As the sun rises to herald another Baltimore day, Andre Vilas Boas will wake to a rare commodity – freedom. For during this summer purgatoric period between the inevitable demise of Harry Redknapp and this supposed glorious new morn, there is little more than conjecture, opinion and the endless chatter of the Twittersphere to fill the void.
Countless column inches have been dedicated to the sad final days of Redknapp’s reign, most incredulous and alarmist and borne of nepotism; most failing to look beyond the football as Harry Redknapp and Spurs fell out of love.
After a career spent steering second rate ships, Redknapp arrived at Tottenham Hotspur an inexplicably revered manager having won a single trophy with a team assembled beyond the means of the club he had purchased them for. At that time of crisis, Tottenham was the best move Harry Redknapp could have hoped for as much as Harry Redknapp was Tottenham’s.
He fulfilled his remit and then some, exceeding even the wildest of expectations. Tottenham Hotspur were a team and a club transformed; Champions League Quarter Finalists, gate-crashers of the ‘big five’, stylish and a sudden favourite of the neutral fan. Supported by a solid infrastructure, Spurs were a team on the up and Redknapp finally the English manager the English national team had been waiting for.
As time passed, Redknapp’s endless desire to hear the sound of his own voice in whatever medium presented to him, his inexplicable and often alarming contradictions, and his apparent distaste for the thoughts and opinions of the clubs supporters (completely missing the irony of giving an interview to a talk radio show to chastise people who call in to shows of the same ilk) gradually eroded hard-earned goodwill, and when the England manager vacancy arose creating an all-too-obvious amicable solution for club and man, his failure to land the role and collapse in form created an untenable situation.
Not quite Redknapp’s ‘Titanic’; but certainly ‘Voyage of the Damned’. Goodbye Harry, and thank you for some wonderful memories.
And so enter Luís André de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas, a man one could conservatively describe as the ‘flavour of last month’; the soon-to-be special one of yesterday, riding a wave of so-whatimism and cautionary acceptance upon appointment. Andre Villas-Boas: wunderkind extraordinaire, intellectual, master analyst and ‘Hottest Property in World Football’ award winner 2011.
Andre Villas-Boas: Failure, tactically inflexible, damaged goods. One season wonder.
There is little doubt the man has talent. Bobby Robson recognised it, as did Jose Mourinho, but as he crosses one-time West Bromich Albion reject and former assistant Roberto Di Matteo on their respective journeys on the ‘hot-or-not-o-meter’, Andre Villas-Boas has it all to prove.
In many ways, the marriage of Tottenham Hotspur and AVB is one of mutual convenience; the former requiring youth and vitality, the latter a place to rebuild a reputation with no expectation of great success or league championship, a first for his career.
So realistically, what are the aspirations of Tottenham Hotspur for the coming season?
With a month to go until it kicks off, there is much to be optimistic about. With a new manager comes new ideas, and in Jan Vertonghen, Tottenham have perhaps the best replacement for now-retired captain Ledley King they could have hoped for. Gylfi Sigurdsson is a fine player (and now finally there is in the squad a man who can take a corner) but does little other than add to the numbers. Villas-Boas will be given the irrelevance of pre-season matches and the freedom of foreign shores to imbed ideology and his tactics into his new squad, which presumably extend a little further than the infamous “just f***ing run around a bit”.
Minimally, he must maintain the status quo. To compete and finish in the top 4 teams is a must, an aim made more complicated by his former team Chelsea’s significant summer investment and certainty not to repeat all the failures of the previous season. He must provide that which Harry Redknapp did not for fear of befalling his same fate – supporters and the board room will expect his futurism in contrast to Harry’s Hackney Marshes.
But at the same time, he must rebuild.
Luka Modric’s departure is a certainty; the heartbeat of the team ripped from its chest in an understandable but regrettable conclusion to his time at the club. He must – Adebayor or not – fill a vacancy for one if not two or three forward players. And he must, quickly, identify the deadwood in a squad heavy on numbers and mediocrity. There will be money to spend, but it must be spent wisely.
Rebuild, and Andre Villas-Boas rebuilds himself. Rebuild, and he will restore a reputation previously inflated by comparison and relative success. Soon, the media scrutiny will intensify as the season draws imminent and the transfer window begins to close.
On the line for Tottenham Hotspur is a season’s football. For Andre Villas-Boas, it could be much, much more.
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