Teacher vs Pupil
The best young manager in Europe - suave, arrogant, handsome – retuning to Stamford Bridge with a promise to deliver. No, not that one: the ginger fella of two years ago.
September 27th, 2013
The degree to which Chelsea supporters at first bought into Andre Villas-Boas as a ‘project’ (remember the project?) was astonishing.
I was one of them: hook line and sinker.
But forty games, and he was gone.
This weekend, Teacher is reunited with Pupil for the first time – at White Hart Lane.
Andre hasn’t done too badly at Tottenham.
Last season he certainly disproved the contingent of Chelsea supporters who slated him as a clueless novice by taking Spurs to fifth in the table with 72 points.
Though it should be noted that 12 months earlier they were steered to fourth with 69 points by a man who lets his dog do his banking.
It’s interesting to look back on the mistakes Andre made at Chelsea, and there were many, with the benefit of hindsight.
The public spats with players such as Nicolas Anelka and Alex looked shabby at the time; though the practically identical treatment of Florent Malouda while Roberto Di Matteo was boss suggests the orders came from a higher authority.
The antagonistic team selections, and insistence on marginalising fans’ favourite Frank Lampard was clearly a major error.
One day we may find out to what degree he was following orders on that. Certainly the club was keen to offload Lampard until very late last season, and only top-level intervention seems to have turned that around.
Plus, there are parallels between that sorry episode and the present apparent stand-off between Jose Mourinho and Juan Mata.
At Chelsea, language was clearly a barrier for Andre. The fact he was an English-speaker from a boy was less important than the fact he appeared to have learned the language from a Speak and Spell machine programmed only on Googlewhacks.
Modern players are high-performing professionals, who learn as much of their trade on the pitch as they do in the classroom in front of a Powerpoint; but there are also plenty of players at every club who are completely baffled by modern management, and just want clear instructions and cuddles.
I’ve never read one of Andre’s memos, but one imagines they are full of instructions about moving into the upper left quartile, pressing the low offensive block, and shifting into the transitional phase.
Meanwhile, Frank Lampard tells a story about how Jose once handed him a note during a match with two words on it: ‘You’re amazing’.
That Jose understands the effect that note will have had on its recipient is the clearest difference between him and Andre.
Luminaries with doctorates in HR management get paid the wages of a Championship utility man to hold seminars about the modern mumbo jumbo of ’emotional intelligence’ – but this proves there is at least something in it.
For two men so frequently cited as peas in a pod, Andre and Jose are incredibly different personalities, with incredibly different skillsets.
Managers, in all walks of life, are allowed to make mistakes. It’s how they react to them that tends to dictate how successful they are.
With the crystal-clear rear view mirror of hindsight, that is probably the biggest error of Andre’s short term at Chelsea.
It is also one of the clearest reasons why Jose is now back in the job.