sport

I always kept the faith - AVB

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas insists there was never any doubts in his mind he would turn around Spurs' season after their poor start.

Many were shocked this summer when Spurs chairman Daniel Levy sacked Harry Redknapp and replaced him with Villas-Boas, who had just endured a torrid eight-month spell in charge of Chelsea.

Villas-Boas' critics were given further ammunition when the 34-year-old's team failed to win any of their opening three games.

Tottenham were booed off after throwing away leads against Norwich and West Brom, but the Portuguese has turned around the club's fortunes in recent weeks, winning three straight league games - the most notable of which came at Manchester United last weekend.

Villas-Boas has a history of proving the doubters wrong - he won four trophies in his first season at Porto despite claims he was too inexperienced - and he never thought Spurs' early-season slump would drag on.

"I have never doubted my abilities, I always trusted them," Villas-Boas said.

"It's funny how things change so dramatically.

"The Premier League is completely unpredictable. We started the season (badly). We are now fifth from the top.

"You have to perform at this level. This is the early stages in the Premier League."

Villas-Boas is not a man to rest on his laurels, however. He knows a lot still has to be done to achieve the top-four place Levy demanded of him when he signed a three-year contract at White Hart Lane in July.

After last weekend's memorable win at Old Trafford, Tottenham's lack of ruthlessness reared its head again on Thursday night when they dominated their Europa League game against Panathinaikos but only came away with a point after the Greek hosts scored a late equaliser.

The Spurs boss has been encouraged by his team's improved results in the Premier League, but he now wants them to maintain their push for Champions League qualification by beating Aston Villa on Sunday and Chelsea the following weekend.

"We want to cement our position at the top because we understand that being at the top can drive our ambitions upwards," Villas-Boas said.

"We have won three (league) games on the trot. Now we go into two difficult home games.

"We understand we made history by winning at Old Trafford, but if we want to take that step forward, we have to win the next couple of fixtures."

Although Villas-Boas has overseen the departures of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart - two of Redknapp's key players - he is still benefiting from his predecessor's policies.

Many had criticised Redknapp for not putting faith in young players during his time at White Hart Lane, with the likes of Kyle Walker, Kyle Naughton and Steven Caulker forced to go out on loan before earning their crack at first-team football.

All three players have played well under Villas-Boas, and Walker, who went on loan to Villa the season before last, is now arguably England's first-choice right back.

Villas-Boas thinks Redknapp's loan policy has given those three players the confidence to play well this season.

"I think (Walker) has benefited from going on loan and getting that playing time," the Spurs manager said.

"He has come back stronger, full of ambition. He embraced it, as did Naughton and Caulker.

"We are living at the moment with the benefit from those kind of solutions. It's something we look carefully at."