talkSPORT with a demonstrative hatchet job on Andre Villas-Boas. As usual in the English press, no respect is paid to the manager’s significant pedigree at Porto. He’s all projects, awkward celebrations, funny celebrations, squatting, etc.
But it seems to me the root of the general distrust of AVB which preceded—and yes, possibly helped facilitate—his failure at Chelsea was his age. Watching his press conferences, listening to his candid and highly critical remarks of players with a few years’ age difference (at 34 he felt no compunction tearing a strip off the veteran 31-year-old left back Ashley Cole), one got the sense of a man trying to look beyond his years. Or perhaps that was the impression inevitably left by seeing a young man say things you’d expect from an old man in a profession long defined by old age. When one thinks of the managerial greats in England, one sees a collection of faces that wouldn’t be out of place at a retirement home—Alf Ramsey, Matt Busby, Sir Alex Ferguson, Bob Paisley, Sir Bobby Robson. Add an Eton jacket and a club crest and the image is complete.
The one notable “young” face (although it was hard to tell, ravaged as it was in less than a decade’s time by significant alcohol abuse) was that of Brian Clough, who, like Villas-Boas, bore the weight of incredible expectation at a club defined by a landmark predecessor. Clough was 39 when he took over from Don Revie (then 47, having been manager at the club since the age of 34) at Leeds. But the ages didn’t matter as much as the perception. Revie had been manager for 13 years. He was viewed as an “elder statesman.” All Clough had done was get hearts racing at Derby County. The press and the broader public could not help but be drawn into the image of Clough as the unruly son intent on besting a stern father.
That dynamic differed in Villas-Boas’ case—Mourinho had left Chelsea four years prior to the former’s appointment at Stamford Bridge—but the core relationship remained. Arguably all the managers who came after Mourinho were influenced by his time at the club, except for Villas-Boas, who seemed almost hell-bent on tossing the aging core of Mourinho’s team. Both AVB and Mourinho were from Portugal. Both had a tangential relationship to Bobby Robson, both were legends at Porto. It appeared that Chelsea was far more than just a job, but a chance for Andre Villas-Boas to usurp the legacy of a predecessor whose shadow he could not escape. Whether or not AVB agrees is immaterial; the appearance was enough that the press and fans were ready to pounce as soon as it became evident he was not the second coming of the Special One.
To that end, Tottenham looks like a far better prospect. Whether or not it will prove to be Villas-Boas’ Nottingham Forest however remains to be seen…