Age may matter now. Keep winning and it won’t.

Posted on December 13, 2011 by

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It must be difficult for a player like Frank Lampard to have a manager of such a similar age. There is only eight months between him and the passionate, and recently provocative Andre Villas-Boas. It will be strange for a lot of the Chelsea players but the older statesmen in particular. The likes of Lampard, John Terry, Ashley Cole and Dider Drogba are taking orders from a man who, to them, still has a lot to prove and is at the right age to be a teammate.

Of course there is no reason why Villa-Boas cannot excel at Chelsea. The comparisons with his Portuguese compatriot Jose Mourinho are too obvious not to make. Domestic and European trophies for both coaches while managing at Porto, a confident nature in the media and years of studying all point towards potential future success. Mourinho has gone on and fulfilled his potential and then some. And Villas-Boas has been bold enough to attempt the same, taking the same route that Mourinho did, risking forever being in the “Special One’s” shadow.

The Chelsea players could not be blamed for sensing a little bit of déjà vu. But they will also be well aware that things will not be exactly the same. The love and respect the Chelsea players and Mourinho shared is well documented. Mourinho had a crucial component that the players also saw in Avram Grant, Guus Hiddink, Felipe Scolari, and Carlo Ancelotti. He had years on the Chelsea squad. Mourinho arrived at Chelsea in 2004 at the age of 41. The squad then was younger and Lampard, for example is nearly fifteen years Mourinho’s junior. So Mourinho, fifteen odd years older anyway was dealing with players in their mid twenties. Villas-Boas is dealing with those same players but they are his age. Scolari and Grant lost respect and ultimately their jobs because of their shortcomings as managers and personalities. But they didn’t have the age disadvantage that Villas-Boas has.

Lampard was asked after last night’s 2-1 victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge about his role as a substitute at Chelsea. Lampard, normally as professional as they come, reluctantly gave more away that what we’ve come to expect. He admitted to being frustrated and revealed that he and Villas-Boas hadn’t spoken about his omission from the starting eleven in recent fixtures. He stopped short of openly criticising his boss but he clearly wasn’t happy.

Whether leaving Lampard out is the right decision or not is up for debate. But Villas-Boas, solely because of his age, will come under a lot of quick pressure if he continues to make these unprecedented decisions. It wouldn’t be as intense if he was older as that would command an immediate respect. He’s had to work harder than most managers at major clubs to earn respect because he is so young. The key to easing that pressure that he may continue to come under is by winning football matches. It was Chelsea who ended Manchester City’s unbeaten run last night and it was thanks to a Frank Lampard penalty. Should that mean he starts or should he be used as an impact substitute? That’s up to the boss. And whether Frank and co like it or not that is 34 year old, Andre Villas-Boas.

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Posted in: Football