Meddling in managerial matters is a loser's game

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am


If you put your trust in someone, just leave them alone to let them do their job. Whether it's in business or in the English Premier League, micromanagement rarely gets the best out of anyone.

Andre Villas-Boas finally admitted he does fear the sack from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. How could he not, given the Blues' struggles and the recent history of managers at Stamford Bridge?

With Chelsea on the brink of Champions League elimination and far from guaranteeing a top-four spot this season, Villas-Boas seems close to an inevitable exit. At just 34, years old, he indeed is a boy among men in the world's most scrutinised league. Villas-Boas was a rash choice and never the right appointment, even given his quadruple-winning season with Porto. How could we expect the raw Portuguese to prosper where an experienced campaigner in Carlo Ancelotti had hit a roadblock?

Abramovich should have kept faith with Ancelotti, a shrewd manager who had brought double success to west London the season before.

The problem wasn't with Ancelotti. It rested with an ageing squad whose best years were half a decade ago. Ancelotti should have been given time to rebuild and bring in fresh blood. Certainly he would have taken Chelsea to a healthier position than where they find themselves.

Villas-Boas has noticed more frequent visits to Chelsea's Cobham training ground by Abramovich. One can only wonder about the sinking feeling he must get when he sees the Russian striding over the manicured lawns in suburban Surrey towards him.

He's also had to deal with the consequences of one of Roman's quirks: the rash purchase for GBP50 million of Fernando Torres at the end of last January's transfer window.

Imagine how many times Villas-Boas has fantasised about using that money to buy hungrier players who aren't in the worst form of their careers? When Torres plays, Chelsea are shackled because the one-time Liverpool hotshot doesn't suit their system and probably never will.

But while Villas-Boas would hardly be delighted by the intervention of his boss, pity a thought for former Premier League midfielder Peter Butler who parted ways this week with Malaysian champions Kelantan. The former West Ham star was let go just four months into a two-year contract in his second stint in charge, even though his team are sitting on top of the table.

Butler's challenge was appeasing Kelantan FA president Tan Sri Annuar Musa, who took umbrage with the Englishman's four foreign signings. Without consulting the manager, Annuar deregistered Lebanon international Mohammed Ghadar, while bringing in Nigerian Onyekachi Nwoha. Two other imports were sent on loan to the Kuala Lumpur club.

Butler was then forced to play striker Nwoha, whom he had only seen in training for 30 minutes, in a Super League match, as Kelantan fell to their first league defeat of the season against Selangor. With his powers of foreign recruitment taken away, Butler's outburst against the Kelantan president through the media earned him a three-week suspension.

To add insult to injury, he found out about an SMS sent to all Kelantan players from the management, asking: 'What do you think about coach Butler? A: Good, B: Fair, C: Poor.'

It was no surprise the 45-year-old parted ways with the Kota Bharu-based club this week, receiving an undisclosed severance payment.

Villas-Boas is undoubtedly aware his players are in regular SMS contact with former manager Jose Mourinho. But not even Abramovich would resort to text messaging his squad to sound them out about the head coach. The best managers are always the ones who come through a careful selection process and then left to their own devices. Cases in point: Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Harry Redknapp.

It rarely works out when club directors or owners start giving their own opinions on how things should unfold on the field.

Even having joint managers is usually a recipe for disaster because of the mixed messages that go out to the squad. One grand vision, one philosophy, one boss is the best winning formula.

Of course, if teams are sliding towards relegation, owners need to intervene. Look at how Martin O'Neill has turned around Sunderland after Steve Bruce's exit. But that's a different issue.

Abramovich needs to take a step back and accept some responsibility. In the meantime, he should allow AVB to be his own man over the final 10 weeks of the season before parting ways.

Of course, it will hurt him again in the pocket. Will he learn from his mistakes? Probably not. But at least next time, he'll make a more careful appointment.


matches Chelsea have won out of 39 since June last year. With 11 draws and nine defeats, that's a 48.72 per cent success rate