|Is the future bright, is the future orange, for Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas [GALLO/GETTY]|
Before Andre Villas-Boas arrived at Stamford Bridge, many had already started comparing the young manager to the ‘Special One’ – Jose Mourinho.
It was an easy comparison to make: both were attractive, sophisticated, intelligent Portuguese men who achieved success with Porto early on in their career. In addition, AVB had worked under Mourinho at Porto and Chelsea, picking up tricks of the trade from his older compatriot.
Although the men share much in common, few would have thought AVB would make such a big splash in the Premier League pool.
Outspoken, arrogant and ever sparring for a row, current Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho provided English football which a much needed character.
Whether Mourinho was your pantomime villain or superhero sent to boost the Blues to the top, the Portuguese manager used his personality to great effect whilst at Chelsea.
This is something AVB has already started to do in his first season at Stamford Bridge.
“We’ve been chased by different kinds of people but we’ve given everyone a slap in the face”
Under the tutelage of Mourinho and the late Bobby Robson at Porto, he would have undoubtedly been taught that a strong character is useful in football.
And AVB, just like the ‘Special One’ before him, has one.
Good job too because he has needed one. After losing home games against Arsenal and Liverpool and struggling in the Champions League group stage, many were questioning whether AVB would make it to his six month anniversary with the club.
But he has and his inspiring personality could have a lot to do with it.
This season AVB’s post-match interviews have often been more entertaining than his team’s on pitch action.
His cutting retorts have left many interviewers hopelessly scratching their heads searching for the next appropriate, or acceptable, question. Although criticism levelled at referee Chris Foy after Chelsea’s hotly contested match with QPR resulted in AVB being fined $18,775 by the FA, it is his ability to turn questions back on his interrogators that marks him out from less articulate managers.
After Chelsea’s crucial victory on Tuesday over Valencia in the Champions League, an overzealous AVB said “We’ve been chased by different kinds of people but we’ve given everyone a slap in the face.”
With a tongue as sharp as his managerial skills, AVB has already dished out the odd ‘slap in the face’ this season.
The dramatic pitch-side manner, which echoes that of ear-tugger Mourinho, has also given AVB a presence in the dug out.
The question of whether AVB will succeed at Chelsea is a big one but one factor suggests that he just might: he does not seem to be afraid.
Like Mourinho, he is not worried about ruffling feathers – in fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if he spent some of his free time plucking chickens for the heck of it.
And there is no doubting AVB is smart.
The combination of his intellect and apparent lack of fear is something that should stand him in good stead as football manager at Chelsea FC.
For his ability to manage the media and criticism could determine who gets the last laugh. Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has proved how important dealing with outside influences is in regards to success.
Ferguson has always known exactly how to manage publicity around his team, ultimately by shielding players away from it. Off the pitch the United boss is feared and respected in equal measure, and it is fair to question whether the Scotsman would have achieved so much without a canny knack of knowing what to say at the right time.
The strength of AVB’s character is crucial in many ways. It has already given him the respect of his players, who have many positive things to say about their boss and appear eager to please him. Frank Lampard reacted to being dropped against Swansea by scoring a hat-trick a week later against Bolton. It remains to be seen how he will respond to being on the bench against Valencia but a character like Lampard should be out to prove a point.
A strong persona is likely to gain him respect with the fans too who would be stupid not to enjoy his ‘media bashing’, dramatic pitch side crouch and sharp tongue.
Most importantly, the strength of AVB’s character is the most powerful weapon he has against his nemesis – the owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich.
“Most importantly, the strength of AVB’s character is the most powerful weapon he has against his nemesis – the owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich”
AVB might have lashed out at the media for giving his team a hard time during the Champions League group stages but the journalists are right when they say Chelsea has become the club that operates under the most pressure.
Their excuse for questioning AVB’s survival after only a few months in charge is that Abramovich has been quick to hang, draw and quarter his managers for smaller offences in the past.
What AVB needs to do is to convince everyone, especially Chelsea’s multi-billionaire owner, that he will succeed. He needs to show Abramovich he can achieve this even when results do not fall his way. Because they won’t always. The Portuguese manager is new to the job and fairly new to management so we cannot expect miracles. Nor can Chelsea fans expect to win either the Premier League or the Champions League this season.
It is a time of transition and when Chelsea end up trophyless, the one thing that will convince Abramovich he has the right man is the man standing in front of him.
When the results go wrong, he needs to see someone passionate, determined, forceful and 100% sure of himself.
AVB is standing up for himself, crouching down on the touchline, sparring with interviewers, getting in trouble with officials because he wants to be seen as a force to be reckoned with, not just as a good tactician.
To succeed as Chelsea boss, AVB cannot afford to be a ‘Special One’, he has to be the ‘Really Special One’.
And perhaps, just perhaps, he is on the right track.
Joanna Tilley is a freelance journalist working with Al Jazeera on the Sport website. She has worked at Sky News, Sky Sports News, LBC Radio. Sportasylum.com, TNT Down Under and Wanderlust magazine. Follow her on Twitter (@joannatilley) or her website, sportjostyleeee.blogspot.com.
Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external websites