Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Men Who Stare At Scapegoats



'What have you ever won mate?'

Two games is a long time in football isn’t it. I mean come on, it’s 180, maybe 187 minutes, including stoppages, of time just passing by. It’s a back-to-back Super Sunday session sat on the sofa. Back in the real world, it’s an unproductive morning in the office spent trawling the web and flicking back to actual work stuff when the shadow of the boss looms. 

But for the wizened hacks at The Sun etc, it’s a legitimate amount of time to begin constructing informed and insightful conclusions on what the opening two games of the new Premier League season means. Particularly for poor old Andre Villas Boas.


If you read any of the post match coverage of Spurs’ admittedly disappointing one-all draw against West Brom, you could be forgiven for thinking you had actually stumbled across the obituary page for AVB.  

‘Honeymoon over’.

‘AVB gathering enemies among the fans’

‘Grim Reaper casting a shadow over Spurs’ top-four prospects. ‘

Yep, that’s right. Two games. They’ve even tried to suggest he’s losing the players.
A minority have been measured in their reaction to Spurs’ opening two games, but the overwhelming majority have treated it as conclusive proof that AVB just can’t cut it in the English Premier League. The best league in the worldTM. Toughest league. Not for shrinking violets. Ad infinitum.

Two games.

So let’s get into it. ‘Arry was sacked, much to the shock of everyone, including yours truly. It divided the fans. AVB was the leftfield name and in he came. Arriving at an interstitial moment, squashed in between the end of Euro 2012 and the start of the Olympics, the journos were rubbing their eyes with disbelief/glee and scrambling like a squadron of Spitfires, ready to shoot this fucker down. Except, AVB wrongfooted them. He stalled his engine, beguiling the red top posse mid air and came up their aeronautical rear with a performance of polished humility and optimism about the job ahead and building on the good foundations laid by ‘Arry.  The journos, surprisingly, lapped this up, but there was always a feeling he was merely walking on a tightrope, giving them ample time to retrain the machine gun on him.

Fast forward six weeks and a gruelling, Luka Modric-dominated pre season programme later and Spurs have failed to register a win in their opening two games. So the posse have re-grouped and they’re on the attack again. This is proof, they cry, that the pressure is too much. There’s The Sun jumping on a nothing comment by Assou Ekotto about his surprise at ‘Arry getting sacked, cutely ignoring the same interview in which he calls AVB ‘son of Mourinho’. Instead, they’ve conveniently read it as meaning BAE doesn’t back the new man.  

There were, it will come as no surprise, also murmurings on yesterday’s Sunday Supplement. In amongst the usual macho jostle for centre stage, the assembled villains speculated on rumours AVB texts the players with little jokes and chats to them about cars and so on. This seemingly innocent attempt to strike up camaraderie and trust was rounded upon as not really what a manager should be doing, delivered with all the authority that only a red top journo can smugly exude. 

Then there’s Monday’s Mirror, seizing on the boos at the final whistle in Saturday’s game as confirmatory evidence that AVB has lost the fans. HAHAHAHA.  Others have it down as a ‘calamitous start’. HAHAHAHA.

Two games.

In fact. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

There were boos aplenty at the Lane when ‘Arry was at the helm if there was a disappointing draw. But don’t let that get in the way of the anti-AVB agenda. Of course not.

But then this is their world view. It’s not a Spurs fan’s world view. 

In the Spurs fan’s world, there’s actually quiet patience and satisfaction being drawn from the opening week. On all the forums and amongst my fellow fans, the real snapshot is we can see what is taking shape under AVB. Yes, we dropped two points on Saturday and gave away a cheap penalty at Newcastle. But this isn’t convenient for our bloodthirsty hacks. They’ve crafted reactionary, instantaneous headlines whereas the more measured, cerebral analysis sees a subtle shift in style, from an all-out attacking game to a high-line pressing approach.  

We’ve lost Modric but looking at the two games, plenty of invention remains in the side. And whether you agree or disagree with Levy’s transfer dealings style, there will be new faces arriving this week to add depth. We’ve played some incisive, exciting stuff and have just lacked that all important cutting edge. But of course, this isn’t the analysis our journo boys are looking for. This isn’t the conclusion they want to fashion. They genuinely seem to have an alternative agenda driven towards undermining AVB and ultimately driving him out.

They’re not seeing what we’re seeing. 

Take AVB’s celebration at Newcastle when Defoe equalised. That was raw passion, bottled up frustration being released in one single moment. The way he punched the air and jumped up and down. This man has hunger. 

Then there’s the calm authority he’s presented in interviews and the subtle tactical changes introduced to the team. The players we’ve been linked with also suggests a broader intelligence being applied that was woefully absent during the ‘Arry years. None of the following are yet to sign, but the Iscos, Willians and Moutinos weren’t names being bandied about during the previous regime. And this isn’t to denigrate ‘Arry: I was a genuine, paid-up fan. But it is to emphasise that AVB is taking a more strategic, thoughtful approach to player recruitment. Partly why Levy brought him in.

Two games. 

But of course, the press need their heroes and villains and with the spectre of ‘Arry looming large, it seems AVB will really struggle for acceptance. This week should see the team take shape with the Modric fee freeing up liquidity, and most Spurs fans are confident AVB will shove a lot of the gutter boys’ words back down their throats.