How utterly refreshing. After four years of The Harry Redknapp Show it almost feels surreal that we have someone that is humble and concise with their answers. Some that is representative of the club (‘we’) and not a brand name. Villas-Boas might have had a voice that could grate cheese (thank you British summer time), but he said all the right things. Nothing overly dramatic, just to the point, every time. Loved his ‘much more emotional warmth in this club’ comment. A dig at Chelsea, but equally so a reassuring nod of approval towards us. Okay, so he’s hardly going to say anything negative during his first couple of interviews (one with Tottenham for the website the other with the press) but it’s a comfort to hear honesty without the constraints of cheap soundbites, translators and that travelcard.
All this hype about player revolts and lack of respect, just b*llsh*t based on assumptions of what happened in West London and the obsession with the former man at the helm. Interestingly, Villas-Boas did claim some credit and did cite their players as ‘magnificent’. I’m wondering how much of that was perhaps PR to avoid anything too controversial – although the media have latched onto the fact that he stated he wasn’t allowed to complete the work he started there. Maybe a dash of ego and not PR. Although a good point was made that Villas-Boas can sometimes come across as a little arrogant but this might be more to do with English not being his first language. I’m sure he wasn’t claiming the FA Cup and Champions League, although if anyone is going to claim the latter it will be the Gods.
In comparison to the emotional warmth at Spurs, all this probably alludes to the fact at Chelsea it was nothing but ego and alpha-males thumping their chests and claiming territory. That’s not to say everyone in Lilywhite will adjust with ease to a new era of football methodology in terms of training, preparation and tactics. But those hungry to achieve more will up their game to match the ambitions of our new head coach.
It’s no secret that although Redknapp did display on occasions some shrewdness on the pitch, it wasn’t consistent. And on the training pitch, as famously suggested by van der Vaart, we didn’t spend too much time with the chalkboards.
Villas-Boas also said something that I’ve been echoing since before he joined and that was, in terms of the team, aside from having to make one or two key signings, there isn’t too much to tweak or change. Not drastically. There is no chairman agenda to dismantle and rebuild. VB stated it would be wrong to undo the work Redknapp achieved. We need to progress it.
Player instructions and formation will go through an evolution but this will be gradual and dependent on how our players adapt. If there’s belief it shouldn’t be too much of a task. We’ve got very capable footballers that will be able to improve on their form because of how Villas-Boas approaches the game. He’s a tactician, he’ll organise from training to diet to on field positioning. He’ll innovate. Redknapp’s style was about man-management and inspiring. We’ll still need some of those basics to bring it altogether. Under Harry our away form was birthed (non-existent for so many years). Possibly his greatest achievement at Spurs was to get us working hard, grafting as a unit away from the Lane. It’s key we continue this as our home form has been strong for several years now. An area where VB will look at improving is the struggles we had when sides parked the bus against us.
Talking of inspiring and hard work, we’ve got Steffen Freund on-board. Assistant head coach. If you take previous into account, as a player, Freund was hardly the most polished. But his cult status at Spurs (he’s a hall of famer) remains legendary. Passionate, relentless – so much so synonymous with the club he’s made a few appearances in the stands wearing our colours. He’s a character with character. I guess it’s easy to assume that as a coach, this is what he’ll offer. When Villas-Boas is squatting, thinking on the touchline Freund will be screaming and shouting at the players – pumping them up. I’m sure that is a given but he’s credentials as a coach should probably not be ignored. In other words, I don’t think we’re getting a one-dimensional addition to the coaching staff. He’s not going to be a gimmick.
Assistant head coach of the Germany U-20 team, assistant to Berti Vogts (Nigeria), assistant to Frank Engel (U-20 Germany), manager U-16 Germany, manager U-17 Germany (with impressive finishes in Euro and World Cups) then back with the U-16 squad. Youth football is not comparable to the Premier League but he’s experienced and considering it’s Germany they’re hardly going to show commitment and confidence in anyone other than a coach they rate and trust. Freund might just be a masterstroke.
Luka Modric. Villa-Boas confirming what we all knew but with fine clarity. The club, from the sounds of it, have one or two interested parties and if the right offer is made then the player will be allowed to leave. Modric, apparently, understands the clubs stance on valuation. Also, the fact he’s in a long term contract means anything silly (transfer request) is unlikely. We’ll see if Levy is playing games here with perhaps another masterful move to retain Luka’s services (again). But I don’t think that will happen. He’ll price him out of a move to another English club. That’s as good as we can hope for.
As for talk on title challenges. Easy to misquote or take out of context. I took this to simply be a continuation of last season when, at one point in the season many (outside of Spurs too) admitted we were in the race. Okay, so only momentarily in the race, but still in it. Just need that gentle push of belief and strength and there’s no reason why we can’t get involved again. This time, sustaining it. This is not my expectation, but this is the exact ilk of speak I want to hear from our coach. No ambiguity. Just aim high. What’s the point of aiming any lower?
Also impressive is the new training centre in Enfield. Looks absolutely brilliant. Again, would have been completely wasted on Harry Redknapp and his old skool thinking. Brad Fridel should also get a mention for his attitude. Very upfront about Spurs and the appointment of Villas-Boas (whilst speaking on radio) and also the fact that he understands and is prepared to perhaps sit on the bench to make way for a more youthful long term goalkeeper. Hugo Lloris is still in talks with Spurs (although it’s being downplayed). His club have to sell this summer and Tottenham remain the most likely destination. I guess, considering Brad’s age, it’s not that difficult to admit you might have to play second fiddle but it was good to hear a player speak with such grace and honesty.