André Villas-Boas refused to be drawn into a war of words with the man he replaced at Tottenham after Harry Redknapp was perceived to have mocked the Portuguese for failing to achieve success at Chelsea.
Redknapp was accused in some quarters of firing a sly jibe at Villas-Boas last week when, in response to a question about the likelihood of Rafael Benítez thriving at Stamford Bridge, he remarked: "You'd have to be a dope to mess it up with that group of players." Villas-Boas was sacked by Chelsea last year nine months into a three-year contract and his assistant, Roberto Di Matteo, took over and led the team to Champions League and FA Cup triumphs.
Villas-Boas professed to being unruffled by Redknapp's remark, simply noting that the Queens Park Rangers manager is in no position to venture an opinion on the singular goings-on at Chelsea since he has never worked at that club. "Only when you manage it you can find out about it," said Tottenham's manager. "You have to be able to access a club like that to experience it. It's a different type of club and you have to experience it and survive it."
Villas-Boas said his reputation was dented by his stint at Stamford Bridge but believes he and Tottenham are poised to reach new heights. He is relishing the stability he has found at White Hart Lane – he took care not to contrast overtly that atmosphere with what he endured at Chelsea or, indeed, with the uncertainty that engulfed Tottenham last season when Redknapp refused to rule himself out of the running for the England job, a stance that was said to have annoyed the club's chairman, Daniel Levy, and contributed towards the decision to seek a new manager in the summer.
"That was a club decision and I can't really expand on the reasons for it," said Villas-Boas, who said he and his team are revelling in their unity of purpose. "Stability is always important," he said. "Even on the players' confidence, and they are the ones that make the difference. When they feel comfortable about their football, they do things better on the pitch and I think that is what they are doing now. Maybe that is why you see so many players feeling good about their football and playing extremely well."
Villas-Boas said that beyond shaking hands with Redknapp before previous matches, he has never so much as spoken to his predecessor.
The pair will come face to face at Loftus Road on Saturday when Tottenham will attempt to compound Redknapp's relegation fears and boost their own upward momentum.
The Portuguese labelled the match a must-win duel for his side given that Manchester City and Arsenal are playing against each other this weekend and Manchester United take on Liverpool. "What I want is for us to profit from a weekend where the top teams meet each other. It will be excellent for us if we can get Manchester City into this battle between ourselves, Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton. That is our objective, to shorten the gap to the top and open the gap to the teams who are below us."
The Tottenham manager said his club are unlikely to make any new signings this month even though Emmanuel Adebayor will leave for the Africa Cup of Nations after the QPR match, meaning he will miss between two and five matches.
Villas-Boas denied reports that the club is interested in the Montpellier midfielder Younès Belhanda. He admitted that he is an admirer of Internacional's striker Leandro Damião but said it is "extremely unlikely" that Tottenham will be able to do a deal for the Brazilian due to interest from richer clubs.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Vladimir Maiorov