On This Day In 1993: Tottenham Hotspur Bring Back Legendary Player Ossie Ardiles As Manager
Tottenham fans might have raised a wry smile at Manchester United appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, or at the supposedly imminent return of Frank Lampard to Chelsea. They have been here before and will tell you it doesn’t usually end well.
Turning to a club legend in a time of crisis is an obvious way to win over the fans, one Alan Sugar experimented with in 1993 as he welcomed back Ossie Ardiles.
The Argentine’s love affair with Spurs had begun with his surprise arrival following Argentina’s triumph at the 1978 World Cup, signed alongside compatriot forward Ricky Villa.
As a player, he would secure legendary status by helping them to the 1981 FA Cup, even if the final against Manchester City is chiefly remembered for Villa’s weaving ‘goal of the century’.
Three years later, Ardiles would play a key role in lifting the UEFA Cup as Anderlecht were defeated on penalties in the second leg in London.
All that meant he was sure to be embraced back at White Hart Lane, where his appointment was confirmed in the early hours of 19 June 1993.
Sugar is not one to grovel, but he was well aware that his standing among the supporters – whose club he had saved financially – had taken a nosedive with Terry Venables’ sacking.
To make matters worse, the crucial boardroom meeting came the day before Arsenal played in the FA Cup final. The other half of north London could only watch on in disbelief, Spurs appearing a shambles to the outside world.
Ardiles had his selling points. As a star name with incredible prestige, he was able to convince Jurgen Klinsmann to join. Just as well too, as were it not for the German’s goals Tottenham would likely have been relegated.
They finished the 1993/94 campaign having avoided the drop by just three points, finishing 15th.
The goals rained. Back when the Premier League season was played over 42 games, Tottenham let in 59 – not quite the record 100 that Swindon Town shipped that season, but enough to earn them a reputation for hopeless defending and Ardiles a synonymity with their kamikaze approach.
He was ultimately sacked three months into his second season, though Daniel Levy would arguably fail to learn from Sugar’s mistakes several years later when he opted for Glenn Hoddle.
Yet Ardiles remains an ambassador and regularly attends games, his unfortunate foray into management doing little to diminish his relationship with the club.