As Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy decided to pull the trigger on Harry Redknapp’s three-and-a-half year reign in June, supporters were under no illusions of the changes that their club were seemingly set to undertake.
Although perhaps it has only been within the last six to eight weeks, that they’ve been able to absorb all the qualities that the club enjoyed over his tenure. Kissed goodbye was a beautifully entertaining care-free brand of football, a slightly novel disregard for tactical acumen but also, absolute swathes of good publicity. The last trait, if you hadn’t guessed, is the one instigating plenty of discussion in N17 of late.
Since the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas as Redknapp’s successor, Spurs supporters have felt particularly aggrieved at the way certain parts of the print media have treated their new man and some have pulled no punches in their Fleet Street critique, either. A continuous slew of negativity has slowly eaten away since what was an admittedly tough Premier League beginning, but something of a tipping point was reached during the morning of the 3-2 away victory at Manchester United.
An article ran in The Sun on the 29th of last month seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, as the paper went with a deemed ‘exclusive’, denoting the a players mutiny at White Hart Lane. The story, amassed with the grand total of zero quotes and zero sources, told how Spurs stars had ‘hit out at their manager’s negative style of play,’ and AVB had been left ‘reeling’ after the outburst. To say this went down like a lead balloon with fans was an understatement.
For some, this was simply too much. Since the beginning of June, it had felt like Villas-Boas was being continuously victimized and perhaps most prominently, it was applying a palpable level of pressure on an evolving team that desperately needed patience. Before he was even appointed, false rumours of a senior player revolt to the hierarchy, were in full swing. After a great performance against Lazio at home, fans awoke to match-reports depicting seething mediocrity. Worse still, his decision to slowly introduce Hugo Lloris into the league, one even backed up by the player himself, has been manipulated into a dreadful soap opera.
Fans felt the media had baited them one time too many and consequently, they bit back. The story ran in The Sun became a focal point of mass ridicule and derision and supporters took to social media, as many have done for several weeks now, to slam the logic behind the media’s Spurs-based reporting. The main hypothesis? That the press had something of an anti-Villas-Boas agenda, born out of a begrudging respect for former boss, Harry Redknapp.
Although interestingly, powered by the all-conquering tools of Twiiter er al, the strength of such criticism seemed to actually catalyze a response from the very people supporters were hammering in the first place. Last week, The Mirror’s Darren Lewis took the step of coming out and addressing the conspiracy theorists head on and he wasn’t shortcoming in his response, either:
Speaking in his Tottenham column, he said:
“I have never written a piece criticising a player or a manager out of pure spite. And I never will.
“Which I why I have watched, fascinated, as this whole idea that the press are out to somehow “get” Andre Villas-Boas has reached a crescendo.”
Indeed, Lewis was particularly scathing in putting to bed the notion, that it was the ghost of Redknapp, that had led some in the media to engage in some form of vendetta against Villas-Boas. While he admitted he was good value in his press conferences, he was quick to shoot down the fans’ view that the ex-Pompey manager received preferential treatment. For Lewis anyway, there is no set agenda.
“As with every industry, there may well be a minority of reporters with some sort of beef with AVB. But I haven’t come across them. And I cover Tottenham press conferences and games most weeks for the Daily Mirror.”
Regardless of your views of the newspaper as an institution, it was refreshing to see a journalist look to directly address what is in reality, a very niche footballing issue. Of course, for Spurs supporters, the perceived vilification of Andre Villas-Boas has been more important than any realms of Manchester United or Manchester City issues, but in the wider world of football, it’s not been a domineering topic. Lewis’ response suggests that not only are supporters’ voices heard but that in today’s age, they are almost impossible to ignore.
Although for fans, there is still something of a bitter taste left in the mouth and although Lewis was sincere in his viewpoint, there remains a feeling that some sections of the media, continue to bestow an unfairly negative representation of Villas-Boas. Redknapp, regardless of how supporters feel about him now, represented something to a throwback of yesteryear. He was from an era of warmth and personality and in an era where the modern manager spouts such routine and insipid PR vetted answers, Harry was a breath of fresh air.
Although his comparisons with Jose Mourinho hold gravitas, Villas-Boas is of a breed we simply haven’t encountered on these shores too often. The Portuguese is fiercely intelligent, has a penchant for techno-speak and carries a very apparent air of self-certainty. You get the feeling that some simply just don’t understand him. In this country, we have a tendency to treat what we don’t know with a sense of hostility.
Yet ultimately, if the media want to let them sneer at Villas-Boas, than supporters should let them sneer. The fabrication of mutiny and revolt were at their most damaging when the side were without a win. But now fans are buying into their new managers blueprint and they can begin to see the road on which he’s taking them on. Fans have seen enough ‘exclusives’ to surely cotton on to what the game’s about now. It’s time to create a siege mentality at White Hart Lane.
Do you think there is still a residing cynicism towards Andre Villas-Boas? Or do you think some fans have taken the conspiracy too literally? Let me know what you think on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and tell me how you see it.