Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has won over the players and staff at Stamford Bridge not just with his tactical astuteness and eye for detail, but also his love of cracking a good joke.
Chelsea travel to Blackburn for a Carling Cup quarter-final tonight having built up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League. And yesterday assistant manager Ray Wilkins revealed a very different key to Ancelotti's achievement.
"As a bloke, he's a really funny guy," Wilkins said. "He is always joke-telling. I have to translate, unfortunately. I've enjoyed his company immensely. That humour could well be one of the reasons he's so successful in the game.
"He's dealt with the players in fantastic fashion on a personal basis, and we're seeing the rewards of that. He tells jokes to the players. He just enjoys their company. He's a football person. When things are going well, as they are at the moment, then more jokes are told. It's a good time."
The players have reciprocated just once, when they presented Ancelotti with a pair of comedy glasses after he refereed a practice game.
Wilkins was at pains to stress however that Ancelotti, who spent eight years as coach of Milan, does not lark about before matches. "In the dressing room it's business time," he said. "We were on tour with Milan in the summer in America and you could see the respect, to a player, the Milan guys had for him. That's nice to see. That's continued here. The way he treats the guys on a personal level, I'm sure he's got the utmost respect from every one of them."
For Frank Lampard the foundation of Chelsea's success this season has been their work on the training ground. Their tight organisation has led to a run of eight clean sheets in the last nine games. Yet at the same time they have scored in their last 28 games, since a goalless draw at Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final back in April.
Lampard said: "We are well-organised because we work very hard on the training ground," he said. "We've got intelligent players, the manager works on tactics and we know that's the base from where we play."Reuse content