Saturday 25 November 2017

Backing for Wilkins cost Hiddink return to Stamford Bridge

Mark Fleming

New Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas moved decisively ahead of Guus Hiddink in the race to take over the hot seat at Stamford Bridge when the Dutchman said he wanted to bring Ray Wilkins back as his assistant.

Villas-Boas, the then Porto manager, and Hiddink, who remains coach of the Turkish national team, were the two main candidates to replace the Double-winning manager Carlo Ancelotti, who was abruptly sacked on the final day of last season.

Hiddink, who was the hot favourite to get the job, made it clear to the club's board that he would like to offer an olive branch to former assistant manager Wilkins, who was sacked last October on the direct say-so of owner Roman Abramovich -- for reasons that remain confidential.

Wilkins' shock dismissal at half-time during a reserve team game ended a near 37-year association with the club and triggered a slump in results that left Chelsea unable to mount a title challenge, and ultimately cost Ancelotti his job, too. It also led to a protracted argument over compensation until a pay-off was agreed.

Chelsea were not willing to countenance Hiddink's desire to bring back Wilkins, who had been assistant during the Dutchman's three-month spell as caretaker manager is 2009, and that impasse was one of the key reasons they turned their attention to their former opposition scout Villas-Boas, who won four trophies at Porto last season in his first full campaign as manager.

Villas-Boas (33) has begun building up his back-room staff by taking two assistants with him from his former club Porto.

Jose Mario Rocha (48) will become the physical fitness coach, while Daniel Sousa (25) is to be the senior opposition scout. That role at Chelsea is currently occupied by former Ipswich manager Mick McGiven (60) who worked closely with Villas-Boas when the Portuguese was part of Jose Mourinho's back-room staff and is likely to be given a key role in the new set-up.

Michael Emenalo, who was promoted to assistant first-team coach when Wilkins was sacked, will remain at the club, although he might be given a new role.

The Nigerian, considered by many to be the 'eyes and ears' of Abramovich in the dressing-room, is a contender for the sporting director role vacated by Frank Arnesen, who left in May.


Chelsea are also keen to attract Arsenal chief scout Steve Rowley and are prepared to offer him a substantial financial package to move across London and head the club's scouting network.

Villas-Boas is to take a more hands-on approach to buying new players, hence his title of 'manager' rather than 'first-team coach', which is how Ancelotti was described.

The new Chelsea chief is keen to complete the £26.5m signing of Radamel Falcao in the next week. The Colombian striker scored 39 goals for Porto last season, and is eager to follow the manager to Stamford Bridge.

"I am leaving things up to my agent," said Falcao. "I am very calm about the situation but I know there has been some movement. I am convinced I can play in a superior league like England. If Chelsea is interested in me then all that needs to happen is for negotiations to take place." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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