In an interview passed on by the Daily Mail amongst other news outlets yesterday, André Villas-Boas dropped a number of intriguing statements about how he perceives the atmosphere, stature and future of Tottenham Hotspur FC that are worth picking apart for people still wondering what exactly the new direction for the club he and Daniel Levy are working on is going to look like.
In keeping with the UK media's general perception of AVB as an embittered failure perpetually haunted by the ghosts of his torrid tenure of Chelsea, the conference has been presented particularly in the Mail's coverage as a 'swipe' at his former employer and a sign that the Portuguese comes into his new job with a nasty chip on his shoulder. Conversely, however, for individuals such as myself who are waiting for proof that Villas-Boas has put the difficulties he suffered at Chelsea behind him and is prepared to move forward in a positive direction at while learning from past mistakes, I actually think there's a lot to take heart from in what AVB said yesterday. Quotes follow after the jump.
First of all, there's clear evidence that the new gaffer has gone above the bare minimum in doing the history homework for his new job. On Spurs' traditional playing style, he says:
'Tottenham are... linked with great football over the years with a wonderful history back to Bill Nicholson. It's been football played in the right style.'
The Billy Nick reference is a welcome sign that AVB has recognised the tessellation between his own preference for entertaining, attacking football and that way of playing the beautiful game customary of Spurs described by Danny Blanchflower as "doing things in style, with a flourish". As the user The Sleeper's Sleep demonstrated in an excellent piece a few weeks ago, it's possible to view Villas-Boas as a sort of prodigal son arriving at his spiritual home, where his personal philosophy will receive the acknowledgement and encouragement as that of legends such as Arthur Rowe. Clearly, Villas-Boas seems to agree.
'There is more of a sense of belonging at this club, said Villas-Boas. 'It has a lot of tradition, which I admire. Chelsea has tradition, too, but it dramatically since 2003 when it was bought. That's why the sense of belonging is bigger here'.
The echo through Tottenham's history which Villas-Boas seems to recognise in his own way of getting the game played, and the promise of him operating within these traditions and acknowledging the expectations of the fans as a result represents a marked improvement on AVB's approach at Chelsea, and provides a good premise for the trust that he needs to undertake a rebuilding project at Spurs.
At times last season, the Harry Redknapp regime which was in place prior to AVB's appointment was accused of lacking ambition, seemingly settling for a safer approach and less inspiring results when the squad had the potential to push on for greater things. AVB, to an extent, seems to share these sentiments:
‘Now we have to shorten the gap towards the top. One thing is certain. There are responsibilities with my job. I can’t expect to be in ninth or 10th and be in a comfortable position here.
‘It is demanded that we do better. This is obvious after Harry left the club after finishing fourth. The measure of success here is trophies. It’s a responsibility I have to take. If it fails, it fails.'
Back in March, I wrote a piece on how Tottenham Hotspur's defeat to Everton, which was one of the first results that precipitated our close-season slump last time out, could have been perceived as the permission of a golden opportunity to slip out of our fingers. This same source of discontent was allowed to fester throughout the rest of the season, culminating with a negative substitution to bring out Scott Parker instead of Jermain Defoe in a game away at Aston Villa in May which saw Spurs relinquishing the chance to seize third place, a decision which according to some reports ultimately cost Redknapp his job at Spurs. With all this in mind, a recognition of the fact that our young talent such as Gareth Bale and Younes Kaboul deserve better than settling for top five and being told we were never likely to do better, a general willingness to take risks, must be accepted as an extremely welcome aspect of AVB's approach to the Spurs job.
Finally, there was also a few positive words for the sections of the Tottenham support are hoping to see some maturity and self-awareness from our new boss following the disastrous and abrupt end to his Chelsea career, with AVB claiming:
‘I’ve thought a lot about what happened to me at Chelsea,’ he said. ‘I am very grateful for both the professional and personal experience I had. You can only learn by mistakes and by experience. I know I can do better and I will because I believe I am a better coach and person for it.'
So there you have it. André Villas-Boas, the new manager that respects Tottenham's rich history, shows humility over his past and promises ambition for our future. Are you more or less convinced AVB is the man to take Spurs to the next level after hearing all this? Sound off below as ever, wise commentariat.