Arrogance not a great trait for former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas
Humility is not a word you would associate with Andre Villas-Boas. Arrogant. Now there's a better description for the out-of-work Portuguese after Roman Abramovich's patience finally snapped over the weekend. Villas-Boas did little to temper his public persona during his brief tenure at Chelsea. AVB's levels of self-confidence were stuck permanently on the cocksure side of excessive. Fine, if the only people he was bothered about upsetting were those connected to rival clubs and the British media. Neither grouping held the key to his longevity at Stamford Bridge.
Villas-Boas' spiky comments towards Paul Lambert following the clubs' early season Premier League meeting prompted a response in this column that irked a smattering of Blues' followers. You suspect the defence now would be less staunch, less strident, given the haphazard nature of AVB's reign.
Lambert was effectively castigated for expressing his view on the game-changing incident that day which saw John Ruddy red-carded for hauling down Ramires to concede a penalty that Frank Lampard slotted past Declan Rudd.
Given City's seeming inability to go 90 minutes without a spot-kick award against them in the first month, Lambert had every right to express an opinion when challenged post-match. Not according to Villas-Boas, who claimed at the time Lambert had displayed a 'good imagination' over his interpretation of Ramires' fall. To be fair, he deserved to be cut a degree of slack.
Not simply because he was a relatively new arrival to these shores still adapting to English football, but also when you consider the fraught nature of post-match managerial activity. The final whistle brings one test to an end. It also signals the start of another when managers are whisked through to fulfil any number of media commitments for both domestic and global consumption. Villas-Boas always looked the epitome of tailored perfection on the touchline, but even the suave Portuguese would have done well to bring his heart-rate back under control to face an army of journalists after an adrenaline-fuelled 90 minute shift at the coalface. For Villas-Boas to adopt that tactic outside his club was fine. Sir Alex Ferguson's stellar career has hardly been hindered through long-running feuds with any number of media outlets. But for Villas-Boas to end up so far offside with the players under his command, the only imponderable left was who would pull the trigger first. Abramovich or the young manager he paid a multi-million pound ransom to free from Porto. And by all reports will have to continue lavishing huge sums on for the foreseeable after the Portuguese was the latest thrown onto the managerial pyre in west London.
The 34-year-old's record in his homeland remains untarnished. A domestic treble and the youngest-ever manager to win a European club trophy is a fine pedigree. AVB will be back soon enough. When he does, he could do worse than take a leaf out of Lambert's book in how to treat players. Could you ever hear Lambert utter these words, 'The players don't have to back my project, only the owner needs to back my project.' As it turns out he didn't, but to construct such publicly damaging barricades displayed a chronic naivety in how to deal with a dressing room; particularly one with massive personalities who it would appear have a direct hot line to the billionaire owner.
Lambert makes much play of what he terms, 'getting players to play for you.' A simple concept, in essence, but a powerful driver of success in any football club. Players will not always like the manager; certainly not the ones kicking their heels on the bench every other week or failing to make matchday squads. But if you can unite a disparate group of young men behind a common cause - as Norwich have shown in the past three seasons - anything is possible. Man-management is what sets the good bosses apart from the ones who not only survive, but positively flourish. Harry Redknapp has the same gene; so too Martin O'Neill. How else does one explain the transformation at Sunderland in recent times with essentially the same group of players Steve Bruce was incapable of getting a tune out of on a consistent basis. Confidence is one thing. Both in your own ability and in the belief you impart to those who look for guidance.
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Arrogance is an altogether different personality trait. It is a barrier dividing manager from player. Consensus tops confrontation in any walk of life. Villas-Boas would do well to consider that when he returns to gainful employment.