Old-school methods can rid AVB of Roman’s shadow

by Dan Kilpatrick

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

It is hard to imagine two more unlikely Premier League bed-fellows than Mick McCarthy and Andre Villas-Boas. One a sophisticated, multi-lingual wine connoisseur; the other a former bruising Millwall centre half, born and raised in Barnsley.

But as McCarthy departed Wolves yesterday, the Portuguese may have sympathised with the muppet-faced plastic Paddy.

There was a certain inevitability about McCarthy’s sacking that had little to do with Wolves’ 5-1 capitulation in the Black Country derby. As soon as Chairman Steve Morgan marched into the dressing room to vent his frustration at the 3-0 home reverse to Liverpool, the writing was on the wall for McCarthy.

Graham Taylor rightly told BBC Radio 5 Live that Morgan had ‘undermined’ his manager and should share some of the blame for his exit.

Old-school operators like McCarthy loathe nothing more than boardroom intrusion and, although publicly dignified until the end, he must have felt bitter when taking that final phone call from Morgan’s ski-resort.

Over at Chelsea, Villas-Boas, a not-so-old-school operator, is also haunted by the spectre of his employer. The Portugese called his players in on their day off for a team meeting – following the abject 2-0 defeat at Everton – only to find Chairman Roman Abramovich in attendance.

It is the third time in as many weeks that Abramovich has turned up at Cobham and his repeated visits spell bad news for Villas-Boas. The Russian billionaire’s mere presence in the meeting will have been akin to a stern headmaster, quietly taking notes on the underperforming teacher’s lesson.

It will have shifted the balance of power and changed the attitude of Chelsea’s senior players. Like pupils, if they respect and admire Villas-Boas, here was a chance to show it in full view of his boss.

Conversely, if they do not, here was a ready-made opportunity for open dissent.

Villas-Boas is canny enough to have expected a certain amount of boardroom intrusion when he accepted the Chelsea post. Abramovich is so renowned for it that “Big Phil” Scolari reportedly banned him from the dressing room.

But there are worrying signs that the 34 year-old is being nannied more than his predecessors. Transfer policy already seems totally out of his grasp; he admitted Kevin de Bruyne was a ‘club signing’, while his reluctance to start Gary Cahill suggests the stopper wasn’t his choice either.

While McCarthy wouldn’t stand for it, Villas-Boas is a new breed, a reformer, who accepts that one of England’s top jobs comes hand-in-hand with boardroom meddling.

Abramovich’s extra scrutiny at training would appear harmless if Chelsea were on-song. But the defeat at Everton has left them outside the top four and trailing leaders Manchester City by 17 points. Carlo Ancelotti was sacked for much less and Villas-Boas will know his job his on the line.

Winning games and ensuring Chelsea’s continued Champions League status is the only way for the former Porto boss to be rid of his headmaster’s shadow and for that he might need to go back to the old-school Chelsea way: a strong spine of experienced players and a mean defence.

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  • Watty

    Loving the idea of Wolves playing in the West Country derby. Would bring a whole new atmosphere to that fixture.

  • dexylongshot

    Maybe McCarthy could swap with Villa Boas. Chelsea need a kick up the ar*e in the dressing room which no nonsence Mick could dish out and Wolves need some organisation on the pitch, just a silly thought!

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