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Tottenham's star winger has manager to thank for recent form
12:16pm Wednesday 27th February 2013 in Spurs
By Lyall Thomas
There is no denying that Monday night's wonder-strike from Gareth Bale was as important for Tottenham's season as it was a moment of sheer brilliance.
But the ensuing celebration between Bale, his manager Andre Villas-Boas and the rest of the Tottenham staff spoke far more about Spurs' season as a whole so far than that goal, or any of the other 14 that Bale had tucked way up until that point.
Little has been written, or even mentioned in broadcast, about the fact Bale immediately turned and made for his manager on the touchline, ignoring his teammates and sprinting to embrace Villas-Boas with a passion not unfamiliar to a touching piece of cinema.
Such a public display of emotion between manager and player is rare – and not something Tottenham supporters have seen very often, even during their meteoric rise to a first ever Champions League campaign and subsequent progression to the quarter-finals.
Many Spurs fans may recall former players celebrating with Martin Jol on the touchline, or Sandro attempting to do so with Harry Redknapp after his goal at Stamford Bridge in the season before last, only for Redknapp to usher him away.
But, after Villas-Boas was installed with a potent air of doubt and ridicule surrounding him, with reports that he had no idea how to connect with his players at Chelsea and that he carried a supposed arrogance, that scene of Bale rushing to AVB like a son to his father was extremely poignant.
Not only does it reveal the strength of Villas-Boas's relationship with his players – an opinion backed up first by positive words from players such as Jermain Defore before Christmas but also by Spurs' awesome league form, unbeaten in 11 games with just one defeat since the 5-2 loss to Arsenal on November 17th.
Bale's reactions also suggest heavily that the Tottenham manager has had a very big part to play in his personal rise to new heights of skill, consistency and self-belief, and he wanted to show him just how appreciative he is.
It was under Redknapp that Bale showed glimpses of his real potential - that hat-trick in the San Siro being one of them - but these glimpses were so few and far between that no Spurs supporter could deny Bale would go missing for large portions of matches and, in fact, was missing for much of the back end of last season when the team capitulated from an 11 point lead over Arsenal to finish fourth.
Bale's sporadic form always suggested he was more of a confidence player; a few moments of early joy in a game and he would go on to steal the show entirely but take him out or isolate him early instead, and he would rarely be seen again.
But under AVB, and especially in this new free-role behind the striker, Bale seems to have an instilled, unbreakable confidence that cannot be knocked no matter how many times he is felled, bullied or man-marked. And with Bale still only 23, anyone in the game would agree that this is not something a young player can magically conjure up by himself. If that was so, we'd have seen it before.
It is up to a manager and his staff to instill that self-belief and position a player tactically so that he is at his most dangerous, and it is no coincidence that Bale was drawn like a magnet to the source of that inspiration when he watched that strike go sailing beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen to make it 3-2.