Villas-Boas: A guiding light for young guns

Alex Ferguson has decades of experience behind him but Andre Villas-Boas could prove age is nothing but a number.

AVB is the same age as Frank Lampard but appears to already have authority over his side [GALLO/GETTY] 

“It is not a question of age. It is a question of competence.”

The words of Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas were describing the resurgence of his midfielder Frank Lampard but are appropriate when scrutinising all players and managers, senior and emerging.

Villas-Boas and Lampard are both 33-years-old but only the latter has played 88 times for his country and has been at Stamford Bridge since 2001. Yet the Portuguese newcomer has the tricky task of keeping veterans like him happy while freshening up his squad.

In recent weeks, 69-year-old Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed that he wants to manage Manchester United for another three or four seasons while 61-year-old Arsene Wenger announced that he would like a second spell of 15 years in charge of Arsenal, taking both men well into their 70s.

“If he wrote a book on how he achieved that amazing success at Porto, probably one million copies would be sold in a week” 

TTM Phichit coach Nathan Hall

Wenger’s wish seems far-fetched given the Gunners’ recent struggles but age has little to do with it. Similarly, Man United wouldn’t dare call time on Sir Alex just because most of his contemporaries have settled well and truly into retirement.

But as the likes of Sir Alex, Wenger and 64-year-old Tottenham head honcho Harry Redknapp continue to inspire the so-called blue rinse set, Villas-Boas is showing the way for the young guns.

“By the time I am 33, I want to be my own man with my own coaching staff in Europe, just like him,” said 26-year-old Nathan Hall, first-team coach at Thai Premier League club, TTM Phichit FC.

“Getting the opportunities he’s had at his age has never really happened before. If he wrote a book on how he achieved that amazing success at Porto, probably one million copies would be sold in a week.”

While at Porto last May, Villas-Boas became the youngest manager to win a European club title when the Portuguese team claimed a treble of trophies, including the Europa League.

Even so, his $20.7 million move to Chelsea, where he’d served for three years on the coaching staff of his mentor, Jose Mourinho, did have some questioning if AVB might be out of his depth.

So far, so good

However, with most of Chelsea’s players away for the international break, AVB can reflect on his first couple of months in charge with measured satisfaction.

The Blues have made a solid start to their Champions League campaign and sit in third place on the Premier League table, with their only defeat coming at the hands of holders, Manchester United.

But former West Ham midfielder Peter Butler, who began his own coaching career at the age of 33, warns that the crunch could be yet to come for the man who never played professional soccer.

“He’s had it all his own way so far and been wrapped in cotton wool, but it is a long season so if they have an indifferent spell it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure,” said Butler, who’s managed clubs in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, Australia and England.

“He also still has to win over the senior players in the dressing room and on the training pitch. I still think Frank Lampard will be at Stamford Bridge for a number of years, maybe longer than AVB.”

Lampard reportedly stormed away from the dressing room after being an unused substitute in a home match against Swansea last month. Once he returned to the starting side, he scored four goals in two games in European and domestic competitions, which suggests that AVB’s move was a masterstroke.

     AVB got the best out of Frank Lampard after he left Chelsea legend on subs bench [GALLO/GETTY] 

“He’s already shown that he’s not afraid to make tough decisions and the players are raving about his training sessions,” Thailand-based Hall said.

“But as for making players respect you just because you’re the new person in charge, it doesn’t work like that any more. It starts from the coach respecting the player.”

Hall added that the key for younger managers like AVB earning the respect of their squad members was no different to those in the game for decades. It comes down to trust.

“I often ask myself: if I switched roles and became the player, how would I like to be treated?

“I would like two things: for the coach to be fair and honest with me – and for the coach to have my best interests at heart, at all times.”

At TTM Phichit, Hall is an assistant under 58-year-old Lee Young Moo, a former Korea Republic international midfielder. The Thailand league’s latest rookie coach is 36-year-old former Liverpool striker, Robbie Fowler, who’s taken over in a caretaker role from Henrique Calisto at Muangthong United.

They can all gain inspiration from the career paths of some of the sport’s most successful managers. Brian Clough was 37 when he won the English title with Derby, Sir Alex Ferguson was 35 when he tasted Scottish success with St Mirren which is three years younger than Pep Guardiola when he claimed his first silverware at Barcelona.

But there can be misunderstandings, even embarrassing moments along the way as the wise men wannabes are sometimes mixed up amongst the fresh-faced fledglings.

At least, AVB, who managed the British Virgin Islands at the age of 21, has sensibly grown a full beard to hide any remnants of youth.

“I get mistaken for being a player all the time as I’m younger than half the team I currently work with,” Hall said.

“It’s not a problem for me. I’m used to it by now.”

* Jason Dasey ( is an Asia-based international sports broadcaster and host of Football Fever, the world’s first international soccer podcast with an Asia-Pacific perspective. Twitter: JasonDasey

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Source : Al Jazeera


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