Much Too Young | Inquirer Sports
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Much Too Young

/ 10:01 PM February 24, 2012

In 1979 “Too Much Too Young” was a smash hit song in the UK. It was produced and released by a band called “The Specials”, and if you’re wondering what any of this has to do with the Barclays Premier League, please feel free to read on.

Current Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas’ services reportedly cost owner Roman Abramovich £28 million to secure.

£15 million was paid to Carlo Ancelotti and the remainder of his staff, when the Italian was sacked at the end of last season, and £13 million was paid to release Villas-Boas (AVB) from his contract with FC Porto.

It’s a lot of money to pay for a manager.

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I’d even go so far as to say that it’s as unprecedented as the amount of pressure AVB currently finds himself under.

I’ve written in the past about AVB’s managerial beginnings, and let’s face it, the history isn’t going to take up many column inches. He spent 9 months managing Academica in the Portuguese league, and then a year at Porto.

What he achieved at Porto was, admittedly, remarkable – pulling off a treble in his first (and only) season in charge – and the football world was falling over itself to proclaim him as the next Jose Mourinho – suggesting that he was going to grow up to be even more special than the ‘special one’ (see paragraph above for developing connectivity).

Abramovich certainly bought into the hype, and seemed only too happy to dispense with the services of Ancelotti in May 2011 – the man who, the previous season, had delivered a momentous Premier League and FA Cup double to the club.

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Chelsea’s failure to retain their title in the 2010-11 season was clearly too much for Abramovich to bear. He is a man who demands success, as well as bang for his buck, and few who know him would list ‘patience’ among his most notable characteristics.

AVB probably knew something of what he was getting himself into – in much the same way that an ant walks around a squished colleague on its way to a breadcrumb – but obviously not enough.

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He would have known that he had to get results, and deliver silverware, and that he may not be given much time to prove his credentials – credentials based, by the way, on 21 months in management.

What he may not have anticipated is the intrusiveness of an owner who has taken to visiting the Chelsea training ground and, reportedly, asking to be informed of team tactics prior to games, or even the intense media scrutiny that goes along with the job.

What AVB may also have failed to imagine is the extent to which his players would underperform.

You know what you’re going to get with a ‘hands on’ owner (that’s just about as polite and euphemistic as I’m capable of being), but when players don’t do what they’re told, or don’t perform at levels they’re obviously capable of performing at, then there are big problems to deal with.

According to certain sources, AVB has ‘lost the dressing room’ – it’s not the effects of pressure-induced amnesia, but a reflection of the confidence (in this case lack of it) that the players seem to have in their manager.

I can’t help but wonder if his age has something to do with it.

At 34, AVB is only a couple of years older than some of his senior players, and perhaps lacks the air of authority that a degree of seniority can bring.

When the push comes to the shove though, at least AVB can bring his huge managerial experience to bear.

I’m being mischievous. That doesn’t work either.

After Chelsea’s recent run of form, culminating in their capitulation at the hands of Napoli in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night, and despite the owner’s earlier assurances that AVB’s job would not be under threat even if the club ends the season trophy-less, it’s clear to many that his immediate future is far from secure.

I don’t believe that Abramovich will sack him before the end of the season, and indeed, it would be madness to do so, but there have been occasions in the past when the Chelsea owner hasn’t let good old fashioned common sense get in the way of a solid fit of pique.

Clearly, AVB has not been the knight in shining armour that Abramovich shelled out £28 million for. I believe Andre himself has been naïve and displayed elements of hubris when taking the job last summer – such is his assurance and self-belief (good qualities both, but in the right amounts, and proportions).

His naivety however, pales in comparison to that of an owner who thinks he’s bought the best manager on earth based on the experience of less than two seasons.

Personally, I would like to see AVB succeed.

He’s a good manager – he wouldn’t have been able to achieve what he did even in his short time at Porto had he not been. He needs time to prove that there is something special about him, but only one man knows whether he will be given enough of it.

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Catch Andrew Leci and his analysis of the beautiful game on ESPN’s presentation of the Barclay’s Premier League Highlights and visit www.facebook.com/espnstarsports ‘If I Were’ page for a chance to win exclusive prizes.

TAGS: Chelsea, Porto

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