Villas-Boas can't shake his Chelsea past
The last time Andre Villas-Boas was able to sleep with a win under his belt as a manager of a Premier League club was February 25, 2012. It was against Bolton Wanderers, if you’re interested.
At Chelsea, where he made his Premiership managerial debut, his 40-match tenure at Stamford Bridge was shrouded in controversy and hype. Tales of unhappy players, a dressing room united against him rather than with him, and a club seemingly in transition from old to new wasn’t ready for the imposter from Portugal.
Despite a move from the west of the capital to the north, the same sort of rumours followed and while nothing has yet materialized, the press and pundits alike have questioned and scrutinized every single decision.
This led to last Sunday’s game against newly promoted Reading as a referendum of sorts. According to a number of national newspapers, it was the beginning of a two- or three-game spell that could mark him as a repeat of Juande Ramos – thrown to the scrap heap after just 54 games in charge of the London club - or the re-incarnation of the beloved Harry Redknapp.
A 3-1 victory probably never felt, or looked, so good for the former Porto boss, yet from my view in the press room at the Madejeski Stadium, the questions fired at the Tottenham manager quickly went from post-game, three-point euphoria, to off-field politics.
“Did you chat with the chairman [Daniel Levy] about your future at the club?”
“Did you feel under any extra pressure going into this game?”
Then came questions about the former Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp, who had made comments about overly complicated managers who operate using large dossiers to store their complex tactics.
“I have no idea what interview [you’re asking me about],” replied AVB before adding, “I don’t read the papers.”
Did the journalist asking about Redknapp’s comments expect his interviewee to turn around and spark a tirade of abuse at Harry?
Was he hoping that the current incumbent of the White Hart Lane hot seat would tell Redknapp to keep his nose out of his clubs business and perhaps leave the managing to the people who are currently employed by a football club?
This line of interrogation continued for another two or three questions, before thoughts moved on to Jermain Defoe’s stellar start to the season. The moment, though, highlighted the attitude that the media appear to have towards Villas-Boas. They want him to fail, either with his words or with results on the pitch.
But with his first win under his belt and a side that is beginning to look settled, Andre Villas-Boas is hardly the prime candidate to be tried and sentenced by one result. That dubious honour must be given to a winless Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool.
On the other side of the Madejeski coin, the Reading manger, Brian McDermott was given the onwards-and-upwards treatment in his press conference, yet his team are yet to register a win so far this season. Expectation levels surrounding the two clubs are a world apart, but the differing treatment of the two managers is plain for all to see.
Dossier or no dossier, it’s obvious that AVB is a man rich in footballing knowledge – unlike Redknapp, a self-confessed illiterate whose sides have tended to struggle after the New Year – and such lines of questioning will bring nothing but drab, meaningless answers from a man who has the potential to be one of the most interesting characters in the game.
Maybe the national press have already prepared their headlines for AVB and are anxiously awaiting the chance to whip them out as soon as Levy offers the vote of confidence.
Until that happens though, Andre Villas-Boas will continue to operate as Tottenham’s manager and, if things tick along as they did against Reading, the highly touted coach that won the treble with FC Porto just two years ago, could well be bringing some silverware to White Hart Lane this season.