Andre Villas-Boas has been highlighted for many things - success at Porto, struggles at Chelsea, and, most pertinent to this fanpost, his stint as Jose Mourinho's right hand man. Mourinho has developed something of a reputation for bonding with the people that he works with, something that AVB will have undoubtedly picked up on. When AVB made his splashtacular move to Chelsea, he notably failed to bring along his Porto mate Vitor Perreira, and instead was assigned with Roberto Di Matteo. Some speculated that appointment of Di Matteo had more to do with his ties with the club as a former player than anything else he had to offer as a coach.
Fast forward to summer of 2012, and the pessimist in me struck when Steffen Freund's name was announced to become AVB's assistant. Was AVB denied a first choice assistant again? Was this more about Freund's ties with the club much like Di Matteo? Perhaps it's because I never had the chance to witness Freund as a Spurs player, but for a while I remained skeptical about this man who had 100+ caps for the club, the same man who still wore the shirt sitting alongside the fans, unable to break away from the thoughts about AVB, Di Matteo, and Chelsea. Then came Tottenham's U.S. tour where Freund, along with goalkeeping coach Tony Parks, featured as guest speakers. The two of them were very frank, honest, and surprisingly cordial; they spoke to the eager supporters in a professional yet also very personal level. In speaking with them in person, I've felt like I had become even closer to the club in a rather strange but likable way.
With the season well under way now, as I watched the sidelines on the screen I've learned more about Freund. He seems to have translated that feeling I received to the squad. Every time I see Freund step up to give the substituted player a bear hug, every picture from training he's featured in, there seems to be a certain balance between the professional and yet personal understanding in this player-coach relationship. Perhaps I'm being unfair to Di Matteo when I say this, seeing as how I didn't pay as much attention to him when he was with AVB last year, but I just didn't get the same vibe from Di Matteo. Even now as a head manager in his interviews and conferences, Di Matteo cuts a very systematic and robotic figure; a good person, but still a bit robotic.
Much has been made of Tottenham's locker room situation, and all the jokes and comparison about Lampard, Terry, and Cole aside, I firmly believe Freund has made a significant difference for AVB. Next time the supporters sing about our love for Steffen Freund, I will certainly join in with more sincerity.