As Tottenham prepare to face Wigan this afternoon, in a must-win game for both, Vincent Ralph turns the spotlight on Andre Villas-Boas.
And so it came to be that Roman Abramovich was both right and wrong about Andre Villas-Boas; right to give him the Chelsea job and wrong to sack him prematurely.
Following the former Porto manager’s disappointing stint at Stamford Bridge, many said the reality was some way short of the hype. And yet he has shattered those false impressions through a combination of savvy purchases, intelligent tactics and a continuation of other people’s efforts.
The fact is Tottenham are no better off – at least in league position – than they ended last year. And yet at the same time they have made so much progress.
It is progress that can easily come to nothing; which is why Tottenham’s match against Wigan today is vital.
The current Premier League table makes for both good and anxious reading for Villas-Boas and his players.
They are close, and yet they have been close before. Their remaining games hold the key not just to Champions League football, but to keeping their best players and attracting other peoples.
The manager has reportedly been guaranteed the presence of Gareth Bale in his squad next season, if a top four place is secured.
But success this afternoon and in the weeks that follow is not just about keeping one player, no matter how good he may be.
It is about following through with a promise; something this Spurs side has plenty of.
Should Tottenham win their remaining five games, Villas-Boas will have done what he set out to do. And then new targets will be set, by himself for himself.
Wigan’s perilous position and home advantage mean this afternoon’s match will be anything but easy. But these are the games Villas-Boas must navigate.
He will see no easy matches between now and the end of the season. Each will be hard in its own way.
Three of those five are against relegation candidates, while one is against Chelsea – competitors for that sought-after place among the European elite and a side with whom Villas-Boas has unfinished business.
Only a home match against Southampton appears a more simple challenge. Although with nothing to play for, who knows how the Saints may perform.
The season is now reduced to a handful of games. All that matters is success in what remains – a five-game campaign with prizes or disappointments at its end.
Today may be one of the hardest hurdles left for Spurs to navigate. Villas-Boas knows that, but come this afternoon, it is down to how much his players want it.
Will Villas-Boas inspire his side to a win this afternoon, and ultimately lead them in the Champions League next season?
image: © Vladimir Maiorov