Testing Times For Andre Villas-Boas And Tottenham – Alan’s Diary


AVB watches Lamela in pre-match preparations [Photo: Jav The_DoC_66]Alan’s Season Diary 2013-14 Number 26

Tuesday 26 November

I enjoy a good read. I’ve got 3 books on the go at the moment. Two of them are Fergie’s and Harry’s autobiographies; the third is the latest Alex Cross novel. That’s why it’s taking a bit longer than you might otherwise expect to get through the football books. The biographies mostly just list events that we are already aware of but every now and again, their guard slips and you read something that gives you a real insight into the person they are writing about.

The chapter on Roy Keane is the most interesting so far in Fergie’s book.

Ferguson recounts how a fading Keane took over a team meeting and berated his colleagues and Carlos Queroz the trainer. Ferguson didn’t think it serious enough to take any action against Keane for all he had said to them. He agreed to Keane’s suggestion to get them together again to see what they all thought of the video. Even though some players stood up to Keane, setting him off again, Ferguson did not react until – “He saved the best for me. ‘You brought your private life into the club with your argument with Magnier’. He needs to go Carlos, 100% get rid of him.”

Yet for all his faults what Keane had just said about Magnier was true. That was what struck a nerve in Ferguson. A column in the Times suggested recently that Ferguson’s dispute with Magnier led to him selling the club and it went from a profitable business under the previous owners to a franchise for the Glazers with massive debts. Ferguson apparently skirts the subject in the rest of the autobiography. It smacks of the builder who puts an attractive extension with a soakaway under the foundations of your home and keeps quiet about it, hoping that by the time the house collapses into the resulting gaping hole, it will be so long after that no one will think to blame him for it.

Also, “I always protected my players and Roy was no exception It was my job. For that reason I can’t apologise for the times I have stuck up for them when there were sound reasons to lurch the other way. There were times when I thought Christ, what were you thinking about? Cathy posed that question to me many times. But I just couldn’t take sides against my players… the one constant principle of my time as a manager, to defend. No not to defend but to protect them from outside judgements”

I’d always suspected that to be the case, having seen him defend the indefensible so many times. It’s nice to have him confirm it in writing after all this time. To sum up his priorities as revealed by the book, although sometimes you have to read between the lines; 1. Alex Ferguson. 2. Man United. 3. Man United players provided that they remain loyal.

I’ve learned something from world history from Fergie’s book. In studying America as a hobby, he learnt that the way the USA realised that the Russians were in Cuba before the missile crisis was that they saw from aerial photographs that football pitches had appeared across the island. Cubans didn’t play football.

Playing for England

One of the most encouraging headlines on the Sports pages in a while is in Sun. Daniel Sturridge has allegedly said that there is no way that anyone will stop him playing for England. Brendan Rogers is said to be unhappy that he had to leave Sturridge out because he was not match fit after playing 90 minutes for England. That should be the attitude of all England players and not just in the run up to a World Cup. Your country should always come before your club. The fact that the club pays your wages is a red herring. If you worked for Sainsbury’s and your country asked you to represent them, you wouldn’t turn them down because the shop manager wanted you stocking the shelves next week. The principle is exactly the same. Any good large business should employ sufficient cover for predictable absences.

Wednesday 27 November

It says in today’s Sun that Andy Murray may feel obliged to come back from the States for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award as he is 1/40 to win it. Obviously, winning two Grand Slams and Wimbledon is a massive achievement, no Brit has done it in 70 years. My vote goes to Mo Farah though. Regarding the sport part of the criteria, only one other person in history has achieved what he has in winning gold in both the World Championships and the Olympics at both 5,000 and 10,000 metres. Regarding the personality criteria – a. he’s got one and b. he uses it positively to demonstrate in the best possible way what it means to be British. A real unifying influence for our society. I look at him and see hope for an integrated unified and inclusive society after all.

Champions League

Most of the big teams are through to the knock-out stages of the Champions League already; Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Man United, Real Madrid plus Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG and Atletico Madrid. A trade mark free-kick goal by Gareth Bale in Ronaldo’s absence. Wayne Rooney just outshines Ryan Giggs as man of the match as Man United get a record 5-0 away win. The dark horses for me are PSG. Ibrahimovic is such a strong character and will be determined to prove a point after Sweden getting knocked out of the World Cup, I think he might just drag them through to the final.

Thursday morning 28 November

The next four days are going to be a real test for AVB. How does he get over the hurdle of the Tromso non-game followed by Man U in the league? If the games were a week apart, we could ideally have done with him picking what he feels is his current fit best 11 twice. But only 4 days apart with return travel to Norway that would be suicide. The last thing we need is leggy players on Sunday.

I would get the squad together and tell them the team for Sunday. Explain that the Tromso team is totally different and will be made up of players that I want to see find some form and show they are ready for big games to come. A rousing talk to the Sunday team. Tell them you trust them, tell them to show their class, their fight, their dedication and how they have the chance to prove everyone wrong and that they really have got it in them to beat the best teams. Remind them that we bought them because they are the best, or they have the potential to be the best in their positions. Tell them that a month ago all the critics believed we had got it right. Now is the time to prove it and repay his and the club’s faith in them. Remind them that United must be on their last legs and will be there for taking in the second half – and this time we are going to do it. Arsenal were in a similar position after their first match of the season and look where they are now. You can do the same. We are at the crossroads and could go on together to become part of a glorious history. Or not. It’s in your hands. Which is it to be?