New manager backed by chairman
9 July ~ Replacing Harry Redknapp with Andre Villas-Boas at Spurs is not as unexpected, risk-laden or unpopular as you might think. Tension between Redknapp and chairman Daniel Levy had been simmering for some time and it was the manager who provoked the confrontation that brought it to the boil. The club stuck by him during both his court case and the fuss over the England vacancy. He repaid them firstly by losing focus at the end of the season then hiring agent Paul Stretford, known for his uncompromising negotiating stance, to demand a new contract a few days after Levy's mother died.
Levy, cautious and prudent as ever, weighed it up and saw limited value in offering a three-year deal to a man of pensionable age. In the end, he called Redknapp's bluff. It has been described as a sacking but in reality, the two men had had enough of each other.
Villas-Boas and Spurs fit like a Saville Row suit. The squad are likely to be comfortable and responsive to his 4-3-3 formation, which depends on compressing the play when not in possession, keeping the ball and making a swift transition into offensive mode when they have it. We possess pace, strength and stamina throughout the side, plus quick defenders necessary for his preferred high backline. This addresses the two deficiencies Redknapp failed to overcome: being far too open without the ball, thus leaving the back four continually exposed; and the inability to break down massed defensive deployments.
Villas-Boas behaves with the aloof arrogance of a true zealot. Perhaps that translates as not being chummy with journalists. But what counts is how he communicates with his players and he has a better chance to replicate the close relationship he had with his Porto squad than at Chelsea, where the attitudes of senior players were deeply entrenched. Above all, he shares with the team an ambition to better themselves as individuals and collectively.
Spurs' future depends on a long-term plan to buy younger players for whom Spurs represents a step up. This approach unearthed Luka Modric, Kyle Walker, Gareth Bale, Younès Kaboul and Sandro. Lessons have been learned: newcomers Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen are experienced but yet to reach their peak. Unusually for Spurs, they have been signed pre-season.
There is the sense Levy and Villas-Boas have common ground here. Villas-Boas' player judgement will be tested fully, as we require reinforcements in goal and centre-midfield but especially up front, where we only have one striker. Less adaptable players like Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon may struggle.
Protected from a bad press by Redknapp's nauseatingly cosy relationship with the media, it is now open season at Spurs as the tabloids smell an intoxicating mixture of weakness and blood. This could fatally undermine Villas-Boas but unlike Roman Abramovich at Chelsea, Levy will support him if he puts the plan into action.
The mood among Spurs fans is unusually optimistic for the coming season. Like me, most are grateful for Redknapp's achievements but are philosophical about his departure because we never felt a close attachment. Villas-Boas deserves financial support from the boardroom and backing from the stands. Alan Fisher