I know full well it’s going to happen, it’s inevitable, that usual moment when I find myself a nervous wreck watching a Spurs game on Sky, but this time I realise I’m doing the ‘AVB crouch’ in the centre of my living room.
When I don’t have the masses of the White Hart Lane faithful to keep my movements in check, the solitude of my living room allows for plenty of leaping around, sinking to my knees in drained despair or punching my battered sofa in a Hulk-esque rage.
No doubt I’ll now include the ‘AVB crouch’ in my repertoire as I survey the field of play, attempting to look like some intelligent, tactically aware individual, but the reality is that my wife will probably walk in and think I’m about to crap in the middle of our carpet.
I don’t care though. I’ve got my Tottenham buzz back again. I can’t wait to see the histrionics of our new Portuguese manager as he squats, coils and leaps like a grasshopper high on caffeine. Give me that passion any day over someone sitting in the dugout, crossed legs, with his hands knotted on one knee, looking like it was someone else’s problem.
Don’t get me wrong, Harry Redknapp did a great job in picking the club up from the Ramos debacle, but I always felt he was simply letting a group of enormously talented players – probably our best in decades – just go out there and enjoy a kick around.
That’s a strength in one respect – to allow creative players to flourish without pressure – but when they come up against the big boys or stubborn, tactically tight teams they ran out of ideas. That’s where the manager comes in. Sometimes telling your substitute to “run about” isn’t enough.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the raised expectations from the last seven or so years – Ramos aside – that made Redknapp’s departure inevitable. He kept telling everybody “Spurs hadn’t spent the money others have”. However, what no one replied was that over the years, having invested in many young starlets or unwanted stars, the club had actually assembled a squad that had developed and grown to be worth more than most other squads.
Last season’s collection of Lilywhites was definitely the third most talented and valuable squad in the league, and arguably close to being second, so a fourth place finish, especially after being clear in third for so long, and the subsequent loss of a Champions League place was a major disappointment.
Redknapp was a convenient appointment for Tottenham Hotspur at the time. Fans would have been up in arms had he replaced Martin Jol back in 2007, but after the Juande Ramos sojourn, he was a safe pair of hands - an enjoyable rebound after a torrid yet unfulfilling affair.
The fact that he’d say one thing one week then the complete opposite the next in his frequent car window interviews with Sky Sports News, employ his favourite 11 players and use few others, not want to pick the likes of Gareth Bale or Sandro until injury made it necessary then realising how good they were, struggle to hide his not so subtle desire to be England manager and showcase his love of signing ageing players from the Premier League didn’t fully endear him to some, including myself.
Redknapp will always hold the affections of the older generations of Spurs fans, because he’s a good old boy, a real London lad, and the media will always love him because he’s willing and ready with a prime quote about his missus’ heading ability whenever they need it.
He wasn’t my cup of tea, but I’ll be the first to admit he did a good job on the whole for Spurs and deserves praise for that. Now though, with the state of the art, world class training centre about to be opened to the first team and a big new stadium on the horizon, it’s the right time to look to football’s future with that man Luís André de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas.
There would have been fewer complaints had it been us rather than Chelsea who had lavished £13m on freeing the quadruple-winning manager from his contract at Porto last season. The fact that he was then left battered and bruised by his nine months at Stamford Bridge can only be a good thing for us in my eyes.
His achievements at such a young age and his standing among other managers and coaches have not been affected, but he will have learned a hell of lot last season about himself and the pressures of managing in the Premier League.
There has been plenty of talk about his need to improve his man-management after his torrid time at Chelsea, but was it all his fault? As a former scout of the club, he had no choice but to march in from the start with an air of authority or be simply labelled as ‘Jose’s ginger mate’ by the dominating older figures of the Blues’ dressing room.
With so many egos used to getting their own way for club and country, the marriage was doomed to fail. A remit to freshen up a squad is obviously going to turn the older heads against you.
He struggled against the power of tabloid favourites Terry, Lampard, Cole et al, but to criticise his man management as the main flaw of the relationship doesn’t wash with me.
This was the man who created a tight knit group at Porto and brought tears to his players’ eyes with his speech in the changing room before their Europa League final against Braga, with even the out of favour back-up goalkeeper Beto admitting his passion had moved him and made the team feel they could beat anybody that day.
His relationship with the press is also criticised. Yet his mentor, The Special One, used the English press when it suited him and treats their Italian and Spanish counterparts with contempt. During his time at Chelsea, Mourinho fostered an unrivalled team spirit by creating a ‘them and us’ scenario.
The then 33-year-old Villas-Boas had grand plans to transform the ageing Chelsea squad into…well…something resembling ours. Villas-Boas wanted to mould a young, fast side that could press high up the pitch and play attractive football, using the space between players as a potent weapon.
The ingredients are all ready to begin cooking with at Tottenham. There’s fewer if any egos and seemingly no vocal factions or splits in the dressing room. In outfield terms, Gallas is the only older head and seems likely to move on this summer.
The Portuguese favours the 4-3-3 formation and Spurs have players who will flourish in that system. Even Rafael van der Vaart, who seems to have linked with a move back to Germany as he ‘won’t be allowed his free role’, should have no problem having been educated as a footballer in that system throughout his formative years at Ajax.
Could even Luka Modric be convinced to remain at the Lane? This is the same manager who wanted him at the hub of his plans at Stamford Bridge and the Croatian kicked up a fuss to join him. What’s to say he won’t buy into that same vision on this side of London?
Some will ask whether this is another Ramos in the making, but this is a young man soaked in football knowledge and raised on the principles of Sir Bobby Robson and Jose Mourinho. There will be no such struggles in communicating his ideas effectively. He speaks fluent English – one of his grandmothers is English – and has spent years studying the Premier League. Anyone that has read his leaked scouting report on Newcastle for Mourinho will see the obsessive detail he takes in.
But this won’t be a man fixated with English player. He has travelled the world, worked across Europe, learning about players in various leagues. Despite not having a job at the time, he journeyed to Brazil early this summer to spend weeks scouting players for his next role – a working holiday Spurs will hopefully bear fruit from in the coming months.
There’s definitely something going on behind the scenes at Tottenham Hotspur. There have been rumblings about major investment coming into the club in recent days. It’s surely no coincidence that Gareth Bale has inked a new deal and AVB, still one of the most highly-rated young managers in Europe, signed on the dotted line just days later.
Newcomer Gylfi Sigurdsson admitted that he joined the club after talks with Villas-Boas and hearing the “great ambition” for this season and the coming years. The new head coach didn’t come to Spurs simply to enjoy the Europa League again. Perhaps with the rumoured summer spending a real title tilt is in the offing?
I’m probably the most excited I’ve been about a Spurs managerial appointment in years and what the coming seasons have to offer, perhaps too much in some eyes, but I love the fact that Daniel Levy is taking a calculated gamble on a young, modern, forward-thinking manager.
I can’t wait to see a team organised offensively and attacking, looking to pass and press teams into submission, and one that can be quickly changed tactically to react to the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. There’s a real project to get behind. If Villas-Boas is given the time he needs to bring the winning mentality to Tottenham Hotspur then something special could be about to unfold down at the Lane.
Whatever drama it brings, I reckon I won’t be the only one crouching like an idiot in front of the television at some point this coming season.