Sam Wallace: Emenalo may soon discover that some opportunities really are just too good to be true

For Ancelotti, the downside is obvious. It makes him look like he's being undermined. He did not even get the final say on the sacking of his assistant

What makes a great manager and assistant partnership? Trust (Shankly and Paisley) has to be one quality. Complementing personalities (Clough and Taylor) are another good combination. Even a bit of tension (Ferguson and Kidd) can work. Then there is the importance of loyalty (Busby and Murphy).

Something tells me that when it comes to great managerial/assistant combinations of modern football we might just have to create a whole new sub-section for Carlo Ancelotti and Michael Emenalo.

One struggles to recall a partnership that has begun in less auspicious circumstances than that of the Italian and his new Nigerian sidekick. It is not that their current record stands at played one, lost one, because plenty of great managerial dynasties have started badly. Rather it was the way that Ancelotti introduced his new No 2.

"He won't be involved in the training sessions," was – all things considered – not the most encouraging of starts when Ancelotti explained Emenalo's new role on Friday. That was run a close second by Ancelotti clarifying, "It's not a new job, it's the same job he did in the past." Which, as anyone who has ever got a promotion will tell you, is not what you want to hear from the boss.

Nevertheless, Emenalo was alongside Ancelotti on the bench come Saturday's defeat to Birmingham City and, whatever the Chelsea manager said about Emenalo continuing to do his old job, it will be difficult to scout Chelsea's forthcoming opposition when he is spending match days watching Chelsea.

Three league defeats in the last four games have created the gloom over Chelsea. Yet they are still top of the league and await the return of Frank Lampard, John Terry and Michael Essien from injury and suspension. What catches the eye is the frankly weird position around Emenalo's appointment and the pointedly lukewarm reception that Ancelotti has given him.

The cursory dismissal of Ray Wilkins was the moment that made everyone wince – a bit like seeing a favourite uncle come a cropper through no fault of his own. But foisting Emenalo on Ancelotti did not make sense for either of the two men involved.

For Ancelotti, the downside is obvious. It makes him look like he is being undermined. He did not even get the final say on the sacking of his assistant. Compare that to Fabio Capello, who brought four Italian staff with him when he came to England.

For Emenalo it sounds like one of the greatest opportunities a football man could hope for but when it comes to Chelsea and the whims of that club you have to be careful what you wish for.

The last man to be parachuted in from nowhere by Chelsea was Avram Grant, who lasted eight months as manager and was one penalty-kick from winning the Champions League final, as he never tires of reminding us. He parlayed that into a job at Portsmouth and the less said about how he is faring at West Ham the better.

Grant will always be remembered as the man who was given one of the most extraordinary leg-ups in the history of English football. He has never been able to shake that off and the way things are working out at West Ham suggest that if it was not for Chelsea plucking him from obscurity in Israel he would never have made it this far.

For Emenalo, by all accounts a decent man, is this really what he wants for the next step in his career? Installed as the assistant to a manager who has just seen his former assistant sacked by the powers-that-be? Football has often rewarded ambitious men but some lucky breaks do not turn out to be as lucky as they first seem.

Ancelotti and Emenalo's paths have crossed once before, at the 1994 World Cup finals when the Italian, then recently retired as a player, was the assistant to Arrigo Sacchi in charge of Italy. The Nigeria team for whom Emenalo played in every one of their four games during the tournament were beaten by Italy in the first knockout round.

Emenalo's club career never quite lived up to the heights of that tournament, at which he came on as a substitute in the first game and started the next three games, including the second against Diego Maradona's Argentina. He played for clubs in Germany, Belgium, Israel, Spain, America and even a few games at Notts County but never seemed to stay anywhere for long.

When Grant, who knew him from his days in Israel, offered him a scouting job at Chelsea in 2007, Emenalo was running a private football academy in Tucson, Arizona, that operated girls' and boys' junior football teams. Tucson is Emenalo's wife's hometown but, that aside, it cannot have been a very hard decision when Chelsea came calling.

In many ways, Emenalo's rise has been even more extraordinary than that of Grant, who at least had been a successful manager in Israel. Clearly, Chelsea's new assistant manager has some powerful friends at the club who, in giving him this latest job, have made him an offer he could not resist.

He may believe that he is best served riding this wave and seeing just how far it takes him. Or he might look at Ancelotti and consider how he developed his coaching career gradually, building on a celebrated playing career by becoming Sacchi's assistant back in 1994.

From there Ancelotti was manager at Reggiana and Parma before moving up a notch to Juventus, Milan and now Chelsea, learning his trade over 17 years. Considering that, the Chelsea assistant manager, who has come from obscurity to the No 2 role at the Premier League champions via an academy in Tucson, might conclude that if his new job looks too good to be true then perhaps it is him who should be suspicious.

It takes a firmly withheld hand to hold a grudge

I have to register disappointment with Samir Nasri's handshake snub to William Gallas, which just did not have the craftiness or embarrassment factor of Wayne Bridge's sleight of hand with John Terry last season.

Bridge sold Terry the greatest dummy of his career in the handshake queue at Stamford Bridge. On Saturday, Nasri just hid behind his team-mates in the manner of someone trying to avoid being served dessert in the school dinner line. Note to all future handshake grudge-holders: look them in the eye and leave them hanging.

Irvine looks on the up as Preston head southwards

Amid the meltdown at Sheffield Wednesday, the club can at least give thanks that they have a manager of considerable talent in Alan Irvine who has kept them in the League One play-off places. After the week they have had, a 4-1 away win over MK Dons and fifth place is pretty decent.

If Irvine keeps this up – and Wednesday survive – they might just be in contention for a place in the Championship. Irvine will prove a point to Preston North End, who mystifyingly sacked him last season and, for their trouble, could be heading in the opposite direction.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas