And so it goes. Managers come and go but the club goes on. At times like this, you realise it’s all froth and foment that will soon subside. Maybe it’s because I’m getting on a bit now. I’m keen to see what he does and think it’s a good choice, although not without risk. It’s just that I’ve seen so many come and go that the thrill has gone. In the grand scheme of things, here’s another guy. Let’s wait until he gets on with it. When the players get the ball down on the White Hart Lane pitch and pass it. When the noise echoes around the venerable rusty stands that have seen it all before and billows up into the night along with condensing breath from the mouths of the 36,000. When white shirts and navy blue shorts take the field. That’s the club. Not the new man in a raincoat. Not even the man front row centre in the West Stand Upper, even though when the history of this decade is written it will be christened the Levy Era. Not the manager but the chairman’s time. White shirts, navy blue shorts and us. We were there before him and will be there long after he goes.
We would do well to remember that context when the season begins, for the club, our club, will be under intense pressure to succeed. And to think journalists call Tottenham fans fickle, accuse us of easily turning on the team. The tabloid media are not so much sharpening their knives, they’re arming the flame-throwers, polishing the bed of nails and shouldering bazookas, all with their sights keenly focussed on Spurs. They’ve decided that AVB is not the man for us. He comes with several disadvantages. He’s foreign and an intellectual who has never played the game at any level. Any one of those reasons would be sufficient but all three? He doesn’t help himself by being a bit cocky, as well as having a wider vocabulary than many of those who thrust mics in his face. Most TV pundits lack the emotional intelligence to perceive what a threat he is to them, or rather to their smug self-satisfied absence of analysis. They played it and that’s all we the viewers and listeners need to know in order to realise they are RIGHT. Then a guy comes along with other credentials. Fluke. Lucky. Got the breaks. Doesn’t deserve it. Can’t say it openly but you know what they are thinking. Out of his depth. Won’t research or find out what happened at Porto. As the season goes on, listen to how many times the word ‘Porto’ will be followed by ‘but’.
Above all, he’s not Harry Redknapp. Media darling, friend to all, can do no wrong. Sacked by Tottenham Hotspur, the ultimate sin, for which in the eyes of the tabloid media there is no possible absolution. But this isn’t about AVB or any manager. It’s our club they are having a go at. It’s hard to see what will please them; if Spurs won the World Cup it would be down to the players not the manager. We must get behind everyone at the club, more than ever before. Close ranks, they shall not pass. AVB is one of us now. We were there before and we’ll be there after he and the journos have gone.
Me? I haven’t changed. Different guy, same expectations. I’d like good football that wins something. I really want to win something. But above all, I want us to be contenders. I want to challenge in the league and cups, to have a real go at Europe. For teams to be afraid when the fixture against THFC comes around. To take on the big sides. Let’s have a real go at it, and if we fail, so be it. It’s what I said last year, and the one before, and the one before that.
Villas Boas and Spurs should fit like a Saville Row suit. We have some cracking young players who still have something to learn as opposed to the entrenched attitudes he encountered at Chelsea. There he took them on with the absolute conviction of a true believer, whereas a more varied approach that bulldozed through some issues but went the long way round for others might have paid better dividends. He would be well advised to learn from that, but one key difference then and now is that Levy will back him if he sticks to the plan. Abramovich asked AVB to change the team but pulled the rug out from under him when he tried to follow orders.
At Spurs there is a plan. Money is available for the right players, players with value for whom the club is a step up. AVB can identify with that because that’s who he is. That’s the precise reason why Spurs are so attractive to him. He positively burns with ambition and Spurs is the place where three players, the right players, will turn a good team into something special. He may look like the book-carrying guys who turn up unwanted on your doorstep, all scrubbed faces and sinister kindness, but AVB is a man with a mission, zealous like only a convert who has seen the light can be. He’s an evangelist for coaching and his style of play who will find redemption only through his team. Unlike Redknapp, whose reputation remains untarnished if his sides falter, Villas Boas must prove himself through the team he manages. He has no medals or past glories to fall back on. All he has is the future.
I can’t claim to know much about what he did at Porto. However, I get the sense that above all, he made the players believe in him and his methods, and that when they did, they not only became better individuals, their whole became more than the sum of their parts. Sounds promising. His first act as Spurs boss was to examine the training pitches. I like that.
Can’t lay claim to a detailed understanding of his tactical approach either. I don’t pay that much attention to Chelsea. But from what I saw against us in particular, seeing teams in the flesh is the best way of understanding them for me – he has a system and fits the players into it rather than creating a formation that suits the squad at his disposal. His sides are a very active and busy 4-3-3, compressing space when they don’t have the ball and pressing the opposition. This means a high defensive line, and we have quick defenders to suit that. Vertonghen will help here; surely he’s about due his testimonial, feels like he’s been with us for so long. With the ball, movement and creativity are encouraged. Again, we have that precious commodity, pace, throughout and his system allows for considerable flexibility, adapting to circumstances and to opponents’ different styles without the need for radical changes.
So the signs are good. We can retain our attacking inclinations whilst adding shape and organisation that was missing at crucial moments last season, especially at the back. Any Spurs manager has inherited problems that in some cases have been handed down through the generations like an ugly unwanted family heirloom. I said in a recent blog that, at the risk of sounding crass, our main problem last season was that the midfield did not drop back and cover enough. Too often we had too many players drifting back when they should have been hammering hell for leather to get behind the ball. That and keep the ball, AVB will sort that out. The other problem is that teams have sussed us out. Everton, QPR, Norwich, Villa all massed ranks behind the ball and Redknapp wasn’t cute enough to find a way round it. Our propensity to concede early meant it was uphill all the way.
In the end, it comes down to the players so AVB needs to pick some good ones. You may have spotted that we could do with a striker or three. Levy has already achieved one of the transfer coups of the summer in signing Bale to a long term contract, which sent out a message of intent that we are worth joining, that there is continuity despite the change in manager. I’m resigned to losing my lovely Luka, my one and only, my soulmate…perhaps we’ll meet again someday. I don’t blame him, much. Just so he knows I’m heartbroken…
So it goes. We move on. Fulfil Sandro’s potential and I’ll have a new guy to cuddle up to. he’s fabulous – get him to play, Andre.
Can’t wait for the start of the new season, but then nothing changes, even after all these years. Even though I’m getting on a bit now.