Early Doors

AVB: coach or manager?

Early Doors

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Yesterday afternoon, in his column for this website, Paul Parker suggested four things AVB had to change about his management style.

The first three were: stop crouching on the touchline; ditch the raincoat; smile.

Unsurprisingly, these suggestions met with a wall of derision from users, incredulous that such superficialities could be considered the key to success.

The thing is - Parker is right.

One of the main reasons AVB failed at Chelsea is because his image stank.

His surly demeanour and wild touchline gesticulations made him ripe for mockery - ED felt that AVB, sitting on his haunches barking furious instructions, resembled a particularly angry curler.

Our own Jim White, moonlighting for an alternative publication, thought the raincoat made him look like Frank Spencer.

AVB offered no humour or levity, and once the press got their teeth into him it would always be difficult to escape, especially as he doesn't boast the Fleet Street pals of, say, Harry Redknapp.

The Daily Mirror's John Cross, for example, this morning described his spell at Chelsea as "an unmitigated disaster". ED wouldn't say it was a success, but it would certainly suggest that the team going on to win the FA Cup and Champions League might be considered mitigation. As might the fact that Chelsea's owner and players offered him less support than a fettuccine sports bra.

The one thing we know about Villas-Boas is that he is a really good coach - his knowledge of the game is not up for debate. Yes, his experiment with a high line at Chelsea wasn't immediately successful, but he would have been an idiot and a coward to bow to media pressure and change it, rather than seeing his plan through.

The big question is this: Is AVB a coach or a manager?

And when it comes to moving from one to the other, details matter.

In the public consciousness, the crouching, the coat and the grumpiness are all part of an image of AVB suggesting he is not really in control of his own destiny.

Parker might also have mentioned the management-speak and the beard, whose increasing volume as Chelsea's plight worsened carried echoes of Tom Hanks's descent into madness in Castaway (also Roy Keane at Sunderland).

None of these things make Andre Villas-Boas bad at organising a football team. But in the ludicrous goldfish bowl of modern football, they do actually make him bad at his job.

Image counts for a great deal - ask Jose Mourinho. Villas-Boas is a superb coach, but unless he carries himself like a manager and projects that to his players, the fans and the ludicrous ensemble of barking, clapping seals that constitutes the sports media (and yes, ED includes itself - arf! - in this), he will struggle.

Some results would help, too.

- - -

On Monday, the day of Great Britain's Olympic squad announcement, Michael Owen tweeted as follows.

"Now onto the Olympics. Don't know what to make of it. Anybody know what the opposition is like? I'm presuming GB have got a great chance?"

Er, not so much, Michael.

Early Doors doesn't want to read too much into a simple tweet, but perhaps Owen had not fully considered the strength of Britain's opposition. Spain, for example.

The European champions announced their squad yesterday - it's brilliant, and it's got three players from Euro 2012 in it (including a guy who played every game in Polkraine).

At the Olympics, Spain could line up as follows:

David De Gea; Cesar Azpilicueta, Javi Martinez, Alvaro Dominguez, Jordi Alba; Oriol Romeu, Thiago Alcantara; Iker Munaian, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata; Adrian

That, friends, is better than GB have got.

ED could do a player by player comparison, but it might throw itself off a bridge simply on the basis of the goalkeeping mismatch, which pits Manchester United's number one against a man who spent last season at Cheltenham Town.

In defence, you've got £25m-rated Javi Martinez and, oh, THE BEST LEFT-BACK IN EUROPE.

Further forward, you've got two more members of a gloriously exciting Athletic Bilbao side, a Barcelona midfielder and full Spain international in Thiago, and Juan Mata who has played in Champions League and European Championship finals in the last six weeks.

Also, in an act of supreme faith in youth, Spain's three over-age players - Martinez, Mata and Adrian - are all 24.

They could at least have followed our lead and called up Raul or Emilio Butragueno.

No matter. We've got Craig Dawson and Marvin Sordell. And our leading striker might have viral meningitis.

True, injuries have taken out many of our best players - it may be a source of concern that most of our young footballers have all the resilience of a Dairylea Triangle in a blast furnace.

But Team GB would certainly have benefited from the presence of England's Under-23 Euro 2012 contingent: Phil Jones, Theo Walcott, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Welbeck and, er, Martin Kelly.

Of that sextet, only Welbeck had what might be laughingly described as a heavy workload in Ukraine.

And yet the Premier League's power means none are available to Stuart Pearce.

At the same time Alba, who has just delivered six turbo-charged Euro 2012 performances, is set for more at the Olympics. This from a player who has just moved to Barcelona, one of the most powerful clubs in the world.

But then they work on the assumption that a successful Spain team is good for Spanish clubs. How quaint.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "(Paul) Pogba signed for Juventus a long time ago as far as we're aware. (It) is disappointing. I don't think he showed us any respect at all, to be honest. I'm quite happy that if they carry on that way, they're probably better doing it away from us." Alex Ferguson - not entirely sure where Paul Pogba's future lies, but fairly confident it's not at Old Trafford.


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