The day after André Villas-Boas was announced as Tottenham’s new head coach, a Spurs fan called @yidingtons tweeted the following:
“OMG! Did you see AVB’s article in the sun, interview out of a car window & Betfair Ad this morning!?!?!? No. Me neither. #sexyvillasboas ”
Of course, one of the most notable differences between the Portuguese master and our friend ’Arry (aside from his boyish good looks, youth and superb tactical know-how) is his attitude to the media. ’Arry loves ’em, André hates ’em.
Before I go any further I should ‘fess up summat: I’m a journalist. Not a sports one, but a professional, paid journalist nevertheless. I’ll defend the press all day and you can call me scum all you like.
Thing is, when reporters bang on about Modders, and AVB’s failings at Chelsea, they’re not being ‘scum’, they’re doing their jobs. They’re not writing just for Spurs fans but for football fans on a whole. These are angles and they’re what sell papers and make stories great.
AVB, to his eternal credit, handled these questions pretty damn carefully, and his first meeting with the press went well. Really well. He didn’t dwell on his failings at Chelsea too much (although he did hint at a burning desire to prove them wrong), referred to Spurs as ‘we’ and dealt with the Modric situation with aplomb.
And, of course, there wasn’t the self-aggrandising you’d get from ’Arry. Sure, AVB is here to prove a point, but he says he wants a title tilt. Not for him. For us. If that’s not ambition, I don’t know what is. No wonder the doubters are warming to him already. ’Arry was elated with fourth, AVB wants the League.
We all know rent-a-quote Redknapp was a journalists’ dream: you’d always come away with the story and couple of a great lines. But the thing is, AVB can be just as likely to give a good quote. Unlike ‘Arry, though, he doesn’t always intend it.
While we were all sick of Redknapp’s rambling (and that’s me included), we shouldn’t just celebrate AVB’s rocky relationship with the press straight up. If he wants to succeed at Spurs, he has to be thicker skinned. Reporters will ask difficult questions: it’s part and parcel of being a football manager.
Biting back and preoccupying himself with answering criticism proved an ultimately costly distraction at Chelsea. Who gives a fuck if Gary Neville doesn’t like David Luiz? By the time the Brazilian was proving doubters wrong on the pitch, his manager had already snapped.
Now, while quarters of the press are fighting ’Arry’s corner, they’ll soon forget him if AVB comes out on a charm offensive. The language has changed from ‘gamble’ to ‘revolution’ already. It’s easier to be positive if you’re winning, of course. But if things start to go wrong, AVB has to stick to his guns, smile, and say it’s a long-term project. Rome wasn’t (re)built in a day.
The moment he starts snapping and snarling, we’re in trouble. Let’s hope he’s learned from his experience at Chelsea and he can bring years of success at Spurs (and Fergie-level adulation in the media). The press may be a feral beast, but AVB’s not going to tame it on his own.
I welcome not seeing his (admittedly sexy) face everywhere, in every paper and on every advert. But clever people don’t go looking for enemies. If he wins games, he’ll win fans. And that’s in the stands and in the papers.
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