Villas-Boas and Tottenham Hotspur: A Marriage with No Honeymoon
The final whistle at White Hart Lane on Saturday was greeted by a significant number of boos from the home fans.
Tottenham Hotspur had just drawn 1-1 with West Bromwich Albion, a team they beat home and away last season, and the natives were restless.
The draw followed the defeat at Newcastle on the opening weekend, meaning Spurs have only taken a point from the first six available to them this season.
The unseasonal weather across England this weekend—the torrential rain was each enough to see Sunderland's match against Reading postponed just an hour-and-a-half before kick-off—may have made it easy to forget that it is still August, but everyone was aware that this was only Spurs' second game of the season.
What's more, it was only Andre Villas-Boas' second competitive game as the club's head coach, and his first at home.
Given the buoyant atmosphere in N17 before kick-off, and the unanimous and grateful applause throughout the entire 26th minute for recently retired club captain and stalwart Ledley King, the vocal dissatisfaction of some (by no means all) of those inside the ground at the end of the match was a stark contrast.
The reaction to the first sign of adversity under an entirely new regime illustrates that there are those who had so little patience for this appointment from the outset. It is like a marriage in which the happy couple have skipped the honeymoon and the love-filled early years and instead drove straight from the church to the counselor.
Villas-Boas is an unsympathetic character at the best of times. His dry use of the kind of business jargon most people hear all week at work and want to avoid in their football-following lives is not exactly endearing, and he is notoriously prickly in the face of critical questioning.
The fact that his previous job was at London rivals Chelsea or that he is younger than the majority of season-ticket holders probably doesn't help either.
But that does not mean that he deserves anything less than the full support of every supporter of the club.
The way he has handled the offloading of Tom Huddlestone and Michael Dawson—two players much beloved at White Hart Lane—is another mark against his name in the eyes of many. However, any new boss coming into a job has the right to assess the players at the club and decide which ones fit in with his vision going forward.
Villas-Boas may be trying to slaughter two sacred calves, but were he not allowed to do so, he would not have the board's full backing, which is not the best way to start any job.
Bringing in the players he does want largely hinges on the sale of Luka Modric finally being completed. This is a situation that Villas-Boas inherited and is powerless to affect, as involvement in such matters does not form part of his brief.
Similarly, he has drawn criticism for not starting Emmanuel Adebayor after the Togo striker returned to the club this week on a permanent deal following last season's highly successful loan spell. Many will question why he only named a player who had not had a proper preseason on the bench, but there would have been fewer dissenting voices when Alex Ferguson did the same with Robin van Persie against Everton on Monday.
Few too would have wondered until now why West Brom boss Steve Clarke is yet to start Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker, on loan from Chelsea, was a revelation after coming off the bench at the same time as a sluggish Adebayor midway through the second half.
The 19-year-old brute of a forward terrorised the Spurs defence and softened them up to the point where they were clearly rattled when they conceded James Morrison's late equaliser. He and West Brom in general deserve plenty of the credit for making a highly entertaining second half, but it seems as though all the post-match energy is focused on what Tottenham did wrong.
Spurs were only in the situation of hanging onto a one-goal lead because of their own profligacy. It took until the final minute of the first half for Spurs to have a shot on target. Jermain Defoe's tame effort which rolled to Ben Foster was the home side's 11th of the game. At full-time, that count read 27, but only one of them went in.
There was little shame in losing away at Newcastle last week, and while shipping a costly late goal is never welcome, that it came against a side still on a high after beating Liverpool seven days previously is not exactly worthy of committing harakiri either.
Villas-Boas expected the media to get on his back early. He has enjoyed a frosty relationship ever since he took over at Chelsea and he did not turn out to be the second coming of the press pack's poster boy, Jose Mourinho.
He was criticised for backing his then captain, John Terry, at the start of the Anton Ferdinand affair, as though he had a choice. He was widely criticised for leaving Frank Lampard on the bench on just a handful of occasions, even though he was hired with the explicit brief of ushering in younger players. Every slightly mispronounced or invented word in his second language was gleefully mocked on Twitter by journalists who wouldn't know how to order a beer in Portuguese, let alone run a football team.
Now, it seems, Villas-Boas has a strong band of detractors within his own home ground. When a coach is having to contend with that just two games into their tenure, they are always going to face an uphill battle.
This could prove to be a wholly loveless marriage.
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