Football: Gullit delights in being different

Dutchman can today become the first foreign manager to win the FA Cup with two different clubs. By Simon Turnbull
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The Independent Online
EVER SINCE he made his debut for Haarlem as a 16-year-old centre- half, Ruud Gullit has been making a name for himself. Not exactly his own name, though.

The boy who made football history in his homeland two decades ago as the youngest player to appear in the Dutch League and who, as a man of 36, stands on the threshold of another momentous feat at Wembley this afternoon is, in actual fact, Rudi Dil.

That is the name on his birth certificate and on his passport, and which he still signs on official documentation. Dil is his mother's surname but also happens to mean "arse" in Dutch.

Not wishing to spend his life in the spotlight being referred to as "the bum", he adopted his father's name at the start of his playing career. He did not, however, formally change it.

So, strictly speaking, it will be Rudi Dil, not Ruud Gullit, who enters the annals of English football if Newcastle United upset the form book and emerge victorious from the 118th FA Cup final today.

Only two managers have guided different clubs to victory in the world's oldest cup competition; the great Herbert Chapman (Huddersfield Town in 1922 and Arsenal in 1930) and the not-so-greatly-known Billy Walker (Sheffield Wednesday in 1935 and Nottingham Forest in 1959).

Having presided over Chelsea's success two years ago, Dil - or, for the sake of familiarity, Gullit - could become the third.

"I was very proud when I was told after the 1997 final that I was the first foreign coach to win an FA Cup," the dreadlocked Dutchman said as he prepared to head south with his team. "People said to me, `You made history here in English football,' and that means a lot to me.

"I can imagine if you win the cup with two different clubs it will be an even greater achievement but we have not got that far, so I am not thinking about that. I'm thinking more about the preparation of my team."

And Gullit knows as much as Alex Ferguson about preparing for the big occasion. Possibly more. He did, after all, lead the Netherlands to their first major trophy, as captain of the European Championship-winning side in 1988. And, of course, he has no need to talk longingly about lifting the European Cup in the Nou Camp.

Gullit has been there, done it and got the red-and-black T-shirt. He scored twice in the last European Cup final staged in the Catalan cauldron - Milan's 4-0 victory against Steaua Bucharest 10 years ago.

He had to overcome a considerable disadvantage to do so, having played with lead balls taped to his spine to alleviate the pain caused by sciatica. He was also, for good measure, still recovering from a knee operation.

Gullit will be handicapped today not just by the physical problems that have afflicted his squad, depriving him of central defender Steve Howey and making striker Duncan Ferguson unavailable. Nine months into his new job on Tyneside, the Newcastle manager is still some way from having the team he wants.

Indeed, while preparing his players for their final date this week he has made time to complete the signings of two central defenders, Alain Goma from Paris St-Germain and Elena Marcelino from Real Mallorca - deals he will not publicly confirm until after his present team return from Wembley, with or without the cup.

It is a pity for Gullit that neither recruit will be in his team this afternoon. Manchester United may have personnel problems of their own, but they do not have a defence as glaringly vulnerable as Newcastle's. Not once in their final 12 fixtures of the Premiership season did they register a clean sheet. And not once in their last six games have they registered a win.

Gullit might not appear to be a natural Baldrick but he has nevertheless presented his team's less than encouraging form as part of a cunning plan. "I think it is to our advantage," he said, "that we have not played very well.

"Manchester United do not know who we are going to play and they don't know how we are going to play." Not unless their spies have penetrated St James' Park, at any rate.

Gullit has switched Newcastle's training sessions this week from their usual Chester-le-Street base - inaccessible to the public but openly observable - to the closed confines of St James'. He has also engaged the help of his long-time personal guru, Ted Troost, a psychologist-cum-physiologist, who assisted him in preparing Chelsea for the 1997 final.

Gullit has, of course, made a habit of outmanoeuvring the managerial rival he faces today. Ignoring the 5-3 third round FA Cup defeat last season, a month before his enforced departure from Stamford Bridge, Gullit succeeded in making his Chelsea team the toughest domestic nut for Manchester United and their manager to crack.

Ruud's boys won 2-1 at Old Trafford two seasons ago and would have done the same last term had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer not conjured a late, fortuitous equaliser. On the later occasion, though, Gullit had Tore Andre Flo alongside him on the bench - the kind of luxury he is a long way from being able to afford at Newcastle.

At Chelsea he was building a team to match Alex Ferguson's; he was negotiating to buy Jaap Stam when the sack was delivered. At Newcastle he has been obliged to start from somewhere back beyond scratch; much of the unwanted debris of Kenny Dalglish's squad still remains.

And it still remains for Gullit to sign the contract offered to him when he arrived on Tyneside last August, his painful experience at Chelsea having caused him to hesitate.

"You could say I've signed in spirit," he said. "But there is no point in me saying I'll be here in three years or five years. It is not realistic when so many coaches get the sack.

"I have been a victim myself. Things were going well for me at Chelsea but they got rid of me. That is why I will make no promises and, instead, live by the day."

For the time being, then, Rudi Dil has yet to make his mark at Newcastle. Until this afternoon, at least.



November 1996

Manchester United 1, Chelsea 2 (Old Trafford)

February 1997

Chelsea 1, Manchester United 1 (Stamford Bridge)

August 1997

Chelsea 1, Manchester United 1 (Charity Shield, Wembley. United won 4- 2 on penalties)

September 1997

Manchester United 2, Chelsea 2 (Old Trafford)

January 1998

Chelsea 3, Manchester United 5 (FA Cup, third round, Stamford Bridge)


November 1998

Manchester United 0, Newcastle United 0 (Old Trafford)

March 1999

Newcastle United 1, Manchester United 2 (St James' Park)