If ever there was an object lesson of the perils of betting in management markets it comes with the appointment of Andre Villas Boas as Chelsea manager after Guus Hiddink had traded as short as 1/6 for the job, just days before.Boas first shot to prominence in the UK in 2005 when, as opposition scout for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, one of his scouting reports was leaked onto the internet. Six years on it still makes fascinating reading.
Andre Villas Boas allegedly got his big break, when he was improbably set to work by his neighbour Sir Bobby Robson for Porto.
Aged just 16, AVB allegedly button-holed the venerated Geordie boss, in the apartment block where both men lived, and suggested that the manager look to involve Domingos Paciência, the current Braga coach, in Porto’s games more regularly. The rest as they say is history…
By 17 the Portuguese had completed his coaching courses at Largs in Scotland, following the route undertaken by Mourinho whose career has mined a similar trajectory (Barcelona, Porto, Chelsea, Inter) ever since. Like his one-time mentor Mourinho, Villas Boas has already written his name in the record books by becoming the youngest manager to win a European club title, and the manager with the highest recorded transfer fee at €15 million (£13.3 million).
However, while Blues’ fans will be hotly anticipating the Second Coming of The Special One Mk II, the task ahead will be anything but straightforward for ‘the other former Porto boss’.
Reshaping an ageing Chelsea side that were double winners just two seasons ago is no easy task. Firstly there’s the issue of Frank Lampard, a player whose attacking importance to Chelsea is exaggerated by the gimme’s he gets each season as the side’s penalty taker. It is clear that the soon to be married midfielder no longer exhibits the box to box dynamism of his pomp but can he – or should he – be accommodated in a different role at Stamford Bridge, such as that of a deep-lying playmaker?
Secondly, there’s the £70m question of Fernando Torres. The injury prone striker looks like an expensive bauble at this juncture – and how will he be accommodated in a front pairing with the possible signing target Falcao (from Porto)? Torres is a player that looks best as a lone striker. And where does all that place the 33-year old Didier Drogba in the pecking order?
Villa Boas must meet these problems head on even before he decides what he will do with another veteran John Terry, a player he is reputably close to from his previous spell at Chelsea, under Mourinho. Despite all Ambramovich’s resources, that will presumably be thrown the new man’s way, this looks like a slippery task, that is much tougher than it might at first seem and at this stage, I won’t be over-reacting to what on paper looks like a very exciting appointment.
While it is high summer by the pool in the football world its nice weather for ducks in Newcastle, venue for Saturday’s ever-popular Northumberland Plate.
Before we head there though, please forgive me for a final mention for my free 4 Pronged Attack System, which at the final count made £672 profit at £100 stakes from only 24 bets at Royal Ascot. The next big festival is the July Newmarket festival when I expect it to come into its own again. Find out more at www.secretbettingclub.com/4PA.
This Newcastle race tomorrow is a real rarity as a 2m flat race and if the rain keeps falling this one looks sure to become a war of attrition for the mudlarks with proven form in soft ground. In that scenario, proven stamina would also appear to rule out the majority of the 2m debutants in the race and my preference is for two horses from my native Newmarket if they get the wet conditions to suit. I am favouring Mystery Star of Mark Tompkins and Activate, one trained by Michael Bell. Don’t be put off by the high draw, for the latter, if the going is soft. The draw will only be an issue on faster ground.
Over in Ireland, it’s The Irish Derby and Pretty Polly this weekend at The Curragh. The Pretty Polly looks like a match between two more Newmarket rivals Midday and Snow Fairy. My preference is for Midday. With Snow Fairy coming back after a long injury lay-off, connections may be simply happy to see the horse show up well, hoping it retains signs of its former ability.
In the Irish Derby, the Queen’s Horse Carlton House will be aiming for a royal consolation prize after injury, a lost shoe and a blocked off passage to the head of affairs, scuppered his chances at Epsom. By the way, that stray shoe was auctioned off for an incredible £11,000, with proceeds going to a racing charity. Her Royal Highness will be looking for a significantly bigger prize in Ireland – or heads could roll, in true regal fashion.
That’s all for now, I’ll meet you back here next week when we’ll be looking at The Newmarket July Meeting.