Benoît Assou-Ekotto

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Assou-Ekotto on why he loved Redknapp but had issues working with AVB​


Benoit Assou-Ekotto has admitted that he and his former Tottenham teammates loved Harry Redknapp’s approach because of his willingness to trust the players rather than micromanage them.

Assou-Ekotto struggled to get much game time either under Martin Jol or Juande Ramos after moving to the club from Lens in the summer of 2006.

It did not seem as though the left-back was going to succeed in the Premier League after his first couple of seasons in North London but he established himself as a regular in the starting eleven immediately after Redknapp took over from Ramos.

Assou-Ekotto went on to play more than 200 times for the Lilywhites (TransferMarkt), playing a crucial role in helping the club qualify for the Champions League in 2010 and reach the quarter-finals of the competition the subsequent season.

The Cameroonian international admitted that he felt unfairly picked on by Jol, who was his first manager at Spurs.

He told The Athletic: “(With Jol) when we were in trouble on the pitch or tactically it was always our fault — (fellow new signing Didier) Zokora or me.”

Regarding Ramos, who lasted less than 12 months in the Spurs hot seat, Ekotto simply said: “This man (Ramos) was not for England.”

Ekotto added that Redknapp was very different to his predecessors and that the 74-year-old’s man-management style helped get the best out of him and his teammates.

The left-back said: “Redknapp knew that we were men, that we were grown up. Do what you want, just be good for the game.

“You have to know as a professional that if you go out on Friday you won’t be good on Saturday. You can go to the restaurant but remember there is a game on Saturday.

“I’m not his kid. That’s why that Tottenham team fought a lot for each other, because he gave us that responsibility. You can be a good manager tactically but if nobody likes you then nobody will fight for you. We’ll fight for you if we love you.

“It’s better to be less good tactically but to be a good man-manager. Checking everyone’s OK and if someone has a problem, saying, ‘OK we are going to sort it out’.

“One day I went to see him and was like, ‘I want to stay inside. I don’t feel great today — I have some problems in my mind’. He would be like, ‘You know what, come back in two days. Stay inside for two days’.

“And when he gives you this favour, you as a professional and as a man can see that this manager understands my problem. He’s cool with me. The minimum I can give back is to be the best for him at the weekend.”

Assou-Ekotto also shed light on Andre Villas-Boas’ time at Tottenham, suggesting that the Portuguese coach was too big for his boots when he took over from Redknapp.

He said regarding Villas-Boas: “He was young, and still learning.

“I think the problem was when you’ve won the Europa League (at Porto) and you come to Tottenham, even if Chelsea was not a great experience for him, you still think your ideas are the best, and you would die for them.

“But, believe me, it wasn’t just me who didn’t enjoy his training.”

The 37-year-old admitted that he and his Tottenham teammates were once left quite puzzled when Villas-Boas and his coaching staff organised an odd training ground game involving three teams and three goals.

He said: “When you receive the ball — boom — you turn and shoot and score in either the goal on the left or on the right. No idea! No one understands why.

“I am not against playing with three teams and three goals if you explain to us why. But no one used to enjoy it and when you don’t enjoy the manager who does the sessions, you don’t want to fight for him.”

He also accused Villas-Boas of taking a ‘my way or the highway’ approach, which he suggested eventually led to his downfall.

Assou-Ekotto added: “I felt he didn’t want to listen to anyone. I’d been there a long time and when I spoke to him, he listened but he didn’t really listen at all. In my opinion, he was without experience and used to think he was the best. But he was not.”

Spurs Web Opinion

Redknapp was, in many ways, the perfect fit for the squad we had at the time. We had some players with tremendous ability who were perhaps constrained by Ramos’ tactical approach and his draconian approach to diet and training.

Redknapp essentially just took the handbrakes off and the talents we had in the side blossomed. However, the game has certainly moved on tactically from what it was at the time and I do not think someone like Harry, who is not tactically astute, is capable of enjoying similar success today.
 
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