Improving players my priority, not silver, says Gullit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 February, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 February, 1997, 12:00am

IT took an hour of hard kneading for a masseur to soothe Ruud Gullit's aching body.

Gullit's part in Chelsea reserves' 2-1 defeat by Portsmouth's second team on Monday night had left him with lingering reminders that his playing days are numbered.

His coaching career, though, has only just begun, and when he had finally struggled up the stairs at the training ground near Heathrow Airport that the club shares with Imperial College, he took a seat beneath a sporting honours board and treated his listeners to a masterclass in football management instead.

Gullit talked first about how he copes with pressure, the secret of his serenity during matches.

'I get rid of my nerves by not watching the game as a supporter,' he said.

'I watch how our players behave during the game. I do not follow the ball. I follow their movements. I look to see if the team is in the right shape.' Then the discussion veered from Chelsea's FA Cup fifth-round replay against Leicester City to Dennis Bergkamp's fear of flying.

Although what Gullit said about the match at Stamford Bridge was perilously close to the 'take-each-game-as-it-comes' mantra trotted out by so many sportsmen, his words had his own peculiar twist of wisdom wrapped around them.

There was no fear of being favourite to win the competition in Gullit's words, but he made it plain that his hopes for the future and his own peace of mind do not rest so much on winning trophies as they do in improving his players.

'I do not think about the end of the season and about what we might have won or what we might not have won,' he said.

'I do not live that particular way. I have both feet on the ground and I want to keep them on the ground. Everywhere I have played I have won trophies, but that was because I worked very hard.

'I know there will always be pressure to win trophies, but I am used to living with that. It seems to be more of a problem for other people than it is for me because I live from week to week.

'I am not satisfied yet with what I have done at Chelsea.

'I just want to get better and better and better, and what the result of that will be I do not know.

'But before I became coach, I think there was more talent in the team than maybe they showed, and the change in the players is what I am most proud of.

'They are doing things now that they did not know they had in them.

'I just want to keep doing things in my own way, in the way I have been doing them throughout my career.

'Chelsea wanted me to do this job and it took me quite a while to think about it.

'But it is a great opportunity to get experience and it is too early for people to be saying: 'Do you feel you have to win trophies'?' After taking a two-goal lead at Filbert Street 12 days ago, Chelsea allowed Leicester to creep back into the game and force a draw, but their spirits were revitalised by their pulsating Premier League match with Manchester United in west London on Saturday and Gullit says that he is content with the way the team is evolving.

'I am happy with the progress we have made,' he said. 'The interest in our team when we go away from home speaks for itself. The stadiums are always crowded. People come to see Chelsea because something always happens at our games now and that is a good feeling.

'It is having a snowball effect, too. I think a lot of people do not realise just how much football fans in Europe are talking about Chelsea. I see television programmes from all over the Continent and they talk a lot about Chelsea. It means that the players are doing something that impresses people. It is the players, too, not me.'