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FOOTBALL: CUT DIRECTOR'S; Pleat axed as Spurs step up O'Neill chase.

Byline: Martin LIPTON

SPURS chairman Daniel Levy is ready to offer Martin O'Neill whatever it takes to bring the Celtic boss to White Hart Lane.

Levy last night began his dramatic Tottenham overhaul by confirming the appointment of former Denmark midfielder Frank Arnesen as the club's new "sporting director" and the forced departure of David Pleat after six years as director of football.

But the Spurs chairman knows he will be judged by the fans on the quality of man he delivers to finally replace Glenn Hoddle as full-time manager after seven months of limbo under Pleat.

While O'Neill will make no decisions about his future until after Saturday's Scottish Cup Final, the fact the Celtic chief has not rebuffed their advances has increased Levy's confidence he can land the ex-Leicester boss.

And now the Spurs hierarchy are ready to offer him a pounds 1.6million-per-year package, as well as bringing in his Celtic Park coaches John Robertson and former Tottenham and Arsenal defender Steve Walford.

O'Neill was always the first name on the Tottenham short-list after Hoddle's dismissal in September, although the trail appeared to go cold when his aversion to working with Pleat emerged.

Spurs feared the Irishman was waiting for a more enticing offer from elsewhere and Levy turned to a succession of potential candidates, including Wales' Mark Hughes and Lazio's Roberto Mancini.

The Spurs chairman believed he had struck a deal with Italian national coach and former Juventus boss Giovanni Trapattoni only for the veteran to pull out two months ago, citing his wife's reluctance to move to England.

During those negotiations, Spurs became aware there was a renewed possibility of O'Neill considering a return to the Premiership.

And when Trapattoni removed himself from the running, Levy was determined to pull out all the stops at his disposal to land 51-year-old O'Neill, whose family home in Buckinghamshire is just 45 minutes from the Spurs Lodge training ground.

Levy may have to convince O'Neill that Arnesen's appointment would not see the former PSV Eindhoven general manager stepping on his toes and over-ruling him as manager.

Unlike Pleat, Arnesen will not have a seat on the board and Levy believes the demarcation lines between the manager and the Dane would be clear and decisive.

Spurs stressed Arnesen would be "in charge of all matters relating to the footballing side of the club and the recruitment of key personnel", with special responsibility for developing and implementing youth, scouting, medical and international policy.

But control over transfer policy would be shared with the next manager.

That would allow O'Neill and his coaching staff sway over the day-to-day running of the first team.

While Levy is desperate to lure O'Neill, Claudio Ranieri is in the frame along with Ronald Koeman of Ajax and Bert Van Marwijk, who is leaving Feyenoord.

Arnesen said: "The structure Daniel is setting up suits me very well."

CAPTION(S):

TIME'S UP: David Pleat is on his way as Levy begins a Spurs clear-out before the new season; NEW PARTNERSHIP? Arnesen and O'Neill
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 20, 2004
Words:506
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