Chelsea begin search for new manager

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Chelsea have launched a Europe-wide search for an experienced new manager after abandoning their policy of promoting from within and admitting they had no successor lined up to replace Gianluca Vialli.

Chelsea have launched a Europe-wide search for an experienced new manager after abandoning their policy of promoting from within and admitting they had no successor lined up to replace Gianluca Vialli.

The Italian was sacked yesterday after only five Premiership games in a meeting lasting 20 minutes at Stamford Bridge with chairman Ken Bates and managing director Colin Hutchinson.

The exact reasons for his dismissal remain something of a mystery, although the fact that there is no ready-made successor seems to indicate that his sacking was a hastily-made decision.

And that would appear to lend weight to the theory that dressing-room unrest amid a series of poor early season results played its part in his downfall.

The u-turn in the club's promotion policy appears to an admission that throwing a player into the managerial deep end is not the way to achieve Premiership and European success.

That means striker Gianfranco Zola and captain Dennis Wise, as well as coaches Ray Wilkins and Graham Rix, are not in the running for the vacant post.

Hutchinson, who will conduct the interviews for Vialli's successor, and Bates must therefore decide whether to choose a British coach or continue with their overseas appointments.

Either way, Hutchinson insisted that he would not be hurried into a "hasty decision" while Rix and Wilkins take temporary control of team affairs in the meantime.

He explained: "We basically know what we are looking for but we haven't actually said this is the man that we want.

"We are a Continental side playing football in England and that will obviously be reflected in the choice we make.

"We have an open mind. Whether it's British or Continental is too early to say. What we want is a top-class coach.

"It is fair to say though that we will not on this occasion be promoting from within. Gianfranco Zola will not be promoted to the manager's job."

The leading home-grown candidates would seem to be former England coach Terry Venables - who is now the clear favourite with the bookmakers - ex-Blues manager Glenn Hoddle and Tottenham boss George Graham.

Out of that trio only Venables, who has a high but certainly controversial profile, is currently out of a managerial post, while Graham perhaps does not fit the bill of managing a Continental-style side.

So the other option is to look overseas to the likes of Dino Zoff and Frank Rijkaard, who were released by their countries after Euro 2000, or Sven Goran Eriksson, in whom the Blues have shown past interest, and Aime Jacquet.

Hutchinson revealed that he had already received 30 telephone calls from "people in and out of work", while a "number of faxes are winging their way in from Europe".

A short-list of potential candidates will be drawn as soon as possible, yet the delay marks a significant shift from the policy first followed when Hoddle left to manage England and then Gullit was released in a row over wages.

Even Liverpool have come to terms with the fact that the Anfield boot-room is not necessarily the right breeding-ground for a coach to achieve instant success - and Chelsea have now followed suit.

"If you are suggesting that Luca was the wrong appointment blame me, not Batesy, because Luca was my choice," maintained Hutchinson.

"We have some excellent staff here. We have an outstanding squad who can do the job for us. There is really no ideal time for this the timing is such that the season has only just started.

"This will only set the club back if we don't go forward positively and we believe we can go forward."

While Vialli's achievements in winning four trophies during his two-and-a-half-year reign were recognised yesterday by the club, they were hardly referred to at today's packed press conference.

The focus was instead on his honourable and likeable character, with Wilkins insisting there was "nothing wrong with the team" and Wise declaring that the squad had not lost confidence in their former boss.

That however simply served to heighten the question marks over the Italian's enforced departure.

So had Vialli lost the respect and confidence of his players? Did the board simply lose patience with him and decide he was not up to the task of winning the title?

Hutchinson was giving precious little away and he insisted: "We will not be making any derogatory comments about Luca."

"We've placed on record what he has achieved while he was here. The meeting was conducted in a very civilised way.

"There were no raised voices and in the circumstances, it was conducted in a dignified manner. We parted on pretty good terms."

Asked if player-power had been in force, he maintained: "We had various issues to consider and based our decision on private matters.

"There is never a happy time for a parting but at the end of the day the club is more important than any individual.

"It was felt the time was right. None of the players knew about it until the announcement."

Hutchinson, who confirmed that the club made an inquiry for striker Paolo di Canio which was rebuffed on Monday, held a meeting with the Chelsea players and staff this morning at the club's training ground.

"It came as a shock to them. I talked with all the players and staff here and the mood when I arrived showed the affection Luca was held in. It was subdued," he said.

"But they are professional footballers and they had a vigorous training session and got it out of their systems."

Another day, another manager. Such is life in the Premiership and especially at Chelsea these days.

Perhaps it is just as well though, for there is the small matter of a UEFA Cup first round first leg tie at home to Swiss side St Gallen to contend with tomorrow night.