Football: Strain behind the cool exterior

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GRAHAM RIX, Ruud Gullit's right-hand man at Stamford Bridge, has claimed that the deposed Chelsea manager was on the verge of cracking under the strain. Rix told the News of the World of the Dutchman's actions at half-time during Chelsea's Premiership defeat by Arsenal last Sunday.

"We were 2-0 down and Ruud was in the showers," he said. "I walked in and he was hitting his fist against his forehead over and over again. In his other hand he had a piece of paper with the team he wanted for the second half. I looked at it and there were only two defenders. I couldn't believe it. I told him, 'You can't do that. There's no backbone to the team'. It was clear to me things weren't going as well as his cool exterior suggested."

Rix believes that Gullit's desire to make dramatic changes to the team as soon as things started to go wrong helped cause his downfall. "There were many times when I just had to tell him 'You can't do this'. At Leeds last season we were 2-0 down after just nine minutes and he told three of the subs to warm up. I said, 'You can't do that. You will destroy them'."

Rix said he was shocked by Gullit's sacking but reckoned it could be for the best. "We've gone badly off the rails in recent weeks. I'm not sure Ruud could have halted the slide." But he is confident of a better relationship with Gianluca Vialli. "After I had got over the shock, I went down to see Luca in the dressing room. I was pleased when he said he wanted me to stay on. I wished him all the best and his first words to me were, 'Graham, I need your help'. It was amazing. I had waited 18 months for Ruud to say that to me."