Arriving on these shores with a bunch of pretty medals packed in his suitcase, Andre Villas-Boas was the buttery toast of the morning papers. There was almost a psycho-sexual desire emitting from some outlets to consider him Jose Mourinho, mark two. The lucrative Roman Abramovic had courted him to be the revolutionary of Chelsea football club. Here he was: a young manager, fresh and auspicious, a well-read prodigy to take his club into the next 5 years and beyond. Roman’s mind was made up. Now was the time for Chelsea to be known for the new guard rather than the old one that had gotten a bit papery.
But the truth is, Roman couldn’t quite make his mind up. Because even though the plan was to puncture the old guard – the ones who ruled with factions and power – the Russian went back on his word. Villas-Boas was not the special one but the ‘group one’, apparently. Not only a naff title to bestow upon yourself but one which looked even more transparent when the Chelsea hierarchy alienated him from the ‘group’ and left him standing at the edge of the play ground like a nerdish kid with piss-stained undies. And Roman joined these invidious playground bullies when, taking the coward’s way out, he instructed the Portuguese prodigy to leave.
But perhaps 2012 is the year of Villas-Boas after all. For he is now in charge of media darling Harry Redknapp’s Hotspurs. In hindsight and what should have been foresight, Tottenham are the type of club Villas-Boas needed after Porto. Chelsea were too rigid; too plagued with emblems of Mourinho’s history for one of the brightest managers in the world to work wonders with. Even the most experienced managers would have had trouble trying to do what Villas-Boas was briefed to do, let alone a man still mulling around in his thirties. But with Harry Redknapp smartly and shrewdly dealt with by Daniel Levy, Andre has the chance one suspected would be presented to him. What is apparent is that, though he has already notched a sacking from his time in England, Spurs fans must not solely fixate themselves on the Portuguese’s time across the road. Because this time for Villas-Boas, success really is tangible.
The Chelsea gig near impossible. It was a job too soon. A hurdle to high. A job tough enough for even the most experienced of managers, but not one still at the first stages of his football repertoire. One of the brightest young talents became the frayed rope in a tug of war between the owner and an egotistical faction of players. But we must not discard Villas-Boas on his charred Chelsea blueprint. Rather, Spurs fans should almost embrace it. Because from that doomed position Villas-Boas can take important lessons; a learning curve to helping him in his real first test. The media must be dealt with in a more intelligent manner and man-management ran in smoother fashion. But if he is as dedicated – as infatuated with this game – as rumoured, those lessons will be noted and digested. And Spurs will be the benefactor.
This is one of the glorious elements in football: the game is often touted as being ‘punishing’, but redemption is never too far away. And both Andre and Tottenham must redeem themselves.
Unlike Chelsea, Tottenham are not plagued by such player power. They do not think themselves undroppable; in fact, they are hurting from a dire capitulation headed by Harry Redknapp which saw Arsenal overtake them after being 13 points behind. Much like Tottenham, Villas-Boas will have something to prove. He will wish justify his slightly stalled reputation. He will wish to prove his vision is the right one, and one which will not lead him through the wrong path. Villas-Boas possesses a tactical mind surpassing that of Harry Redknapp; he possesses a continental brand of football that will be better implemented at a willing club rather than one like Chelsea, whom struggled and squirmed like a toddler trying to resist being dressed until Daddy Abramovic relented and let them stay home from playgroup.
The mistake of judging a man on one job is made so very frequently. Roy Hodgson was considered the wrong choice for England because of his Liverpool tenure; yet are we to forget his other three decades of achievement because of 6 or so torrid months at Merseyside? Such logic is farcical. Villas-Boas may not possess an amicable relationship with the media like his predecessor but he certainly possesses an eye for the beautiful football White Hart Lane will crave. Anarchy ruled the day at Chelsea, but the 16 year old who impressed Bobby Robson still exists under the shroud of one failed endeavour. He must buy into Tottenham; he must understand the ‘nearly man’ aspect of the club and strive to rectify that aspect with the same dedication – the same near-obsession with tactical theory and methodical digestion of information – which assisted him in winning a wonderfully stylistic treble with Porto. In return, the occupants of the Lane must embrace his bigger picture even though it may be a testy one to paint.
Despite what the Mirror and other outlets peddle, most Spurs fans appear content with the decision. Such intelligence will be needed because, evidently, the young manager and the faithful at the Lane need each other to bounce back from a season which promised so much and delivered so little. If Modric stays Andre will have ticked one large box but if he does leave as expected, the money must be reinvested with sage. And so, Tottenham fans should allow a small portent of optimism to brew. For in terms of credentials and disappointment suffered in 2011-2012, both club and manager appear a perfect match.
Do not do the triple-initialled Andre Villas-Boas a disservice by judging him solely on his Chelsea exploits, for in reality it was he who was exploited. View him as an enormously talented young man who will have undoubtedly reflected on his time at Chelsea and, as such, will have evolved in his period of un-involvement. Here we will learn about the real prospect and here we shall witness his truer, fresher start in England. He is still the resplendent prodigy he was one year ago; brilliantly for Tottenham he will be refined with an even profounder vociferousness and a craving to cast away those who wag his finger at him. With a clean slate ahead and a club unclouded by ego, those wagging fingers might just be drowned out by a sea of thick thumbs up.