So what is happening at Chelsea? We know the precociously gifted 33-year-old Andre Villas-Boas now occupies the role once played by his mentor and compatriot Jose Mourinho – to whom, for some arcane reason, he is no longer on speaking terms.
And Chelsea have brushed aside the stories that the reason the far more experienced Dutchman Guus Hiddink did not take the team over for a second time are baseless; as therefore be the rumours that it didn’t happen because Hiddink wanted to reinstate Ray Wilkins as his assistant. At which the impatient oligarch Roman Abramovich dug in his heels.
Meanwhile, before a ball has been kicked in anger, Villas-Boas has made a ruthless cull of subsidiary staff, surprisingly including the club doctor, and also the long serving first team coach Paul Clement. This, though the controversial assistant first team coach Michael Emenalo, remains in one capacity or another. Though when he was previously in line to become the actual first team coach, there was a welter of astonishment and protest, it being alleged that his only experience in that function was as coach to a girls’ team in the USA.
It seems pretty clear that Emenalo must be favoured by Abramovich, he who at all costs must be obeyed. Which doesn’t, if true, augur well for the future of Villas-Boas – no stranger of course, to Stamford Bridge – in any clash of wills in the future. This could well come over the £50 million non-functioning striker Fernando Torres, an evident bone of contention between Abramovich and his previous manager Carlo Ancelotti. Even if, at long last, Torres recovers fitness and form during the summer weeks, it seems that his counter attacking propensities, when he is functioning at all, don’t fit in with the all action approach of Villas-Boas. Nor do we know how Villas-Boas’ preferences will go down with his two playing contemporaries, John Terry and Frank Lampard.
So the emetic, shameless Jack Warner sides off into an absurdly well financed future away from FIFA. The deluded Norwegian head of the so-called ethics committee declaring that Warner, complete with large pension, leaves with “the presumption of innocence.” Would that John McEnroe could be prised away from the Wimbledon commentary box to cry, “You cannot be serious!” Any more serious than the journalistic bird brains who have insisted on calling the wretched Warner “a power broker.”
Unfortunately, the FA, under the doomed Lord Triesman and the hapless, hopeless World Cup 2018 seeking committee, seemed equally ready to take Warner at his own hyperbolic valuation. What he was and no longer is was the main man of the deeply suspect CONCACAF gro
up, the control of whose votes, long before Bin Hammam tried recently to bribe them, enabled him to get whatever he liked whenever he liked out of Sepp Blatter. We still wait to hear just what prompted his former devoted comrade in CONCACAF arms, Chuck Blazer, to blow the whistle on him. Jerome Valcke, the executive who, with Blazer, was branded a liar by a woman judge in New York when they tried to twist the World Cup rights from Mastercard to Visa, but in no time was elevated to FIFA’s top executive, remains in office. This, though he seemed in danger after, quite correctly but indiscreetly, accusing Qatar of buying the 2022 World Cup. Which, bewilderingly, they still at the moment have. But then, as the Sicilians cynically have it, “One hand washes the other.” However grubby.
When Ashley Young joined Aston Villa from Watford for £9 million it seemed wildly excessive. But now he’s moved to Manchester United for double the money. Hardly an ideal start, quite aside from all the fan fury, for Alex McLeish. Who, by the time you read this, may well have lost his other England winger, Stewart Downing, to Liverpool. Across Birmingham, I can but wish good luck to my old friend Chris Hughton who should never have been sacked by Newcastle United. But City are losing stars day by day.