Sam Wallace: Hiddink on a hiding to nothing as Abramovich puts friendship to test

Talking Football
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I don't want to rain on Roman's parade, but do you think anyone at Chelsea was brave enough to tell the bearded one last week that the aggregate result in games between teams managed by Guus Hiddink and Steve McClaren is 4-2 to McClaren?

Does Abramovich realise that, in Hiddink's glittering career he has never won anything with a club side outside the Netherlands (apart from the Intercontinental Cup with Real Madrid in 1998)? That his European Cup triumph with PSV Eindhoven was, with respect, more than 20 years ago? That there was a notable 4-0 thumping for his PSV team from Arsenal at the Philips Stadium in September 2002? That another PSV team of his once lost to a Newcastle United side that included Titus Bramble and Olivier Bernard?

This is not meant to denigrate the record of a talented coach, just to remind Abramovich that there is no such thing as a one-man solution in football. When Hiddink announced on Thursday that Chelsea could still win the Premier League you were reminded of those bonkers propaganda missives from the former Soviet Union about prolific iron ore production or record cucumber harvests. To judge by his expression at Vicarage Road on Saturday, Hiddink was already having a rethink.

Hiddink is a great talent, but as demonstrated, he is not infallible. The trouble with a football club is that you cannot solve major problems with a single move, or a single person. You cannot fail to attend to it for a year and then return to sort everything out over a spare weekend. Yes, it is reassuring that Abramovich has proved he is still engaged with Chelsea. But big clubs need to have a strategy, their squads need to be finely calibrated, or, like Chelsea, they can very quickly find themselves looking like yesterday's men.

Hiddink taking over Chelsea is an intriguing task but the answers to their problems are not there to be unlocked in four months by a brilliant piece of maverick coaching. There is not a Premier League-winning team in that squad waiting to be unleashed just for want of the right words in the right ear or a radical formation on the tactics board. Chelsea's problems are systemic: an aging squad, too many players outstaying their time and the divisions and the rancour built up over the last six years.

Hiddink is a capable man, but what is it reasonable for his Russian master to expect of him? What does Hiddink do when faced with the fundamental problems of Chelsea's squad that affected Luiz Felipe Scolari: for instance, the indifference of Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda? These two players were not daunted by Scolari; in fact, they do not seem to care what anyone thinks of them. Some of their recent performances suggest they are immune to embarrassment. They don't need motivating, they need getting rid of.

Ultimately, Hiddink is being asked to coach Chelsea out of trouble. No new players in, none out. No major changes to the back-room staff. Just one man on the training pitch. It's a quaint idea, isn't it? Hiddink is undoubtedly a formidable organiser and motivator of players, but is he really that much better a coach than Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez that, on sheer savvy alone, he is going to turn Chelsea's season around? More to the point, how many Premier League games has he actually watched this season?

Hiddink overachieved with his South Korea team, but he did so after the Koreans virtually cancelled the domestic season in 2002 to give him months of intense training with his players before the World Cup final. He coached an Australia team that had some outstanding individuals. He also clearly caught Russia at a time when they too had their best crop of players in a while, as evidenced by Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin's moves to the Premier League. At Chelsea he starts without that little edge.

It is a pity for Chelsea that Abramovich did not decide to get involved a couple of weeks earlier. If he had sacked Scolari after the draw at home to Southend United in the FA Cup third round on 3 January he would have given his new coach the time to acquire a few new players. Chelsea could still, for instance, have picked up Emile Heskey then for the cost of £3.5m or bought Arshavin. He might give them the magic that, as Scolari pointed out in his recent France Football interview, they badly lack.

Surely the real purpose of getting Hiddink now is a gentler way of poaching the coach of the Russia team than tearing him away in the summer. The next few months will allow the Russian public gradually to get used to the idea that their coach has been expropriated by Abramovich and then if it happens for good in the close season there is likely to be much less of an outcry.

Still, given the fact that Hiddink and Abramovich are supposed to be such good friends it is one hell of a hospital pass to put him into Stamford Bridge now. Almost as if Abramovich wanted to test just how good his mate really was by putting him in charge at the moment when things looked bleakest. South Korea, Australia, Russia; now winning a title race that is already leaving Chelsea behind. What's next? When you've finished sorting that out, Guus, we would like you to get Chester City into the Premier League but you're only allowed to see the players once a week and all communication must be in Flemish.

Crumbling Seville turns back the clock

Seville's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, where England played on Wednesday, is one of those steep-sided affairs with a wonderful atmosphere and no need for a roof on three-quarters of the stadium. Why? Because the sun pretty much always shines in Seville. Then, in the surge to get out after the final whistle, you found yourself confronted with bottlenecks of fans, narrow exits and crumbly, concrete steps. It made you remember that for all the huge changes in English football in the last 20 years – some good, some bad – we can give thanks for the quality of our stadiums.

Meaney's mean turn as the Don

There is some debate over whether the eagerly anticipated film The Damned United, based on the novel The Damned Utd, promises a faithful representation of David Peace's brilliant portrayal of Brian Clough's 44 days at Leeds United. The book was very dark: an alcohol-sodden nervous breakdown in a 1974 football world of big sideburns and Admiral tracksuits. The film's trailer, recently released, suggests the film has the 1970s off to a tee but lacks the darkness of the book. That said, the actor Colm Meaney playing Don Revie actually looks more like Revie than Revie himself.

Able coach but not Wise move

During Joe Kinnear's absence for heart surgery there is one name who would probably do a decent job as Newcastle United manager, but for obvious reasons will never be able to deputise. Dennis Wise, Newcastle's executive director (football), is clearly a talented coach. A pity, then, that his part in the shambolic administration of Newcastle means the fans would never accept him.