The Calvin Report: Villas-Boas still battling to convince Spurs faithful
Portuguese's emotions have still to strike chord in his new constituency
Sunday 21 October 2012
It was a game to gladden the hearts of the Harry Redknapp Glee Club, a Chelsea performance guaranteed to swell the barrel chests of the John Terry Appreciation Society. The Save AVB movement melted away on to Tottenham High Road, and could not be reached for comment. The man himself belied the image of an isolated technocrat, a manager unable to relate to his players on a visceral, emotional level.
Andre Villas-Boas cared, all right. He would not be human had he not looked at Juan Mata, and wondered "what if", but the conventions of his trade meant he had to dissemble.
"Creativeness and brilliance solved the game," he said, in that strangely structured way of his. The obvious observation, that he could have been the beneficiary of such gifts, had he stayed at Stamford Bridge, was met with a shrug, and empty platitudes.
Asked about Mata, the player he recruited for Chelsea when he believed Roman Abramovich was as good as his word, Villas-Boas responded: "He's always a good player, independent of which manager signed him. He is certainly not going to stop providing those moments of brilliance."
The party line that "this is not an individual quest, it is a team quest", was admirable but unconvincing. For long periods of a coruscating contest AVB was an urgent, voluble figure, unable to sit still. Bloodless tactical theories, so compelling on a white board, were swamped by a flood tide of adrenaline.
When Jermain Defoe put Spurs ahead, nine minutes into the second half, he forgot himself, indulging in a triple fist punch, and a primitive howl of hope. Revealingly, though, those emotions have still to strike a chord in his new constituency.
Villas-Boas faces a fight to win over an expressive, judgemental set of supporters. In contrast to his assistant, Steffen Freund, whose heritage as a former Spurs player was celebrated in song, his name remains in unchanted territory.
The Portuguese was Mr Congeniality before kick-off, dispensing hugs all round in the technical area, where he made a point of going along the front three rows of the Tottenham bench to pass on his professional respects. If he required a reminder of the culture into which he failed to integrate, it came in the form of Chelsea's megaphone diplomacy, which dominated the morning.
Chairman Bruce Buck, an emollient character who makes best use of his legal training, offered sincere apologies, on the club's behalf, to the Ferdinand family. But chief executive Ron Gourlay was dour and unconvincing in his defence of the lack of transparency in Terry's case.
Terry has, apparently, been punished with a record club fine. That is a reflection of his status as the club's highest paid player rather than the draconian sanction it might appear. The armband, which he appears to place beyond price, is his, apparently for perpetuity.
Given the cynicism of Chelsea's approach, fair-minded neutrals will wish Villas-Boas well. It is not as if the English game, a wasteland of regimented thinking and one-dimensional tribalism, is blessed with too many coaches who dare to be different.
His 35th-birthday cards are still on the mantelpiece, even though he had appeared to age considerably by the time Daniel Sturridge converted the final goal of the sort of game which justifies the hype, and alleviates the boredom of the international break. He was entitled to be given more support at Stamford Bridge, but the usual suspects held sway, and he was fortunate to get an opportunity for rapid redemption in the Premier League.
There will always be a minority at Spurs who want a return to the good old days, when 'Arry addressed the football world through the window of Kevin Bond's Range Rover. The determination of Villas-Boas to be his own man is fraught with personal issues. Intriguingly, in the build-up, he had appeared to concede he should have been more ruthless.
"I never had any problems with the Chelsea players," he said. "I have one big fault which is maybe the way I was educated at Porto, which led me to believe in principles that no single individual is bigger than the club. It is easier to say than do and if I had my time again I would go against that."
They like a sense of style, as well as substance, at Tottenham. That was emphasised by the reception afforded David Ginola, the half-time cabaret. Fans are unimpressed by Clint Dempsey's propensity to slow down the pace of attacks, and will have registered the indolence of Emmanuel Adebayor.
It took him an age to prepare to go on as substitute, removing more layers than an Arctic explorer before he pulled on a shirt that will require only the lightest of washes. A renewal of the other psychodrama, the reluctance of Hugo Lloris to await his chance in goal, will be another test of AVB's resolve.
Only the small-minded will want him to fail.
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