One by one they arrived, the dreadfully cynical figures of the national football press, and their eyes dilated in amazement. Tottenham Hotspur's new state-of-the-art training centre, which sprawls across 73 acres in Enfield, is magnificent. Potential signings could be swayed by the facilities, that include 15 grass pitches, an indoor artificial surface, a swimming pool and an enormous gym. As everybody agreed, lightheartedly, it was a far cry from Spurs Lodge.
The afternoon's show-stopper, though, was still to come. When André Villas-Boas sat down for his first newspaper briefing as the Tottenham manager, his dismissal from Chelsea towards the end of last season was always going to be on the agenda. But nobody expected his blast at Roman Abramovich for failing to "put up to the things that he promised".
Previously departed Chelsea managers have tended to take their severance packages, shrug stoically and bite their lips. But the fiery and hugely self-assured Villas-Boas is different. It was hard to recall anyone ever slagging off Abramovich. Villas-Boas has some cojones.
His suggestion that Chelsea might still have won the Champions League and FA Cup last season under him might have needed a few tablespoons of salt and he weakened the argument when he admitted that his departure had provided the pressure release that fired the players. Yet the overriding impression was of a 34-year-old with absolute conviction in himself and his methods and one who was ready for the next challenge of his career. He might be a mere boy in managerial terms but nothing can deflect him from his sense of purpose.
The job that awaits him is daunting. Under Harry Redknapp in the Premier League last season, Tottenham finished behind only the world's richest club, the country's biggest and one that has enjoyed consistent achievement and the revenue from a 60,000-seater stadium. Tottenham finished above the European champions and Liverpool and yet Redknapp was still sacked.
No pressure, then. But Villas-Boas positively embraced it as he talked up the ultimate goal. To his mind, Tottenham ought to be genuine title contenders from the outset. The chairman, Daniel Levy, is determined not only to return to the Champions League but to win the Premier League, and with the training ground, the plans for the new stadium and a squad studded with quality, he and Villas-Boas bristle with big-time ambition.
"Last year was the first year in recent times that Tottenham made it so public that they wanted to go for the title but you also have to agree with me that Harry [Redknapp] was in and out of that quotation," Villas-Boas said. "It's very well to promote yourself to the title and to quit the week after. Not that this is a criticism but if we really want to go for it, this is something we have to assume from the start.
"It is a proposition I put to the players on the first day that we met. We would like to assume this responsibility, not to put more pressure on ourselves but because it goes along with what we are trying to build at this club. We are trying to put together a squad that makes us compete for the title."
Villas-Boas is preoccupied with his moves in the transfer market which are aimed at completing a squad that has, according to him, "some fragilities, particularly on the striker position". Jermain Defoe is the only established forward on the pay-roll at present and Villas-Boas confirmed the intention to sign Emmanuel Adebayor to a permanent contract, although the Manchester City player will surely not be the only addition up front.
It was amusing to hear Villas-Boas's choice of language when he described what Tottenham were famous for on the market. "Being very precise," he said, as opposed to notorious hagglers and purveyors of deadline-day brinkmanship. The first-team squad is bloated with the number of returning loanees and Villas-Boas has plenty to do to reshape it in his image.
Ledley King is poised to announce his retirement and move into an ambassadorial role at the club but there are seven other centre-halves on the books. The final day of the window should be frantic, as usual. Villas-Boas is also keen to sign a goalkeeper; he likes Hugo Lloris of Lyon and Thibaut Courtois, who is on loan from Chelsea at Atlético Madrid.
The Luka Modric situation is key. Villas-Boas admitted that the playmaker wanted to leave, with Real Madrid his expected destination, but he stressed that the fee needed to be right. Porto's João Moutinho is Villas-Boas's No1 target, even if he is a slightly different type of midfielder.
"He [Moutinho] was one of the most important players at Euro 2012, he had a fantastic tournament," Villas-Boas said. "It doesn't mean that he's the only target but if something happened, of course he's a player that we look on with some interest.
"With Luka, there is interest and the player raises interest. The interest that he is getting from a number of clubs is the same as he got last year. If the player's ambition is to move to another club, we can respect that decision but there are club interests that the chairman will defend and only when the right offer is met will there be more use."
Villas-Boas has been parodied, in some quarters, following his failure at Chelsea but the optimists consider him a better fit at Tottenham, where the dressing-room might be more receptive to new ideas and the team is faster and more dynamic, perhaps better equipped to play his style of football. Helping Villas-Boas will be his latest signing, the assistant manager Steffen Freund, who played for Tottenham between 1998 and 2003.
"What we want is that winning mentality," Villas-Boas said.
"We want to build it by assuming we have to compete in a different way …by trying to win trophies. From my initial reception from the players, I think it is possible."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Vladimir Maiorov