New Guy At Spurs But Seen It All Before

And so it goes. Managers come and go but the club goes on. At times like this, you realise it’s all froth and foment that will soon subside. Maybe it’s because I’m getting on a bit now. I’m keen to see what he does and think it’s a good choice, although not without risk. It’s just that I’ve seen so many come and go that the thrill has gone. In the grand scheme of things, here’s another guy. Let’s wait until he gets on with it. When the players get the ball down on the White Hart Lane pitch and pass it. When the noise echoes around the venerable rusty stands that have seen it all before and billows up into the night along with condensing breath from the mouths of the 36,000. When white shirts and navy blue shorts take the field. That’s the club. Not the new man in a raincoat. Not even the man front row centre in the West Stand Upper, even though when the history of this decade is written it will be christened the Levy Era. Not the manager but the chairman’s time. White shirts, navy blue shorts and us. We were there before him and will be there long after he goes.

We would do well to remember that context when the season begins, for the club, our club, will be under intense pressure to succeed. And to think journalists call Tottenham fans fickle, accuse us of easily turning on the team. The tabloid media are not so much sharpening their knives, they’re arming the flame-throwers, polishing the bed of nails and shouldering bazookas, all with their sights keenly focussed on Spurs. They’ve decided that AVB is not the man for us. He comes with several disadvantages. He’s foreign and an intellectual who has never played the game at any level. Any one of those reasons would be sufficient but all three? He doesn’t help himself by being a bit cocky, as well as having a wider vocabulary than many of those who thrust mics in his face. Most TV pundits lack the emotional intelligence to perceive what a threat he is to them, or rather to their smug self-satisfied absence of analysis. They played it and that’s all we the viewers and listeners need to know in order to realise they are RIGHT. Then a guy comes along with other credentials. Fluke. Lucky. Got the breaks. Doesn’t deserve it. Can’t say it openly but you know what they are thinking. Out of his depth. Won’t research or find out what happened at Porto. As the season goes on, listen to how many times the word ‘Porto’ will be followed by ‘but’.

Above all, he’s not Harry Redknapp. Media darling, friend to all, can do no wrong. Sacked by Tottenham Hotspur, the ultimate sin, for which in the eyes of the tabloid media there is no possible absolution. But this isn’t about AVB or any manager. It’s our club they are having a go at. It’s hard to see what will please them; if Spurs won the World Cup it would be down to the players not the manager. We must get behind everyone at the club, more than ever before. Close ranks, they shall not pass. AVB is one of us now. We were there before and we’ll be there after he and the journos have gone.

Me? I haven’t changed. Different guy, same expectations. I’d like good football that wins something. I really want to win something. But above all, I want us to be contenders. I want to challenge in the league and cups, to have a real go at Europe. For teams to be afraid when the fixture against THFC comes around. To take on the big sides. Let’s have a real go at it, and if we fail, so be it. It’s what I said last year, and the one before, and the one before that.

Villas Boas and Spurs should fit like a Saville Row suit. We have some cracking young players who still have something to learn as opposed to the entrenched attitudes he encountered at Chelsea. There he took them on with the absolute conviction of a true believer, whereas a more varied approach that bulldozed through some issues but went the long way round for others might have paid better dividends. He would be well advised to learn from that, but one key difference then and now is that Levy will back him if he sticks to the plan. Abramovich asked AVB to change the team but pulled the rug out from under him when he tried to follow orders.

At Spurs there is a plan. Money is available for the right players, players with value for whom the club is a step up. AVB can identify with that because that’s who he is. That’s the precise reason why Spurs are so attractive to him. He positively burns with ambition and Spurs is the place where three players, the right players, will turn a good team into something special. He may look like the book-carrying guys who turn up unwanted on your doorstep, all scrubbed faces and sinister kindness, but AVB is a man with a mission, zealous like only a convert who has seen the light can be. He’s an evangelist for coaching and his style of play who will find redemption only through his team. Unlike Redknapp, whose reputation remains untarnished if his sides falter, Villas Boas must prove himself through the team he manages. He has no medals or past glories to fall back on. All he has is the future.

I can’t claim to know much about what he did at Porto. However, I get the sense that above all, he made the players believe in him and his methods, and that when they did, they not only became better individuals, their whole became more than the sum of their parts. Sounds promising. His first act as Spurs boss was to examine the training pitches. I like that.

Can’t lay claim to a detailed understanding of his tactical approach either. I don’t pay that much attention to Chelsea. But from what I saw against us in particular, seeing teams in the flesh is the best way of understanding them for me – he has a system and fits the players into it rather than creating a formation that suits the squad at his disposal. His sides are a very active and busy 4-3-3, compressing space when they don’t have the ball and pressing the opposition. This means a high defensive line, and we have quick defenders to suit that. Vertonghen will help here; surely he’s about due his testimonial, feels like he’s been with us for so long. With the ball, movement and creativity are encouraged. Again, we have that precious commodity, pace, throughout and his system allows for considerable flexibility, adapting to circumstances and to opponents’ different styles without the need for radical changes.

So the signs are good. We can retain our attacking inclinations whilst adding shape and organisation that was missing at crucial moments last season, especially at the back. Any Spurs manager has inherited problems that in some cases have been handed down through the generations like an ugly unwanted family heirloom. I said in a recent blog that, at the risk of sounding crass, our main problem last season was that the midfield did not drop back and cover enough. Too often we had too many players drifting back when they should have been hammering hell for leather to get behind the ball. That and keep the ball, AVB will sort that out. The other problem is that teams have sussed us out. Everton, QPR, Norwich, Villa all massed ranks behind the ball and Redknapp wasn’t cute enough to find a way round it. Our propensity to concede early meant it was uphill all the way.

In the end, it comes down to the players so AVB needs to pick some good ones. You may have spotted that we could do with a striker or three.  Levy has already achieved one of the transfer coups of the summer in signing Bale to a long term contract, which sent out a message of intent that we are worth joining, that there is continuity despite the change in manager. I’m resigned to losing my lovely Luka, my one and only, my soulmate…perhaps we’ll meet again someday. I don’t blame him, much. Just so he knows I’m heartbroken…

So it goes. We move on. Fulfil Sandro’s potential and I’ll have a new guy to cuddle up to. he’s fabulous – get him to play, Andre.

 

Can’t wait for the start of the new season, but then nothing changes, even after all these years. Even though I’m getting on a bit now.

 

 

 

24 comments

  1. longtimespur

    know how you feel, been there since McNamara’s Band and when you could walk all the way round inside the stadium. I’m optimistic in that if the players learn from AVB and play as he wants, with a2 or 3 new signings we can compete at the highest level.

  2. Ken

    Excellent writing – Like you I am getting on a bit, seen it all before, have lived through many Indian summers….but maybe, just maybe…… this time…… said all that before also but feels different. This time……

  3. IKnowAlanGilzean

    At Porto the ‘famous’ high defensive line was supported by highly mobile very hard working midfielders pressing high up the pitch to limit the pressure on the back line. Falcao was the icing on the cake. Moutinho was crucial to this system as he broke up play but also distributed cleverly. He’s a fine player. If Modric is to go getting Moutinho will sugar the pill, though ‘d love them both to be there in August! Otherwise we have Sandro, who is very much an AVB player I feel and can do the breaking up and playing. I’m very excited for Sandro him this season and hope injuries do not curtail his progress.

    AVB failed at Chelsea, there is no getting over that, much of it down to the entrenched positions of senior players, frightened or to inert to come out of their comfort zone and develop further and the oligarch’s feyness but also due to AVB’s interpersonal skills and dogma imo. He will need to have learned the lessons, even allowing for the fact that we have a younger (tho’ we wouldn’t have for much longer if Harry had stayed and continued with his buying policy) and less problematic dressing room. AVB does appear to have isolated Alex and Anelka needlessly which is said to have raised the hackles of Terry, Lampard and Cole etc.

    He shouldn’t look to or need to change everything immediately at Spurs. Apparently, in every job he has had in Portugal he has changed things slowly, to meet the needs of the players he inherited. This was not his brief at Chelsea and hopefully goes a long way to explain his failure there.

    AVB should also try less to please the media pack, which proved so openly loyal to Chelsea’s senior players, their meal tickets, like a certain ex Spurs manager, trying to explain his long term ideas and digging a hole for himself as at Chelsea. They don’t care. Nor should we about their views and we should see them for what they are. Things may be rocky at times, major changes in personnel and ideas and L-T projects often are, but we should care less what the media and Chelsea players/fans say and look with our own eyes. Levy and Spurs fans will judge him.

    It may go wrong, of course, as it may have with Harry next season anyhow, but I’m optimistic, and feel there is much to look forward too in the next 2-3 seasons.

  4. Simon (@SimonJ68)

    Well written as always Alan.
    Looking forward to the season and seasons coming up, no knee jerk reactions, but seeing some trophies being lifted in the next 3 years is looking positively possible now.

    • Alan

      Thanks Simon. I do think AVB will offer the structure we need and enable the players to improve. Conveniently I forget our lack of strikers…but that’s the optimist in me.

      Regards, Al

  5. david

    Good piece particularly about the media and AVB. He shares with Mourhino the same attitude to the media–that most of them are hacks and ready to salivate at any slight sniff of a story without considering the rights or wrongs. In this he is an improvement on Harry who provided so much fodder for their troughs.
    I disagree that Modders has gone–I have a warm fuzzy feeling he will stay.

  6. SpurSince1961

    A terrific line:- ‘Vertonghen will help here; surely he’s about due his testimonial, feels like he’s been with us for so long.’
    A pleasure to read an article so well written.
    I was very much hoping for David Moyes but now of course hopeful that AVB will be able to attract even better players and do something really special like challenge for the title. Seems to me very possible that there is a mega wealthy buyer for Spurs, as I cannot really see Levy giving the ‘Young Pretender’ a probable 16 Million 3 or 4 year contract. Far too many if’s, but’s, maybe’s and risks. If Enic and Levy were remaining whilst very expensive redevelopment takes place etc., then surely David Moyes would have been the ideal safer option.
    As much as I detest Chelsea and Man City and hate their sugar daddies maybe the answer will be, if you cannot beat them then …………………..

  7. TMWNN

    “We must get behind everyone at the club, more than ever before. Close ranks, they shall not pass. AVB is one of us now. We were there before and we’ll be there after he and the journos have gone.”

    I like this. Bring in new players, then create a siege mentality. Give the press/media nothing but the finger. Keep the obligatory press interviews/conferences to the absolute minimum.

  8. jimmy greaves is god

    A new man at the helm. A new raincoat at the side of the pitch. But will we play any differently. Am hoping that AVB can coach our players to take a corner without hitting the first defender. Or even better, take a free kick which actually hits the target. Only time will tell. But for the moment I wish him all the luck in the world and hopefully at least another 6 new signings to keep the momentum going

    • Alan

      Build from the basics, quite right. We don’t ask for much. He’s our guy and like you, I’m right behind him too.

      So is this a pact? Me and you, no moaning…?

      Regards, Al

      • Anonymous

        Now you are asking for TOO much. You ought to know by now that you can’t beat a good moan before kick-off

      • jimmy greaves is god

        Now you are asking for TOO much. You know you can’t beat a good moan before kick-off.

  9. Mal Costelloe

    Although I want to agree with your analysis Alan, i am also minded not to count any chickens, just yet… I am hoping to see the team in LA on the 24th (my 61st birthday) and no doubt will then have the juices flowing. .. still let’s see who comes and goes in the next couple of weeks and the only person I would be really upset at losing now is D. Levy. Strange life.

  10. Stewart

    Al, what a refreshingly good, thoughtful read your blog posts are. There is a great, constructive atmosphere here. Well done Mate!
    Spurs are in my heart too, with every up & down that has entailed since my first game at the Lane, May 1961, aged 10, to see Danny go up and lift that League Div. 1 trophy (after losing the last game of the season 1-2 to Sheff. Weds).
    Since I’ve lived in Portugal now for 16 years, FC Porto has been my club, with almost as much devotion as I’ve given to Spurs. That also means a passionate contempt for Benfica, our equivalent here of Arsenal.
    My wife & I were sick to the teeth when AVB left the “club of my dreams” (as he put it in public about 3 weeks before it was announced he had jumped ship for Chelsea)….wrong club, wrong time. Then we had to stomach Falcão taking a move down to Atletico Madrid. Such a rare genius goal-scorer, but with a lousy agent. But FCP always have a happy knack of moving on after seemingly irreplaceable losses.

    One year on, out with Harry & in with AVB and Spurs start to develop a thick Portuguese accent.
    João Moutinho going to WHL would be acceptable to us Portistas as the replacement for Modric (but do NOT expect a better yield of goals than Modders!!). Hulk would be much, much harder to replace……
    Moving on is a really useful characteristic to have, isn’t it? I feel like all these recent changes have finally helped me come to terms with the consequences of that awful night in Munich last May, when I switched off my TV the same second that Drogba’s penalty hit the back of the net. I avoided anything that might have the word “Chelsea” in it for weeks. It felt like robbery, but we must remember that we should never have had to depend on Bayern for our CL place.
    I’m not wildly enthusiastic that AVB will live up to our most reasonable expectations. Who knows, right? I never go in for irrational, emotion-based optimism. I just want and need our Tottenham to make me feel good, instead of sickened by strings of inexplicable, unforeseeable slides and cock-ups.
    But this is football; it has the power of a wicked magician to break your heart quicker & easier than any teenage romance. Or, at its best, it can elevate you to a natural high better than any drug or drink. That’s what we, the fans, who invest all our passion and loyalty no matter what,
    get in return for our investment.

    Let’s hope for a brilliant season and no more Bayern nights at the end of it!

  11. Ashley Collie

    Alan, a “Saville Row” suit — what is that? Here’s thinking Gylfi will score more goals than your soulmate (“my name is Luka”) and he’s younger than Rafa. Excited to see how it plays out because anything can happen — that’s what the pro athletes I interview always say, “It’s why we play the game.” I made a bet in Vegas last season that we’d finish fourth. Swami the prognosticator hasn’t come to me yet for this season! :)

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