It was a year ago today, 3rd July, that Tottenham Hotspur confirmed the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas as their new manager to replace Harry Redknapp. Reflecting on the past twelve months, how has AVB coped at White Hart Lane?
The confirmation of AVB as Head Coach of Spurs was the final act of one of the worst kept secrets. There had been much speculation that the former Chelsea boss was the favoured choice of Daniel Levy. It was a high risk strategy by the Tottenham Chairman in light of AVB’s difficult time at Stamford Bridge which had ended with his removal the previous March after only nine months in post. His success at Porto which had attracted the attention of Roman Abramovich was long forgotten and the media were waiting for a second fall by the young Portuguese coach. Tottenham fans, however, were optimistic about the appointment and approached the season with a sense of expectation.
From the outset Villas-Boas conducted himself with dignity. Although, obviously, still hurt at his dismissal from Chelsea, he admitted mistakes but was focused on the job ahead at White Hart Lane and in his first interview, he expressed his appreciation of the opportunity of the second chance which he was being afforded at Tottenham.
“It is a massive opportunity to come to Spurs and the trust that the Chairman has put in me and that I can repay that trust.”
Throughout the year he continued in this fashion, never courting headlines or controversy and completed his rehabilitation at White Hart Lane, showing the doubters that he was his own man and a coach of outstanding talent. He developed a good rapport and understanding with the players who were clearly impressed with his knowledge and methods. There were touchline discussions during breaks in games as he tried to get his ideas across and rather amusingly the ‘Post-It’ notes which substitutes carried on with instructions for team mates. On the first day back for training, Benoit Assou-Ekotto tweeted his approval of the new regime at Spurs.
Villas-Boas won over the fans and had a clear understanding of the traditions of the club and developed an affinity with Tottenham, the club and the supporters. As the season ended without Champions League football, he spoke in a BBC interview,
“Tottenham is a wonderful club who will continue to attract big players and will continue to push on. It was a very good season. We pushed all the way for fourth and third spot and I think we can make it better next season.”
The 2012-13 Season
The season started slowly with a defeat and two draws when Tottenham were expected to have done better. It was a settling in period to adjust to the new manager and the loss of Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart. Some of the doubters expressed their disappointment which encouraged the media to report of discontent among the fans at White Hart Lane. Once the late signings were in place and settled into their new club the team united into a solid unit after their first win under AVB at Reading in mid-September. There were highs and lows along the way but one of the undoubted high points of the season was the 3 – 2 win at Old Trafford with a performance which took the future champions by surprise as Spurs displayed a resolve not previously seen at Old Trafford. [Four points from United, perhaps that the reason Sir Alex decided to retire, he knew Spurs had his measure.]
Another defeat at the Emirates was a set-back as was conceding late goals but following the loss at Everton with two goals in added time, Villas-Boas led the team on a record setting run of 12 Premier League matches without defeat, including the defeat of Arsenal. The amazing and unbelievable form and goals of an AVB inspired Gareth Bale aided Tottenham in this run. Even when it ended and Spurs suffered the early spring jitters, they recovered to take the battle for 4th and a Champions League place to the final day. It brought them a record 72 points, a total that in any other year would have guaranteed qualification for UEFA’s top competition but once again Spurs had to make do with the Europa League.
The Immediate Future
Andre Villas-Boas immediate future is with Tottenham. He turned down an approach from Paris Saint-Germain during the summer to focus on continuing his Tottenham project. He is looking to ensure Gareth Bale remains with Spurs and is hoping to sign quality players during the summer transfer window with the Brazilian, Paulinho, and Barcelona’s David Villa widely reported to be high on Spurs’ wish-list. AVB’s comments to a Portuguese newspaper, A Bola, were reported by ESPN saying,
“I have had a friendship for some time with the president of PSG. He is a friend, we speak regularly, but my commitment is with Tottenham. It was the club that allowed me to return to the Premier League and I feel good there.”
AVB’s Long-term Future
It was interesting to read AVB’s thoughts on his long term future. In the interview with the Portuguese paper O Jogo, which was reported in the Mirror, he commented that he expected to be out of football coaching within the next 5 to 10 years. He said that he devoted 11 months of the year to football and takes it very seriously so in time he wants to try some of the different options which life provides for him, including taking part in the Dakar Rally. A series of quotes from his interview appeared on Twitter.Andre Villas-Boas is a very focused and dedicated young manager. Much was made of this during his time with Chelsea but he has seemed to relax a little more at Tottenham and so enjoyed a better relationship with his players. His commitment and determination to succeed are never in question and as he continues to drive himself forward his aim was clearly stated in the Mirror’s report.
“I just want to be proud of my career. I try to play good football with the teams I join and this is the recognition that fulfils me.