The Secret Diary of André Villas-Boas

Posted on July 11, 2011 by

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Wednesday, 6th of July 2011

What a terrifically preposterous country. You simply will not believe the day I’ve had.

I was roused from my thoughtful slumber circa ten past 5 in the morning, just as the swifts were embarking on their days of glorious song and effortless grace, to a disconcerting scratching sound which seemed to be emanating from my front garden. Curiosity naturally got the better of me, so I rose from my bed (caressing my dear Joana’s luxuriously smooth back as I did so), slipped into my new blue silk dressing gown and meandered downstairs.

I turned the lock with some trepidation, being, as I was, quite sure that whoever was responsible for the startling discord outside was now interrupting the swifts’ calls with a bizarre, half-maniacal tittering of his own. In the rouged morning light I observed a smallish figure, fully bald and not unlike Fester Addams in appearance, sniggering uncontrollably as he carved away at my fine beech 1960s Americana-style mailbox (I know such items are not altogether de rigueur in suburban London, and do indeed border on kitschiness, but darling Joana was so immensely taken by the idea of owning one that I succumbed, tenderly, to her desire).

“Excuse me, you sir!” I called out assertively, but not so loud as to awaken our young professional next-door neighbours, “what, may I ask, is the meaning of this?”

Clearly alarmed by such well-measured directness, the Fester-creature scuttled off into the shadows of the Elm-lined street, and away. I approached the mailbox, to examine whatever damage had been caused. I was surprised to find that the grotesque tamperer had, clearly with little care as the poor quality of carving would attest, merely replaced the Chez in Chez Villas-Boas with Chump. I resolved to mention the incident to whichever local authority seemed most appropriate, but otherwise I cast it from my mind as I turned back towards the house.

“Such radiance today, Joana!” I remarked, noticing that my beautiful wife had appeared at the doorway, dressed in her white cotton nightgown.

“Radiant only but today?” she replied, playfully.

“Radiant each and every day, tho’ I notice it afresh each new morn,” came my honest reply. She kissed me brightly on the cheek, before turning inside to slice fruit for our petit dejeuner.

***

The training session was a strange experience. I personally greeted each player as they arrived at Cobham, and, although slightly lacking in warmth, the majority of responses were genial. I was delighted that the left-back, Ashley Cole, had bought me a card (“from Moonpig,” he said) and a box of Quality Street as a little welcome memento. The card’s message was rather rambling – it seemed, also, to have been written in felt-tip. I thanked him for his thoughtfulness, and left the chocolates in the cafeteria for all to share. I certainly hope this will not be interpreted as an ungrateful gesture.

I requested that the fitness coach lead the training session, choosing to observe from a withdrawn and discrete distance the exact propensities and characteristics of each player. There was little of note until, after the session had ended and the playing and coaching staff had away’d, the most peculiar (conversational) exchange took place between the current club captain, John Terry, and I.

I was sitting in the changing room, deep in thought as I examined a complex tactical algorithm which I have been in the process of devising for seven months now, when I looked up to see Mr. Terry standing above me.

“Ah, John!” I began, cheerily motioning at a seat next to me.

“Shhh…” he interjected, sternly placing his index finger over his lips. His flesh looked pasty and limp in the unflattering dressing room light, and he smelt strongly of  hair gel. “C’we talk?” he said. “Man to man, like.”

“But of course, my dear fellow,” I replied enthusiastically, “I’m happy to talk with any of my players if they have concerns or sugges…”

“No,” he stopped me short again. “Man. To. Man.” He enunciated each word, presumably for dramatic effect, or perhaps to hint at some alternative meaning of “man to man” which was, lamentably, lost on me. I am, on the whole, fairly well acquainted with English idioms and turns of phrase, but over the course of the conversation that followed I found myself utterly unable to grasp what it was that Mr. Terry was trying to say. I’ll recount the thrust of the exchange as best I can.

“Me and Lampski been talking,” he said. “Thought it was about time we tol’ you a bit about how fings work ‘rand here.”  Trying, apparently, to maintain eye-contact but unable to stop his focus from intermittently drifting sideways, he gripped my elegant thigh with his hairy, meaty hand. “Now, we know you fink you’re the big shot, big fancy fella with all coaching badges and fancy foreign name an’ that, probably love all your fancy creams an’ think you know all about tactics and stats and all that,” he said. “But we want you to know…” He paused, looked down at his shoes as if an ounce of wistfulness was trying to squeeze its way out of his brain. “But we want you to know,” he repeated, “you’ll never be Joe-zay.”

“Joe-zay?” I replied, confused.

“M’reeno. The Special One.”

“Ah,” I understood. “Well don’t worry old fellow, although we’re both Portuguese and I worked for him for a number of years, José and I actually have quite different management styles. For example, I have a greater emphasis on the collecti…”

“You’ll never be fackin’ Joe-zay! You can’t fackin’ touch him! You can’t fackin’ touch him,” Terry shouted, his voice audibly breaking with the emotion one feels for a long-lost loved-one. “People have tried, y’know. Me and Lampski and the boys, we saw off that Jewish fella after he lost us the Champ’yuns League Final. S’klari, din’t last a fackin’ second. He was the big shot, all ‘ooh I’ve won the World Cup and ooh I’m all Brazil’yun an’ that,’ fack off mate. Fack off.”

“John, John, listen,” I said, tenderly. “I understand how you feel about your old manager. I too have had great heroes, great icons of the game whom I still look up to. But, understand this; all I ask from you is that you apply yourself to the best of your ability, that you perform at the level I, and the fans, and your team-mates expect from you.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don’t get funny sunshine. Like to fink I know a few fings about how fings work ‘rand ‘ere. All I’m saying is, I got my eye on you, yeah? We can do this the easy way, or the ‘ard way. You got a problem with one of the boys, one of the foreign players causing you ‘assle or Did’yay throwin’ a strop or what ‘av ya, come to me or Lampski and we’ll ‘av a word, smoove fings over for ya.”

I said nothing.

“Well, anyway, I’m glad we’ve ‘ad this little chat, got to know each uvver a little betta.”

“We have actually met before, remember I worked at Chels…”

“Yeah, like I say, nice to meetcha. Don’t try anyfing funny and we’ll get on just fine.”

Again, I was silent.

“Oh, and before I forget, we’ve got a little fing going on wiv Torres. Just testin’ his balls early doors, trying to stamp all that fancy Spanish rabbish out of ‘im, y’know. So if you see one of us spittin’ in his food or crackin’ on to ‘is wife, turn a blind eye, it’s standard new-boy banter. Guy needs toughenin’ up. Anyway, I’ll leave that wiv you.” And, with that, he departed, slamming the dressing room door behind him with menacing force.

***

As I drove out of the main gates of Cobham, I noticed that some of the security staff seemed to be engaged in a physical struggle with a miscreant. I looked closer and saw that familiar bald head and dark, lifeless eyes, a look of pained conflict across his grotesque face. It was the Fester character from before. Startled, I turned on BBC Radio 4 and headed homewards.

Darling Joana was in to welcome me back to the Villas-Boas abode. She tilted her head to the side, returning my affectionate gaze, and took me upstairs to make love.

***

Stay tuned for further serialisation of The Secret Diary of André Villas-Boas throughout the season.

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