Virgin Islands recall their days in the sun under former coach

Villas-Boas is still admired on the tiny island where he cut his teeth as a coach. By Mark Fleming

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The Independent Online

Andre Villas-Boas has become the most talked-about manager in world football since agreeing to take charge of Chelsea, but when he started his first job as coach of British Virgin Islands 11 years ago the players could not pronounce his name.

The Portuguese prodigy was just 21 when he became the youngest international manager by taking charge of the BVI team, as part of his role as the tiny Caribbean nation's technical director of football.

His captain Avondale Williams, a central midfielder who has now succeeded Villas-Boas as national team manager, remembered yesterday how the players, many of whom were several years older than their new boss, struggled with his unfamiliar names and called him Luis.

"He didn't mind us calling him that, we certainly respected him," Williams told i yesterday from his home in BVI, a British dependent territory with a population of just 22,000.

Villas-Boas had taken a post as the country's technical director of football without revealing just how young he was. He said a few years later: "I was a kid, but they didn't know that. I only told them my age the day I left the post. It was such a grand job for a 21-year-old."

Despite his youth Villas-Boas made his mark on a country that was ranked 161 in the world, and whose national stadium has a capacity of 2,000 or so, in the capital Road Town. Williams said: "He was about two years younger than most of us, but impressed us. He came in with a programme for us."

Villas-Boas set about the monumental task of trying to make the BVI team more competitive by instilling in them a sense of purpose. "He told us that we had to put the team first," Williams said. "He got us passing the ball better, and put the emphasis on attacking. But he also got us defending better as a team. He had a lot of ideas that were quite different to us.

"He was a quiet person but sometimes he would come out with us on the town. He was an outgoing character, and could be very funny sometimes.

The team improvements however were not generally reflected on the pitch. BVI did punch above their weight to beat Antigua and St Martin, but were found out in a World Cup qualifier against Bermuda, losing 5-1 at home and 9-0 away.

Williams said: "We didn't have a high calibre of players to work with, so it was hard. But he started to have an impact on us. You could see he would leave to work for a big club like Chelsea one day. But I didn't think it would happen so quickly. Not at 33, more like 40."