Patrick Vieira and Thomas Frank face off as worthy adversaries after very different paths to the top

·2-min read
Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace host Brentford tonight  (AP)
Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace host Brentford tonight (AP)

Midfielders do not come with much more differing stature than Thomas Frank and Patrick Vieira.

One had brief career as a jobbing amateur playing in the Danish lower leagues before turning to coaching in his twenties, and famously claims he does not join in training at Brentford because he is not up to the required level.

The other? Well, he’s Patrick Vieira.

The Arsenal great is so far outperforming most of his contemporaries from the era of heart-on-sleeve, box-to-box Premier League midfielders, his Crystal Palace side enjoying an impressive start to the season despite an unenviable fixture list, while Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard already find themselves under the pump at Aston Villa and Everton.

Yet in Frank, Vieira may just have a more worthy compeer. Despite the fact that the Dane was already starting out in coaching around the time Vieira was winning the first of two doubles at Highbury and then lifting the World Cup, the pair are just a couple of years apart in age.

Thomas Frank has guided Brentford admirably during his time in west London (Getty Images)
Thomas Frank has guided Brentford admirably during his time in west London (Getty Images)

Each are renowned man managers, Vieira’s craft no doubt aided by the awe with which he is regarded by a generation of players who grew up trying to be him, Frank’s by an almost uniquely personable character.

Vieira does not produce the romanticisms of Frank’s infamously lengthy press conferences, but he is equally thoughtful in his communication, scarcely prone to cliche.

And both, though progressive coaches, are not idealists, their sides noted for exciting, direct football but not without the pragmatism and tactical versatility needed to punch above one’s weight in the top flight.

Showpiece results and performances against the established elite have proved as much already this term, even if neither have perhaps picked up the points their displays have deserved across the opening four fixtures.

Whatever the result in their fifth, tonight’s meeting at Selhurst Park looks one of unlikely equals.