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Villas-Boas eyes Spurs redemption

It felt like Groundhog Day for London's football media clan as Andre Villas-Boas was unveiled as the manager of one of the capital's top clubs and began offering an array of positive platitudes ahead of a new Premier League season.

We had all been here before. Just a year had passed since Villas-Boas was presented as the bright young conductor of the Chelsea orchestra, convincing many that a new era was about to dawn at Stamford Bridge.

Of course, Villas-Boas was quickly exposed for being horribly out of his depth at Chelsea, and his sacking before their end of season Champions League heroics appeared to have ended his dreams of returning to the Premier League for the foreseeable future.

However, this game has a curious way of surprising us, and here we were being reacquainted with a character whose fortune in being handed a second chance in the Premier League has left many a high-profile observer baffled.

On what seemed to be a fateful day last February, Tottenham looked ready to confirm their arrival in the big time with a magical 5-0 destruction of Newcastle on the same day Villas-Boas was pushed closer to the brink at Chelsea as his dejected side lost at Everton and dropped out of the Premier League's top four.

Who would have thought back then that Villas-Boas would be replacing fans' favourite Harry Redknapp as Spurs manager this summer? Yet such an improbable chain of events was confirmed as Villas-Boas dusted down his script from a year ago and returned to our midst spouting much of his well-used, over-confident rhetoric, while he also offered up a hint of a more humble personality lurking beneath the surface.

Attending a Chelsea press conference with Villas-Boas was as painful as a visit to a short-sighted dentist, with the coach offering monosyllabic responses to the most polite of questions. Here was a man who seemed incapable of accepting criticism, with his naivety startling for someone clearly brimming with intelligence.

Maybe his desire to be frosty with the media was an attempt to create a siege mentality in a bid to convince his Chelsea players of the need to defy their critics on a weekly basis, but the policy failed as miserably as the team he was putting onto the field.

So when his three-year plan fell apart in eight months, AVB departed without any sympathy from the star names who had tried to work with him in the Chelsea dressing room, or those of us who had tried and failed to understand a character who seemed intent on making enemies rather than friends.

His attempts this week to take some of the credit for Chelsea's FA Cup and Champions League triumphs (which would never have occurred under his stewardship) provided a reminder of the arrogant and prickly character who alienated so many in the media during his spell at Stamford Bridge, yet this coaching novice suggests he has learned lessons from his chastening English baptism.

"What we all have here is an amazing opportunity and that is something I couldn't ignore," said grizzly-voiced Villas-Boas at Tottenham's hugely impressive new training complex in Enfield, North London. "This is not about my career or what happened to me in the past, as this is now about Tottenham and moving the club towards success and titles.

"In my view, the Chelsea experience has made me a better coach and I am glad to have had this moment in my career. As you go past different clubs and experiences, you always get something out of them - it moulds you into the professional you are now.

"In that sense, I think I'm a much better professional now than I was a year ago. The only way I can prove this is by succeeding at Tottenham. You look at the quality of this club, what it represents in English football and the desire to succeed from all levels of the club, and we have to find the balance to make it happen now."

The imminent departure of star midfielder Luka Modric, the arrivals of defender Jan Vertonghen from Ajax and Gylfi Sigurdsson from Hoffenheim and the probable signings of Manchester City's Emmanuel Adebayor and FC Porto's Joao Moutinho may have dominated the headlines in recent days, but the presence of Villas-Boas is likely to define Tottenham's season.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has put his own reputation on the line by hiring a coach whose appointment caused widespread scepticism, yet the work ethic and attention to detail Villas-Boas is noted for has clearly ticked a few of the boxes for qualities the Tottenham hierarchy believe to have been lacking in recent times.

Even though Redknapp was working with a coaching staff boasting more depth than his squad, his team's lack of staying power at the back end of the last two campaigns raised serious questions over the fitness of players and, with Villas-Boas known to favour double daily training sessions, life may be about to change for the Tottenham stars.

The Portuguese demands peak fitness from his players, with a devotion to solving the set-piece failings Redknapp appeared incapable of finding a solution to also high on his priority list. Vertonghen's arrival should give Spurs a more potent threat from corners and free-kicks, while the possible arrival of Moutinho would provide more reliable set-piece delivery.

The new Spurs boss will also expect total commitment from his players. He was known to work around the clock at Chelsea's training ground, often sleeping overnight in his office in a bid to find a winning formula. It proved to be beyond him last season, but he has shown courage to jump straight back into the Premier League.

Quite what Villas-Boas's wife Joana makes of his speedy return to the city that bore witness to his stressful demise remains to be seen, but the offer to take over at Tottenham was impossible to ignore for a coach whose knows his reputation is in need of a quick fix.

Accepting the error of your ways is all part of learning process in any line of work, and even though Villas-Boas will need to change some of his ways as he sets about his latest task, he knows he dare not fail again - a second demise in London will shatter his reputation once and for all. All involved in this high-risk Tottenham gamble know they dare not fail.


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