Gareth Bale has paid tribute to Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas.
The Portuguese was the surprise choice to succeed the sacked Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea in the summer of 2011, having earned a reputation as one of the best young coaches in Europe after winning four trophies in one season at Porto. He was also part of Jose Mourinho’s backroom staff at Stamford Bridge, so he knew a number of the current Blues squad.
However, Villas-Boas has spent just seven months in the hot-seat when he was dismissed after a poor run of results in March. Roberto Di Matteo, his assistant, assumed control of first team affairs, and promptly went on to win the UEFA Champions League and the FA Cup. The general consensus was that had Roman Abramovich not made the change at just the right time, Chelsea would have ended the season trophyless and out of the top four.
Tottenham, though, were prepared to offer the 35-year-old a fresh chance in the summer, when they appointed him as manager after sacking Harry Redknapp. This decision wasn’t universally well received by the supporters of the White Hart Lane club, but they have gradually warmed to him, helped by results such as a first win at Manchester United since 1989, a 2-1 triumph against rivals Arsenal and a 3-1 success over Manchester City.
All this, of course, will count for little if Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League, but they are just two points behind the fourth-place Gunners with a game in hand. Key to their ambition will be the presence of Bale, who has been in scintillating form all season. The 23-year-old has scored 19 goals and assisted nine more from 29 league games, and this has seen him pick up both PFA Player and PFA Young Player of the Year awards.
After getting his hands on these honours on Sunday evening, the Wales international forward was quick to praise the contribution of his team-mates. And he also paid tribute to Villas-Boas, hailing the impact of the former Chelsea coach as ‘fantastic’.
“It’s a massive honour. To be voted by your peers is one of the biggest things in the game. It’s great to win it and I am delighted,” he is quoted on the Sky Sports website. “When you look at the list, there are some massive names on it but I couldn’t have done it without the team. They have been fantastic this year and so has the manager.”
Tottenham resume their quest for a top-four finish when they take on Bale’s former club, Southampton, at home on Saturday afternoon. The potential crunch clash comes four days later when they make the short journey to third-place Chelsea, a match which Villas-Boas is particularly sure to be looking forward to. Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium follows, before the season is wrapped up with the visit of Sunderland on 19 May.