Christian Gross was ridiculed in England for waving a travel card at his Spurs unveiling and was branded a ‘specialist in failure’ by one ex-employer – now Schalke have turned to him in their hour of need after success story at Basel and in Saudi Arabia
- Schalke have appointed former Tottenham manager Christian Gross
- The 66-year-old has spent the last six years managing in Saudi Arabia and Egypt
- He has had a very colourful managing career which has spanned across 38 years
- Gross takes over with Schalke bottom and without a victory since January
Ask each of Christian Gross’ former employers about their memories of his time in charge and the answers will be varied and distinct.
At Tottenham, Gross’ disastrous nine-month spell is best summarised by his bumbling first press conference when he arrived late and brandished a London underground Travel Card, muttering in broken English: ‘I hope this is the ticket to my dreams’.
But at Basel his reign is remembered more fondly, having transformed the club from domestic also-rans into Swiss football’s dominant force over a 10-year period.
Christian Gross has been appointed manager of struggling Bundesliga side Schalke
Gross became a laughing stock in England for waving a Travel Card at his first Spurs presser
Gross’ career as a manager has taken him from England to Egypt to Switzerland to Saudi Arabia, but at each club he has left a very different footprint.
Now Schalke have made the left-field decision to hand him the ropes after a woeful run in the Bundesliga which has seen them fail to win since last January and already cost three managers their jobs this season.
Gross is no stranger to managing in Germany, having taken Stuttgart from 15th to sixth place during his one year in charge between 2009 and 2010 but he has a huge task on his hands with Schalke cut adrift by seven points.
The 66-year-old has been toiling away out of sight in the obscure Saudi Arabian top-flight for much of the past six years, so his appointment has come rather out of the blue.
But Gross has been doing this now since 1988 and Schalke’s precarious position is nothing he’s not faced before.
He was hired as Spurs boss in 1997 but lasted just nine months in the job before he was sacked
Gross took over at Basel and famously drew with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United in Europe
Basel celebrate after scoring at Old Trafford in a 2003 Champions League group game
Christian Gross’ managerial career
1997–1998 Tottenham Hotspur
2009–2010 VfB Stuttgart
2011–2012 Young Boys
Despite becoming a joke figure in England for his failure to grasp the language and that ill-fated first press conference, Gross staved off the very real threat of relegation to keep Tottenham in the Premier League in his first season before being dismissed at the start of the new campaign.
Spurs’ chairman at the time Alan Sugar – who has become famous for his brutal technique of firing people – indicated it was with reluctance more than anything else that he let Gross go after blaming the British media for destroying his reputation.
Before coming over to the Premier League, Gross had cut his teeth in his native Switzerland at FC Wil and Grasshoppers, where he won the Swiss championship and Swiss cup with the latter.
But after his nightmare at Spurs, Gross needed to rebuild and there is nothing quite like home comforts to help the healing phase so he returned to Switzerland to take over at Basel.
Under Gross’ guidance, Basel won four Swiss championships, four Swiss Cups, and mounted a fairytale run in the UEFA Champions League in the 2002–03 season, beating eventual finalists Juventus as well as knocking out Celtic and drawing with Liverpool (twice) and Manchester United.
Gross turned Basel into European dark horses and took them on another remarkable run when they reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup in 2005–06 before being edged out by Middlesbrough over two legs.
Under Gross’ guidance, Basel transformed into the dominant force of Swiss football
Xherdan Shaqiri (L) and Granit Xhaka (R) both came through the ranks during Gross’ tenure
His success against English sides in Europe went a long way to restoring his reputation among British media while on home soil he was the envy of every team.
After one game in 2009, irritated FC Zurich fans attacked him on a tram after he had led Basel to victory over their team – something which had now become customary by now.
At Basel Gross was also well known for helping bring through academy talents Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka – both of whom would go on to represent Switzerland and play in the Premier League.
He moved to Stuttgart after being sacked in 2009 and then had a brief spell at Young Boys.
Ever since 2014 he had been working in Saudi Arabia bar an intervening year at Zamalek.
Zamalek chief Mortada Mansour called Gross a ‘specialist in failure’ after sacking him in 2019
Gross reinvented himself and enjoyed success in Saudi Arabia over his three spells at Al-Ahli
The 66-year-old is now about to begin the latest chapter of his colour career with Schalke
Gross enjoyed two successful years at Al-Ahli, winning the Saudi Professional League, the King Cup and the Saudi Crown Prince Cup and spent another year at the club after a brief hiatus away until leaving in 2017.
Egyptian side Zamalek appointed him in 2018 and he repaid their faith by leading them to the Egyptian-Saudi Supercup in his first year in charge before following it up with victory in the African Confederation Cup in May 2019, which was the first African title for the club since 2002.
Despite winning silverware, his tenure came to an acrimonious end due to a dispute over the length of his contact – with President Mortada Mansour describing him as a ‘specialist in failure’ after sacking him in 2019.
Gross returned to Al-Ahli for a third spell but lasted just four months.
Now Gross is about to begin the latest chapter in his colourful career at Schalke. But will it transpire to be more like Spurs or Basel?
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