Villas-Boas learnt about the English game in Ipswich

NEWLY appointed Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas learnt all about the English game on the Ipswich Town training pitch.

The highly-rated Portuguese-born boss – still only 33 – started his dramatic rise to the top of the game thanks to an incredible piece of correspondence with the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.

The ex-Ipswich manager had just taken over at Portuguese club Porto in 1994 and happened to move into the same block of flats as 16-year-old Porto fan Villas-Boas.

And the brave teenager decided to write to Robson, already recognised as one of the best coaches around having won the UEFA Cup with Town and enjoyed further successes with PSV Eindhoven and England, to tell him that he was making a mistake with his team selections.

Villas-Boas backed up his argument with a raft of statistics and the Blues legend was so impressed that he offered the youngster a trainee position with the youth team’s coaching staff.


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A few years later Robson called upon his beloved Blues to see if they would take his rising coaching star on a work placement. Manager George Burley, who himself played under Robson during those great days in the late 70s and early 80s, quickly obliged.

“Whenever Sir Bobby asked something of me I knew it was important,” said Burley, in an exclusive interview with the EADT and Evening Star.

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“I remember this young man in his early 20s coming over for a short spell and he was so enthusiastic. He had a burning desire to learn and just wanted to observe and listen to everything we did.

“The idea was for him to learn about the English game, the difference in tactics and the approach we had.

“Hopefully he remembers it as a valuable experience because we qualified for Europe that year.”

Robson also sent Villas-Boas – who learnt fluent English from his English grandmother – to the Lilleshall academy and made sure he took his coaching badges in Scotland.

He branched out on his own to take charge of the British Virgin Islands but, after two defeats from two over an 18-month spell, he returned to Porto as manager of the Under-19 side with a certain Jose Mourinho now in charge.

Mourinho soon promoted him to opposition scout and then took Villas-Boas with him to Inter Milan. He was soon frozen out though when he revealed he had management ambitions of his own

Aged 32, Villas-Boas got his first crack at club management with strugglers Academica in October 2009. He led the rock-bottom team to a respectable 11th-place finish and the Portuguese cup semi-final.

That persuaded Porto president Jorge Pinto Da Costa to replace Jesualdo Ferreira with Villas-Boas and he went on to lead the side to a dominant treble last season.

Chelsea have now come calling.

“It’s great to see Sir Bobby’s management legacy go on,” said Burley. “As a manager, I took a lot of things from him and now you can see his influence living on in a new generation of managers.”

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