Chelsea boss needs crash course in post-match etiquette
Andre Villas-Boas may well be a managerial prodigy, but the new Chelsea boss could learn a lesson or two in how to win friends and influence people.
The 33-year-old’s spiky post-match comments in the direction of Paul Lambert displayed a lack of class and respect – not only to his direct counterpart, but to the visiting club.
Lambert was in effect castigated for expressing his opinion on the two major talking points from an encouraging Norwich display against one of the Premier League’s biggest hitters.
The second-half penalty incident turned the game in Chelsea’s favour. John Ruddy’s ridiculous red card rubbed salt in the proverbial and proved the scene setter for a brief, if heated, discussion involving coaching staff from both clubs. Villas-Boas was at best being disingenuous, at worst, naïve, if he thought Lambert would not face a barrage of questions from radio, television and print media on both topics when he walked into numerous post-match press conferences.
The Scot is entitled to air his opinion as much as the fan in the stand or the radio phone-in caller. After Ritchie De Laet tangled with Wigan’s Franco Di Santo on the opening day of the new season at the DW Stadium to concede the penalty which put the Latics’ ahead before Wes Hoolahan’s equaliser, Lambert strode into his post-match briefing and was honest enough to admit he hadn’t had a clear view of the incident.
Fair enough. We can all think of one particularly prominent member of his profession currently in need of some serious introspection after his side’s weekend Old Trafford mauling who turned blind spots into an art form.
Lambert was far more forthright on the episode at Stoke the following weekend which saw Leon Barnett red-carded and the Potters awarded a penalty after Jon Walters just made it far enough into the penalty area before the grip on his expensive boots appeared to give way underneath him.
Ditto at Stamford Bridge when City were within 10 minutes, plus a large slab of stoppage time admittedly, of making life seriously uncomfortable for the rookie Blues’ boss.
For the record, Lambert felt Ramires was on the way down as Ruddy advanced. Whether you agree or not with the Scot’s assessment, he had every right to express it after seeing his side concede penalty number three in the same number of games.
Not according to Villas-Boas. Lambert had displayed “a good imagination”. Further, “I just think to be brash and aggressive when a referee’s decision goes the wrong way is wrong.”
This, don’t forget, from the man quoted after his side’s opening day goalless draw at Stoke thus: “The amount of pushing and grabbing in the box is out of this world. I want to draw the referees’ attention to these kind of details as they say they are going to be aware of them. Maybe they need extra help.”
You could excuse the Portuguese some linguistic licence were it not for the fact that the growing mythology around the Europa-League winning boss espouses his Anglophile credentials. Descended from an English grandmother who emigrated from Cheadle, Greater Manchester, and who taught the young Villas-Boas her mother tongue. Not to mention the fact Villas-Boas’ path to his Uefa coaching badges started in Lambert’s homeland as a teenager.
Villas-Boas has been feted for his forensic approach. He spent the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s game huddled next to one of his coaching team studying a clipboard – no doubt attempting to unravel Lambert’s new starting formation.
All the more surprising that he should so readily dispense with the methodical, pre-meditated approach to his craft when questioned over Lambert’s verdict.
Perhaps it was less the Scot’s views, but the display of his side – allied to the inability of his own to counteract Norwich’s assertive attacking verve until that game-changing penalty incident.
Villas-Boas’ achievements with Porto last season stand comparison with the best. The youngest-ever manager to win a European club trophy and guiding Porto to the Premeira Liga title by 24 points.
But Portugal is not England. Porto have won seven of the past nine domestic championships.
The top four in this country is regularly the top one in his homeland, whilst the Europa League is a poor man’s Champions League.
After unconvincing displays against Stoke and West Brom, perhaps Villas-Boas is less than enamoured with a rather bumpy crash course in the pressures and expectations of managing a club that demands rather than expects progress at home and abroad.
The Premier League might not have the alluring beauty of a Barcelona. What it does have is a level of competitiveness unparalleled across the continent.
Norwich have earned the right to be on the same pitch as Chelsea.
Lambert has earned the right to have his say every bit as much as Villas-Boas.