Ian Holloway: I've got no sympathy for Villas-Boas – he knew what he was getting into - News & Comment - Football - The Independent

Ian Holloway: I've got no sympathy for Villas-Boas – he knew what he was getting into


It is hard to feel too much sympathy for Andre Villas-Boas. He knew exactly what he was getting himself into when he went to Chelsea. Take that job and you know anything other than great results and you are in trouble.

To be fair to him, it was too good a gig to turn down. I don't think there is a single manager who wouldn't say yes if Roman Abramovich came calling. But there is a price to pay and at Chelsea it is working for a bloke who enjoys hiring and firing as much as Lord Sugar.

Since Jose Mourinho the club has had a succession of managers and it is no coincidence they have stopped winning as many things since stability went out of the window. I don't know enough about Villas-Boas to judge him but you have to ask questions about his experience – or lack of it. He had been a boss for two years before he went to Stamford Bridge. One of those years was at a big club in Portugal. But a big club nothing compared to Chelsea. You are talking a different stratosphere at Stamford Bridge.

He has to deal with all the pressure that comes with the job, not least from the British media. I bet he didn't expect all the headlines he has had over the last week or so and it is bound to be a major shock.

The biggest test for any manager is whether you can deal with things when you are losing. I have been a boss for more than 15 years and I found it hard enough last season when things started to go against us at Blackpool.

We had a brilliant start to the Premier League season and everybody was as happy as Larry and patting us on the back. But the minute it began going against us we couldn't stop the rot. The pressure came and we couldn't handle it. That was Blackpool. Imagine it at Chelsea where Abramovich expects miracles and the press are on your back if you so much as go a couple of games without a win.

What I will say for Villas-Boas is that he conducts himself in a magnificent way. Every time I see him interviewed I am impressed. He has a remarkably dignified manner for a 34-year-old under intense pressure.

Abramovich obviously sees something in him or else he wouldn't have brought him here. How long the owner's patience will last remains to be seen but surely even Abramovich must realise that he has a young manager who needs a bit of time.

It is going to be a very steep learning curve, and Villas-Boas has to make some difficult decisions and fast.

Are Drogba and Torres really playing to their potential? Does Daniel Sturridge, who is almost screaming out for a place, deserve a chance to lead the line? How is John Terry performing? I think it is obvious to most neutrals that somewhere along the line it has to be changed, but is he strong enough to do it? He might have to be or else he risks being the one who's changed, not the players.

Van Persie gives a masterclass

The likes of David Silva and Luka Modric are the kind of footballers I could watch all day. But in terms of the Premier League player of the year so far it's a no-brainer: Robin van Persie is streets ahead.

He is like a thoroughbred racehorse, in peak condition and virtually untouchable. Anyone who wants to be a goalscorer should watch him in action because he is giving a masterclass every week.

It is easy to get blasé about the number of goals he has scored but sit back and think about it for a moment – 38 goals in 41 games so far this year. This is a world-class striker in the form of his life.

Avoiding injury is a major plus for him. I've felt sorry for him in the past because the more sinewy, athletic and finely tuned you are, the easier it can be to pick up an injury.

He has suffered with that before but now, fully fit, he is showing everyone what he can do. I couldn't even put a price tag on him. It would be an astronomical figure.

And what's best is that he has shown his mental strength. With Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri sold over the summer, he knew he had to step up to the plate and deliver the goods.

Not everyone can do that. Some crumble. Van Persie has grown and relished the responsibility. He reminds me of Thierry Henry at his best, the way he can single-handedly lead Arsenal to victory.

Well done to Arsène Wenger for handling him so well, discussing when to rest him and bringing him on in the last half-hour of some matches.

The only thing he has to make sure of is that Arsenal start winning trophies. That is essential if they want Van Persie to stay in the long term.

Here's another test for Mancini

Some say it might be no bad thing if Manchester City go out of the Champions' League. The theory is that they will have fewer games than their Premier League rivals and it might help them stride towards the title.

I'm not so sure. City have this "we're a big club" attitude now, which is great. You need a certain arrogance to win trophies. But because they think they are the best, going out of the Champions' League so early might be a major blow to their morale.

Phil Jones was quick to try and mess with their heads, claiming City might be vulnerable now because their confidence has taken a hit in Napoli.

So now the City lads have to prove they handle the mind games, stay focused and not get too uptight.

I think the reason they've struggled to reproduce their domestic form in Europe is simply because they aren't used to it as a club. It is a competition that you grow into.

The likes of Manchester United and Arsenal are used to it and know exactly how to handle the amount of fixtures and the different style of football. City aren't quite there yet.

They will get there eventually but you can't buy what someone like Sir Alex Ferguson has done. You have to earn it. Money helps but it is not as straightforward as that or else everybody would have done it.

Mancini has dealt superbly with the Tevez situation and everything else this season. This is another little test and it will be interesting to see how he handles it.

Harry's just the man for England and it's an offer he couldn't refuse

There is a clamour to make Harry Redknapp the next England manager but will the Football Association be brave enough to choose him?

I hope so. The FA have made the mistake in the past of avoiding certain people and it has nearly always proved to be a mistake.

Put simply, there is no one with better credentials than Harry and he should get it. But would he want it? The work he has done at Tottenham and the football he has got them playing is sensational.

The Modric situation will be a defining moment. If Spurs sell him in January, or next summer, then Harry might decide that the club don't have the ambition to be a Champions' League side capable of being the best in Europe. That would push him closer to the England job.

If Modric stays, Spurs continue flying and he's offered the job, he's got a hell of a decision to make.

But I think he wouldn't be able to resist. He is made to be the England manager and I think he would do a terrific job.

Techno can't be beat

Hallelujah and praise be! We are finally going to get goalline technology. I'd like to think it is my years of moaning and harping on about it which has done the trick but I'd be kidding myself.

Thank goodness Fifa and the FA have cottoned on to the fact that we need it.

But this is just the start. The ball has begun rolling and it won't stop until we use technology to help us for all major decisions, which I've advocated for years.

Goalline technology will be great but the outcome of a game could still be altered by a terrible offside decision that allows an illegal goal to stand, or a red card for a tackle that is actually OK.

All we need to do to eradicate bad decisions from football, and to stop referees taking horrible flak week after week, is for the fourth official to watch a monitor on a five-second delay.

If the on-field referee gets a big decision wrong, the fourth official tells him so through a mic and the ref immediately reverses his original call.

No one could complain because there would be nothing to complain about – it would be the right decision as proven by TV footage.

We're in the 21st century now, we've got all this wonderful technology, so for God's sake let's use it.

My kids make me feel past-a it

If you see me stuffing pasta down my neck in a restaurant near Burnley tonight while looking a little depressed, there is a reason.

We are going out to celebrate the 20th birthday of my youngest daughter Harriet...and I can't believe it.

I've not got any kids left who are teenagers. They've all grown up and how old does that make me feel?

I love my four children to bits but blimey they don't half make you feel your age.

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