William Gallas is one of the few players who can say that he played for both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in his career. But unlike
Judas Sol Campbell, his move to the other part of North London was mostly non-acrimonious.
Gallas has hung up his boots and is now working as a football commentator for French television. He recently gave an interview with FourFourTwo.com where he answered questions submitted by footfall fans about his playing career. A few of the questions centered around his time at Tottenham under former managers Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas-Boas, and Gallas hinted that he had a much better time under ‘Arry than with AVB.
I got the feeling you weren’t as happy during Andre Villas-Boas’s time as Spurs boss than you were under Redknapp – was that the case?
Patrick Daniels, via Twitter
“Yes. At the start everything was fine. I knew Andre from his first spell at Chelsea when he worked under Jose Mourinho as a scout. I picked up an injury near Christmas during that first season when Andre was at Tottenham. I went back to France to get some treatment, but when I came back to London something seemed to have changed. When I recovered he initially said it would be good for me to play in the FA Cup against Leeds, but later on he changed his mind. I had a meeting with him where he told me his decision. I still assumed that I would travel with the squad to Leeds, but just when I was ready to go, I thought, ‘Hold on William, just check the squad list, as you never know.’ And my name wasn’t even there!
“I realised I was lucky I didn’t get on the team bus, as that would have been so embarrassing. Andre hadn’t told me. In one of our meetings he said he needed me in the second half of the season, but from then onwards I more or less only played in Europa League games. Maybe he thought I was too old – and I would have understood it – but I didn’t get an explanation. So that made me pretty unhappy. In football, I like a manager who is honest with his players. All of this doesn’t mean Villas-Boas is not an honest manager, of course, but in that moment he was not honest with me.”
It’s not a secret that Villas-Boas had the ability to alienate some of his players, and that he wasn’t exactly one to inspire team unity. That’s something that followed him from his disastrous stint at Chelsea to Spurs, and it’s not the first time we’ve heard a current or former Tottenham player say that he didn’t enjoy his football under AVB. Hugo Lloris has strongly hinted that the only thing that kept him at Tottenham was the hiring of Mauricio Pochettino and his strong relationship with the Argentine, and there have been other rumors of discontent among players with life in North London under the Portuguese manager.
Redknapp was the manager who signed Gallas in the summer of 2010 on a free transfer, thinking that he’d add some experience to a back line that was getting ready to compete in its first Champions League campaign in club history. He even called signing Gallas “a no-brainer.” That Spurs squad also featured Ledley King, Michael Dawson, Younes Kaboul, and Jonathan Woodgate, but Woodgate was usually injured, King was at the end of his career, and Gallas slotted into the rotation right away.
Gallas recalled one incident when Redknapp wanted to play up some Arsenal-to-Spurs controversy by handing Gallas the captain’s armband during his first North London Derby as a Spurs player at the Emirates on 20 November, 2010.
“I knew it would be a difficult situation, both for the fans of Arsenal and for me as well, because I’d been the captain at Arsenal for 18 months. Before we went over to the Emirates, I remember that we all gathered for breakfast at White Hart Lane. When I arrived at the club, people showed me some newspapers, which claimed that an Arsenal player would refuse to shake my hand. Later on, Harry Redknapp came over to see me when we were getting ready in the dressing room and asked me about it.
I said that it was no problem for me, to which he replied, “You know what, I think we’ll do something to make the game even more electric.” I said, “What do you mean, Harry?” And he said, “You’ll be my captain today.” Everyone was very surprised when they saw I was the first to come out of the tunnel. But that game went very well [Spurs won 3-2] and I had a good display.”
Gallas went on to make 61 appearances for Spurs before leaving as a free agent in 2013. He went on to play in the A-league with Perth Glory for a season before retiring in 2014.
The full interview with Gallas is worth a read. Gallas wasn’t the dominant defender of his earlier career during his time at Spurs, but he put in some very good shifts for Tottenham, enough that he won over the fan base despite him being a former Gooner. That’s not nothing. He was a solid addition to an aging Spurs back line, and was a consummate professional.