A more chastened, humbler Andre Villas-Boas admitted last night that, four months after he was dismissed as Chelsea manager, the same fate could befall him if he fails to improve the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur.
The new Spurs manager hit out at his former Chairman, Roman Abramovich, for “quitting on him” last week but is realistic to admit that he has to produce results at his new club who finished fourth in the Premiership last season under Harry Redknapp.
“2008 is a long time ago for a club of this stature to win a trophy with its ambition and capabilities,” the 34-year-old Portuguese stated as he sat amid the impressive surroundings of Tottenham’s new Enfield training ground.
“We have a new training ground and, in time, we will have a new stadium. We have wonderful work left by Harry to continue but the club decided to move on and that is why I am here.
“Now we have to shorten the gap towards the top. One thing is certain. There are responsibilities with my job. I can’t expect to be in 9th or 10th and be in a comfortable position here. It is demanded that we do better. This is obvious after Harry left the club after finishing fourth. The measure of success here is trophies. It’s a responsibility I have to take. If it fails it fails.”
That said the former Porto boss, who was drummed out of Chelsea by player power brought on by a change of style and poor results, is confident that Spurs is a better fit for him and the Chairman, Daniel Levy, in a veiled criticism of Abramovich, is better suited to his own goals.
“There is more of a sense of belonging at this club,” Villas-Boas explained. “It has a lot of tradition, which I admire. Chelsea has tradition, too, but it changed dramatically since 2003 when it was bought. That’s why the sense of belonging is bigger here.
“Tottenham are also linked with great football over the years with a wonderful history back to Bill Nicholson. It’s been football played in the right style.
“I also like the way the Chairman goes about his business at this football club. He knows what he’s doing who has given me an insurance that we’re building something here. He is involved on a daily basis at the club and that is the main difference with before.
“Tottenham have extremely competent people at the club and everyone knows that they must all play their part in us achieving success and not look for scapegoats. It will make my job easier.”
In the four and half months since his dismissal from Stamford Bridge Villas-Boas spent time reflecting on his errors that forced him out, and also travelled the world to enhance his football education. He now knows what is required of him as a manager of a leading Premiership club.
“I’ve thought a lot about what happened to me at Chelsea,” he said. “I am very grateful for both the professional and personal experience I had. You can only learn by mistakes and by experience. I know I can do better and I will because I believe I am a better coach and person for it. I have reflected a lot and also watched games in Germany and Italy, Spain and Brazil.
“It would be easy now to respond to sentiments of ambition and revenge but it would be wrong if I took it that way. The football club is more important than myself and I must not make it a personal mission.
“What I have learnt about managing in England is that individual players who do things well deserve public reward whereas I never praised or criticised an individual. Instead I always talked about the collective.
“The experience made me more meticulous about taking the next step in football. I am very privileged to be able to take time in choosing my next job. I am grateful to Tottenham to present me with this opportunity. I come here much better prepared now.”
It is imperative that Villas-Boas gets Spurs off to a good start, especially with the fans uncertain whether swapping Redknapp for the man seen to fail at Chelsea will work.
Keeping Luka Modric and Rafa Van der Vaart would help and although the new boss fears the former will be away he expects the latter to remain a Spurs player.
Speculation that the Portuguese star Joao Moutinho, who plays for Porto, could be coming to White Hart Lane also appears a little wide of the mark.
“I’m counting on Van der Vaart,” he admitted. “It’s a different situation to Luka. He’s been chased by clubs for two seasons but we have to make sure the club’s interests are met. Moutinho is a great talent but he’s at a club that doesn’t sell cheaply.
“We have a difficult start at Newcastle but then two home games so hopefully we can repeat last season when Harry had a tremendous start. There will be some fans reluctant after Harry’s departure so it is important that we build on his success and move forward, not back.”