported Venables looked to leave with Neil Ruddock signing for Liverpool and Vinny Samways moving to Everton. After so much turmoil at the club, it was a relief when the season finally began at Newcastle United and Teddy Sheringham scored the only goal of the match to get Ardiles’ Tottenham managerial career off to a positive start. The next match saw Arsenal at White Hart Lane but a late goal spoiled the Ardiles’ party. They then defeated Manchester City and Liverpool, at Anfield, to continue the positive start to the season. By the beginning of October, after ten matches, Spurs were fifth and Teddy Sheringham had scored nine goals. In the next game at Old Trafford, however, Sheringham was injured and was out for six months. Without Sheringham’s goals Spurs’ season slumped and it was only after his return and the goals he then contributed that Tottenham finally dragged themselves clear of relegation in the penultimate match of the season.

The following season also saw Tottenham under a cloud as they took on board their punishment from the Football Association over the financial irregularities which had come to light during the fall-out between Sugar and Venables. A twelve point deduction in the League would almost certainly have guaranteed relegation before a ball was kicked, expulsion from the FA Cup and a heavy fine made White Hart Lane a despondent place. Players weren’t prepared to sign and prospects were looking very bleak. Alan Sugar challenged the punishment and unexpectedly made a very significant signing – Jurgen Klinsmann who gave the club an immediate boost with his enthusiasm. When the season started the points deduction had been reduced to six and later the reduction and the FA Cup ban were withdrawn and replaced with a larger fine.

At the start of the season Ardiles focused on attack, with the ‘Famous 5′ of Darren Anderton, Nicky Barmby, Ilie Dumitrescu, Sheringham and Klinsmann. It worked as Spurs lit up the Premier League with their brand of exciting, attacking football. In the opening series of results, Spurs beat Sheffield Wednesday 4 -3 and Everton 2 – 1 but then results slipped through defensive frailties and following a shock defeat in the Coca-Cola Cup at Notts County, Ardiles’ time at Spurs drew to a close. He won his final match in charge against West Ham United but was then dismissed, along with his Assistant, Steve Perryman, who had one match in charge as Caretaker manager. Alan Sugar admitted that it was one of the hardest decisions he had to make at Tottenham because he really liked Ardiles.

Christian Gross (November, 1997 – September, 1998

Christian Gross with Ticket at Tottenham

Gerry Francis replaced Ardiles but left in November, 1997. Sugar made a surprise appointment by bringing Christian Gross from Switzerland where he was highly regarded as manager of Grasshopper. Outside of central Europe, he was little known and was universally referred to as ‘Christian Who?’ He arrived for his press interview at the club brandishing a tube ticket having made his way from Heathrow by using the London Underground. The press picked up on this and he was frequently ridiculed as he endured a tough period at the club. Spurs won their first match under his management at Everton (2 – 0) but then lost 1 – 6 at home to Chelsea in his next match. Results didn’t improve even after Jurgen Klinsmann returned and it was only in the penultimate match of the season that they ensured their Premier League survival with a David Ginola inspired 6 – 2 win at Wimbledon, when Klinsmann scored four goals. The following season started with the team in disarray and defeats in the opening two matches. The players hadn’t responded to Gross’ ideology and although they then won at Everton (1 – 0), it was to be his final match and Gross was on his way at the beginning of September.

Jacques Santini (July – November, 2004)

Jacques Santini – four months at SpursJacques Santini (July, 2004 – November, 2004)

After the sacking of Glenn Hoddle in September, 2003, Daniel Levy spent the rest of the season searching for a new manager. It was announced that Santini, the French national coach would take up the post at the end of Euro 2004. He brought in a host of new players and a very hard working defensive style of football. On the opening day of the season his team had 7 players making their debut, Sean Davis, Erik Edman, Phil Ifil, Pedro Mendes, Noureddine, Paul Robinson and Thimothee Atouba. Jermain Defoe scored the goal in a 1 – 1 draw against Liverpool. While Spurs were eleventh in the League at the end of October, they had only scored six goals in eleven League games. He resigned on the eve of the match against Charlton Athletic and was replaced by Martin Jol, who had been his assistant.

Martin Jol (November, 2004 – October, 2007)

Martin Jol, Spurs’ most successful foreign manager

Martin Jol had an immediate impact on the team with a more expansive style of football and had a real affinity with the club, its history and the fans. Spurs scored six  goals in his first two matches but conceded eight in those two home matches against Charlton Athletic and Arsenal, losing both. Then in December the team went on a run of five successive League wins. Spurs finished the season in ninth place and the following year were pipped for fourth by Arsenal, having been in the Champions League place for much of the season. Spurs were back in Europe the next year but lost in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup to Juande Ramos’ Sevilla team. They again finished fifth but during the summer there was speculation over Jol’s future at the club when officials were photographed in Spain having discussions with Ramos. It was all denied but after a poor start to the next season, Jol was under pressure and during a UEFA Cup tie at White Hart Lane, the news circulated among the fans that he was to be replaced by Ramos and behold it did come to pass.

Juande Ramos (October, 2007 – October, 2008)

Juande Ramos

Ramos brought a greater organisation to the team and initially the players responded, especially in the Carling Cup ties taking the team to the Wembley Final. The Cup run saw Spurs defeat Blackpool in Ramos’ first match in charge, then win at Manchester City with ten men and defeat Arsenal in the semi-final with a memorable 5 – 1 success in the second leg at White Hart Lane. The Final was equally memorable as Spurs defeated Chelsea in extra time having been a goal down at half-time. Dimitar Berbatov equalised with a penalty and then Jonathan Woodgate headed the winner from a free-kick four minutes in to extra time. Cue massive Tottenham celebrations and the players going through the motions for the rest of the season, winning only three of their final twelve League matches. The departure of Berbatov and Robbie Keane didn’t help the manager but when the team had only two points from eight matches and were bottom of the League, Daniel Levy struck again and without any warning Harry Redknapp was installed as manager.

With such a poor record under foreign managers, it’s a surprise that Tottenham have again decided on that approach. The appointment of Harry Redknapp in 2008 seemed to mark the end of the experimentation with foreign coaches who while successful in their domestic competitions around the Continent, sometimes find it difficult to adapt their ideas for the intensity and pressure that accompanies Premier League football in England.

Andre Villas-Boas became aware of that very quickly at Chelsea so will he have learned from his first experience as Tottenham give him a second chance? I hope that he has learned from his mistakes and will come back a better and stronger manager. I’m genuinely excited about the potential there is at Tottenham for Villas-Boas to develop the team into a top class outfit but aware that if he fails, Spurs could be facing another ‘Christian Gross’ moment.