The Leeds manager says Tottenham, who face his side in the FA Cup on Sunday, are playing better football than the club who cast aside the Portuguese
Neil Warnock believes Tottenham Hotspur are a better team than Chelsea and thinks he knows the reason why. "They're more fluent," says the Leeds United manager. "You've got to give credit to the coaching."
André Villas-Boas does a lot of it and Warnock is convinced that the young Portuguese will soon exact revenge on the people who let him crash and burn so spectacularly as Chelsea's manager early last season.
Since taking charge at Tottenham, Villa-Boas has, according to Warnock, "relaxed", following his chastening experience at Stamford Bridge. "I think it's been a relief for AVB after Chelsea," says the man whose Leeds players face Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale and company in Sunday's fourth round tie at Elland Road. "And Tottenham are playing relaxed football; getting 61% possession against Manchester United last weekend was unbelievable. They can win the title in the next two years. They might not have quite the depth of other squads but their first X1 is as good as anyone's in England – and I've always thought AVB talked a lot of sense. I enjoy talking to him. He was young and it was difficult for him at Chelsea – I don't think he'd experienced anything like he faced there before – but he's getting the right help from people at Tottenham."
At 64 Warnock is almost 30 years older than his 35-year-old counterpart and exhibits an almost paternal pride in the footballing redemption of a man whose Chelsea career hit a major snag when they lost 1-0 to his QPR in the autumn of 2011. "We won a game everybody said we couldn't win; a bit similar to this weekend really," says Warnock who has been delighted to see Villas-Boas restore Michael Dawson to the heart of Tottenham's defence.
"I honestly think Michael Dawson is as good as anyone in the country in that position," he said. "He started the season as fifth-choice centre-half down there but I bet AVB's pleased he perserved with him. Every top team needs a Michael Dawson." Warnock feels much the same about Scott Parker and dismisses suggestions that Sandro's long-term absence with severe knee ligament damage will hurt Spurs.
"I'd prefer Sandro to play against us than Scotty Parker on Sunday," he says. "I was close to signing Scotty at QPR. Everything he does is so simple. He's top class; I always thought he should captain England. He does every job to the best of his ability; he's the sort of player that, as a manager, you want to say 'good morning' to.
"I nearly signed him on transfer deadline day [in August 2011] because, due to his age, I didn't think Daniel Levy would buy Parker for Tottenham. Scotty said he'd come to us [QPR] if Spurs didn't happen. But then, in the afternoon, Daniel relented."
If Warnock would happily "pay to watch" Parker, Dawson and Bale, his favourite Spur is probably their former Leeds winger Aaron Lennon. "If I had to choose any player in the Premier League, Lennon would not be far off the top of the list," he says. "I love his pace but what I like about him is he's like a little kid. He wants to do everything, to dribble, score and create. He excites people."