Guus Hiddink is due to fly into London today to take temporary charge of Chelsea and will meet with the players when they arrive back from international duty later this afternoon.
There is unlikely to be any official "unveiling" of the 62-year-old Dutchman as manager because Chelsea are acutely aware of the offence this may cause to Russia. Hiddink will continue to coach the Russian national team while he is at Chelsea until the end of the season.
The appointment, which was confirmed yesterday, has caused some consternation in Russia, where it has been regarded as a sleight to the prestige of coaching the country. Former players have denounced Hiddink's decision even if he has, privately, said he had "no choice" but to accept the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's request to help out at the club.
The former Russia coach Anatoli Byshovets said: "No Russian coach who worked with the national team previously was given so many privileges or enjoyed such special conditions as Hiddink does now. The Russian Football Union is effectively allowing him to neglect our national team by leaving it in the hands of his assistants."
What will be of even greater interest will be what happens if Hiddink is successful at Chelsea. By winning a trophy, or turning the team around, it will be hard for him to leave at the end of the season, even if Abramovich is working to bring in a full-time replacement and is considering Milan's Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard and, possibly, Manchester City's Mark Hughes.
Hiddink will talk to Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was sacked on Monday after just seven months as manager, about the state of the Chelsea squad and will also have to deal with the divisions that exist among the players. However, he is a strict disciplinarian – as Andrei Arshavin and others have found out in the past – and will not be fazed by the strong personalities in the dressing room.
As yet Hiddink has not decided on which back-room staff he needs to appoint and will initially work the with caretaker-manager Ray Wilkins and reserve-team manager Paul Clement, who has temporarily stepped up to work with the first team. There are strong suggestions that he will appoint Johann Neeskens, who has assisted him in the past with the Dutch and Australian national sides, as well as working as No 2 at Barcelona to Rijkaard, who is a close friend and a possible permanent successor to Scolari. Hiddink is also friends with another Dutchman, Hans Gilhaus, who has been scouting for Chelsea and may be given a more central role, while his relationship with Chelsea's head of youth development, Frank Arnesen, has improved.
Wilkins is still due to take charge of Saturday's FA Cup fifth-round tie away to Watford, which Hiddink will also attend, but plans may change should the new coach arrive from Russia's warm weather training camp in Turkey and declare that he is ready to be in control immediately. If he does not, then his first match will be the vital Premier League fixture away to Aston Villa a week on Saturday.
"It's never enough time to prepare a team in one week, but this is an exceptional situation," Hiddink added. "Chelsea have good players and they should be in top form and that should make my job easier."
Hiddink, contracted to Russia until the end of the 2010 World Cup, said before his appointment he intended to help out only until the season's end. "It's a favour for a friend," he said. "Abramovich does so much for Russian football that I wanted to give something back. He called me personally."
When asked about the possibility of continuing beyond this season at Stamford Bridge, Hiddink said: "There are two scenarios: it goes bad and they say 'go back east' or it goes well, but I'm not thinking that far ahead.
"There will be no damage for the Russian national team, we focus now and in the future on the Russian team."
Russia have two World Cup qualifiers over the course of the rest of the Premier League season – at home to Azerbaijan on 28 March and away to Liechtenstein four days later.
The former Chelsea player Ron Harris believes Abramovich can convince Hiddink to make his temporary stay at Stamford Bridge a permanent one. "Guus has been appointed now until the end of the season because, with the results they've been having lately, they needed to bring someone in to keep the flag flying," Harris said.
"It's a good appointment and he has a good track record having done two jobs in the past. But I wouldn't have thought that would be a long-term answer as I'm not sure people would be happy about that. I'm not saying it can't be done, but I'm not sure Chelsea would want that.
"He comes with a good track record but so do some of the others whose names have been linked. Come the end of the season, though, if they were to do well then I think the owner has the power to convince him to stay and I'm sure that's what would happen."
Harris also believes Hiddink could come back to Chelsea even if he does opt to leave the club in the summer. "Maybe if he does well Hiddink could come back after 2010," Harris said. "If Russia don't qualify I would think he'd take the job on a permanent basis but if they do, and they do very well, then he could be back. It's always nice to leave on a high note, isn't it?"
The former Chelsea manager John Hollins believes Hiddink is the perfect choice to bring stability back to a dressing room. "I'm sure he'll bring positive vibes and positive feelings to the club," Hollins said. "Over the next two or three weeks they have some massive games and they need to win. I think Hiddink will be able to bring the players together. He'll bring positive thoughts and keep everyone singing from the same hymn sheet and I'm sure he's got a very good hymn sheet because he has a great record."
The Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta admits he is worried Chelsea could offer a tougher challenge in the Champions League now Hiddink has taken over. The clubs are set to battle it out for a quarter-final spot, with the first leg due to take place in a fortnight's time at Stamford Bridge.
"Chelsea are in a negative period, but with the change of coach something will happen to them," Iaquinta said. "I expect things to be different. When we come to London, we have to be on our guard.
"You look at Hiddink's record, and you see he has done well with virtually every team he has coached. He is always very well prepared for games like these."Reuse content