I'm happy to give Tim Sherwood a chance as Tottenham manager. I'm open to his suggestions and ideas. I'm impressed with the increased creativity and flair that the team are playing with; and, I confess, it is great to see Spurs attacking, getting players forward and scoring again.
But none of this changes the fact that when Daniel Levy sacked André Villas-Boas, I died a little bit inside: I was stunned, horrified, confused.
As those who have read my past articles on the man will know, I'm quite fond of AVB. I always have been. Often, people ask me why that is. And, it's funny, but I don't tend to have much trouble explaining why exactly I'm a fan of the thirty-five year old who, while being ridiculed and taunted by the media, losing his best player and being denied 100% of the players he desired, maintained-with players who were not only new to each other and the club, but also to the tactics-outstanding squad morale, and, perhaps even more impressively, the highest ever win percentage of any manager at the club.
Oh, and the season before that was quite good. The one where Tottenham secured their highest ever points total in what was the most competitive EPL in years.
I know, I know. Boring football, right? Tottenham just weren't attacking enough, were they? Too negative; too rigid; too slow. Not that that seems to bother us usually, mind you. Big Sam isn't too fond of fluidity. Tony Pulis hardly instills a passing philosophy. Harry Redknapp isn't exactly a proponent of tika-taka. Even Josè Mourinho is frequently seen setting his team up with the intention of preventing the opposition from playing rather than focusing on how best to outplay them. Yet all four of them have enjoyed great popularity in the top division of English football.
Poor old AVB, on the other hand, has not. Let's be honest: you hate him, don't you? You hate the way his voice is so monotone; the way he is so deep and thoughtful; the way he assumes you know what the hell he means by "vertical football".
So you'll be pleased that AVB is gone and that every last ounce of woeful verticalness has gone with him. The shackles are off- let the party begin! And, inevitably, we have some familiar faces coming out to play:
The Four-Four-Two makes a triumphant return. The long ball from the back- it's like it never left, and Emmanuel Apathyore is back to get his head on the end of it.
Gone are the triangles, the build ups, the short passes; gone is the pressing, the probing; gone is the possession; gone is the beautiful game.
Now, don't get me wrong here: I wasn't blind to just how painfully crap the football was at times. I wasn't blind to the slow and sloppy play. The inaccurate passing. The seemingly defensive attitude. But I did maintain that this was not AVB's vision for the club; look at the Porto side of 2010/11 and you will see AVB's vision staring back at you: high pressure, urgent play, snappy passing, and relentless, fluid, high-tempo attacking movements.We saw glimpses of it at times at Tottenham, and it was clear that this was where he wanted the team, and there was absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that he was incapable of taking us there.
Sherwood has done exactly what Roberto Di Matteo did in similar circumstances: binned the tactics book and told the players to express themselves. It's true that Tottenham should be an attacking side, but it needs to be more than that. It needs to be an attacking side with a tactical vision. And it just sacked the most exciting tactical proponent of attacking football on the planet.
So I'll continue to enjoy the increased creative freedom, and I'll give Tim Sherwood my full support. But the truth is I miss AVB. I miss the guy, but, more than that, I miss the revolution.
And-I confess that I might be being a bit dramatic-but I can't look at Daniel Levy without being reminded of how deeply unfairly AVB has been treated by the club and by the media, whose agenda-driven old guard conspired against the young scholar from Portugal. We should be embarrassed of how he was treated in this country. I like verse, so to quote Dylan: "How can the life of such a man/ be in the palm of some fool's hands?/ To see him obviously framed/ couldn't help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land/ where justice is a game."