He came, he saw, he caught the tube. Christian Gross was appointed manager of Tottenham Hotspur in 1997, and, thanks to a late plane, made his way to White Hart Lane via the Piccadilly Line. Despite an occasionally impressive win, that journey remains the most memorable aspect of his spell at Spurs.

As they often do, the tabloid press laid into him with the kind of ridicule they usually reserve for England managers, and when his command of the English language proved to be almost as poor as that of Dennis Wise, the journalists got their knives out at every opportunity.

Gross travelled to Everton for his first match, hopefully on the team bus this time, and his side came away with an impressive 2-0 win. However, reality brought him back with a bump on his home debut.

Spurs were trounced 6-1 by Chelsea, and although this will always be a poor result, it’s even worse when considering the Blues were just an ordinary club in those days, not the Roman Abramovich-funded money-men that now tread the Stamford Bridge turf.

A week later, a 4-0 hammering by Coventry didn’t help his cause, and even when his side were winning, many of the faithful weren’t convinced. To make matters even worse, a few miles away at Highbury, another foreign manager was winning the double.


A series of uninspiring draws and occasional defeats was never going to be enough to win over the cynics, and the season ploughed on to an inevitable lower-table finish. A final position of 14th couldn’t disguise the fact that Tottenham were only four points from the relegation zone.

The following season began with two defeats, at Wimbledon and an embarrassing 3-0 hammering at home to Sheffield Wednesday, and an invitation for a chat in the boardroom soon followed. Then-chairman Alan Sugar pointed and said “you’re fired!”. It was dramatic stuff, and a faithful reconstruction is performed every week nowadays when ‘The Apprentice’ is on TV.

After a brief spell of caretaker management by David Pleat, the board said “you’re hired!” to George Graham, a bizarre choice, considering he once played for, and managed, Arsenal. It doesn’t take a genius to work out how much love he received from those on The Shelf.

In retrospect, there was nothing strange about appointing Christian Gross in 1997. He had an excellent record at Grasshoppers, with two league titles and a Swiss Cup to his name. And after leaving London, he managed another Swiss club, FC Basel, to great success.

After an impressive haul of trophies at St. Jakob-Park, Gross left in 2009 to try his luck in Germany’s Bundesliga. VfB Stuttgart appointed him as manager in December, and he followed the likes of Markus Babbel, Giovanni Trapattoni, Matthias Sammer and Felix Magath into the hot seat. The 55-year-old faces an uphill struggle, with the team currently languishing in the land of mid-table mediocrity.

It seems unfair that Gross’s record at White Hart Lane is overshadowed by the image given him by a hostile press. In the weeks leading up to his appointment, Spurs had lost at home to Leeds, Derby and Crystal Palace, and away to Liverpool, Southampton and Newcastle.

A squad that included such talents as Ian Walker, Darren Anderton, Les Ferdinand, David Ginola and Sol Campbell really should have been performing better. It’s a fair bet that when Gross saw the list of players at his new club, he almost certainly saw trophies on the horizon.

In the intervening years, Tottenham have tried a whole host of managers, with little or no success. The present incumbent, Harry Redknapp, appears to be galvanising the side for a big push towards the top four. He may well succeed, and, as far as I’m aware, he rarely catches the tube.