The problem with being AVB is that he is not Harry. With jumpy early season commentators starting to sharpen knives and polish clichés as they relish the rubble of the scandalous seven points that Spurs have failed to accumulate in just three weekends of the football season, the ghost of Harry Redknapp is still doing a lap of honour at White Hart Lane.
One of the great thrills of a new football season, for me, is watching the early season analysis. If you win your first two games, you are on a roll. If you lose them both, the manager’s head appears in newspapers at the front of a supposedly amusing graphic entitled The Sack Race.
And of course, if you fail to score for two matches, like Arsenal, then you are in desperate trouble because you have sold your striker, and then the week later when you score twice against Liverpool at Anfield, then you have shopped well and the sagacious manager has had another blinder.
As we put more weekends behind us, of course, punditry tends to flatten out as we, in the media, can see a clearer picture. However, one canvas that will be hard to read for far longer than most is the one Andre Villas-Boas is painting at Spurs.
The adversity he faces is huge. 1) He comes to Spurs with a record of failure as a manager in England. 2) He wants to appear in charge, he genuinely wants to be in charge, but the fact is that chairman Daniel Levy has his hands on more of the strings than his manager. And 3) is the obvious one – he is not Harry. Every point Spurs drop will raise the same question: what if Harry was still here?
This is reality. It remains extraordinary that Spurs sacked the man who got them two top-four finishes. It remains the strangest piece of football business in recent memory. Yes, even stranger than Liverpool forgetting to sign a striker. It reflects appallingly on a chairman that, because of personality issues, he got shot of his star man.
But none of that is AVB’s fault. He simply inherited the top-four team that Redknapp left behind. Which is a bit like buying shares at peak value. Surely a man as ambitious as he is should have targetted a better value job where you can see where the gains can be made. But that is one of the joys of AVB; he is such a football purist that he sees just a team and formations and the systems and possibilities. He does not see the potential wealth it will bring him, the fame or the adulation.
So I hope we can at least try to give AVB a chance; forget for a minute that he isn’t Harry.
There is so much that is bonkers at Spurs that I just want to sit and watch. It makes no sense from the outside. It made no sense to sack Redknapp, it made no sense to sign Hugo Lloris and then tell him that he was second choice (how does a goalkeeper fight for his place if he cannot get on the pitch? I’ve never got that one), it made no sense to make Michael Dawson captain and then try to sell him, it does not really make sense to me to be obsessed with this high line of defence when you have a player like William Gallas who is clearly not equipped to play it.
If it was not clear already, I am actually convinced that this whole bonkers experiment will not work. But I am fascinated to sit and watch for a while.
I actually like the boffin manager. And I am deeply intrigued by the role that Levy has played here.
It is not good enough to dismiss it as bonkers. Levy has taken a calculated gamble, not because he is a high-risk roller, but because he has seen enough in AVB to be convinced that he can do better than Redknapp.
And AVB cannot simply be the fraud that Chelsea fans would have us believe. Look at Roberto Di Matteo: the man who failed at West Brom but helped AVB’s team of has-beens to Champions League glory.
So Spurs is a second chance charity. Levy has seen the good in a man that failed. This is not really football as we know it, but if they were to prove that actually we don’t really understand it - I would certainly enjoy that.
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