André Villas-Boas has a point but may also want to look at own home tactics after criticising supporters, says a Spurs regular
André Villas-Boas does have a point. Tottenham Hotspur fans do frequently get restive when their team are playing scratchy football and are failing to make any headway against teams they should, on paper, be beating quite comfortably. But then so do the home fans at almost every Premier League ground I've been to when their team is not playing well. Old Trafford was a ghost ship when Spurs were 2-0 up at half-time last season. Arsenal fans were furious with Arsène Wenger and his team when Spurs nicked a late winner four seasons ago. And so on.
Whether Villas-Boas was right to publicly denounce the Spurs fans for their fickleness after an unconvincing home win against Hull is another matter. Biting the hand that feeds rather gives the impression that AVB has become a touch hypersensitive. Fans getting on the backs of their own team is one of the crosses that comes with earning £50,000 a week as a professional footballer. If you don't like it, you can always get another job.
I don't believe in muttering and booing gratuitously but I do believe in the right of the fan to do so. It may not help matters; it may even, as AVB suggests, make matters worse. But fans who have paid £45 for a ticket have also bought the expectation that their team will play in a particular way. Not necessarily winning but showing heart, commitment, energy and a sense of purpose. And, it pains me to say this, these are not always qualities every Tottenham player has displayed in home games this season. Most notably, the sense of purpose.
The edginess of the White Hart Lane crowd has been all about the home team's failure to make much headway against teams that come to defend. Only against Norwich City have the team shown the expected creativity and fluency.
Hull was a good case in point. Anyone going to the game would have known that the away team's game plan would be to put men behind the ball and frustrate Spurs. So AVB and his team should not have been surprised when Hull did just that. Yet Spurs consistently failed to find any way of breaking them down and never looked liked they had a plan B. To me, it looked as if the players were every bit as panicky as the fans.
The most curious part of AVB's comments, though, was the implication that vociferous and unflinching home support is a central part of his tactical game plan. This seems a very odd way of going about things. Does his pre-match team talk go something like, "Wait till the crowd roars and then pass the ball Andros Townsend". It is also – forgive the expression – arse about tit. If you went to see a concert and the band appeared to have forgotten most of their own songs, would you cheer even louder in the hope that, by giving them extra encouragement, they might remember them in the second half? I'm not sure I would.
AVB might feel that the fans are being less than grateful. In a way, he is right. Despite decidedly iffy home performances, Spurs have made their best start to a season in years and are only three points off the lead. Just imagine how the team would be doing if they were playing well. AVB is also right that the away support has been a lot more fervent. I've been to every game bar one. But it's also true that Spurs have been a great deal more accomplished away from home. Rather than blame the supporters, AVB might want to take a look at his own tactics.
The real question is why AVB chose to be intemperate. I like to believe that he's an intelligent, thoughtful man. Someone who chooses his words carefully. So maybe his outburst is more considered than it looks. The players clearly do feel the pressure of their own limitations of their home performances and need reassurance. By publicly backing his players against the fans AVB has shown he is prepared to take a hit for his team.
If creating a siege mentality in the dressing room is what it takes to get Spurs playing as a team, then so be it. No one at White Hart Lane will care. And if Spurs come out with all guns blazing and go into a 2-0 lead at half-time in the Carling Cup reprise against Hull on Wednesday, the spat will be quickly forgotten.
John Crace is the author of Harry's Games: Inside the Mind of Harry Redknapp (Constable)