Is Villas-Boas right to criticise Tottenham fans?

White Hart Lane 4

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas criticised the home fans in his post-match interview following Spurs’ 1-0 victory over Hull on Sunday.

'We played in a very difficult atmosphere, very tense, very negative and we looked like the away team but we kept our cool,' said Villas-Boas. 'We had to dig deep within ourselves because we weren't getting help from anybody, the stadium reflected this atmosphere, very tense and without a lot of support until the first goal.'

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BBC Match of the Day pundit Michael Owen discussed in reference to the Spurs’ boss’ comments how managers can sometimes create a rod for their own back if and when they criticise their own supporters.

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Tottenham were playing at home which, as the boss implies, is supposed to be an advantage but sometimes – as Owen explained – when top teams face relatively weaker opposition where a result is expected, the expectation can work against them in the form of pressure.

When any team plays away, the away fans that travel to attend are often times the most vocal and supportive in the stadium, despite the fact they are fewer in number.

The away fans will rarely voice dissatisfaction or discontent on these occasions because they are outnumbered and, thus, outshouted by the majority home fans but overall the players are grateful for their strong and unwavering support.

However, when the home fans become frustrated with their side – as Spurs’ fans became on Sunday – the players are the receptacles of that frustration which can start to feel slightly hostile and this is where it can have a negative effect.

Last season when Chelsea fans were booing manager Rafael Benitez, even though they were still supporting the players, the generalised negativity can cause disruption and unease amongst the players on the pitch and in the dressing room – it’s unsettling because it’s negative and hostile.

However, as Owen asserted on Sunday night, Villas-Boas may reflect later down the line that criticising the fans, many of whom may have supported the club (through thick and thin) for more than thirty or forty years at White Hart Lane, the people who continue to attend and show their faces and support despite increasingly exploitative and near-extortionate ticket prices may not be the wisest move.

It’s ironic almost that, in reflecting negatively on the fans’ support (or perceived lack thereof) is in itself quite negative of the manager – perhaps if he wants more positivity and support, he should dish that out too and instead praise the fans for their support – hey, at least they showed up - and ask them to perhaps make the atmosphere even better to unsettle the away team and make White Hart Lane a real fortress this season.

He could have turned it into a positive and he didn’t which is a risky game to play with the people who, indirectly, pay your wages.

After all you only get out what you put in.

image: © StartAgain

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