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Author Topic: An innocent abroad  (Read 910 times)

Offline dave.woodhall

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An innocent abroad
« on: January 27, 2021, 01:49:48 PM »
Villa should have been an attractive option for top-level and ambitious managers in the summer of 1990. They boasted world-class players, had finished runners-up in the old first division the previous season, were back in Europe and the new arrival would be following on from a man who had left to take the England job when that was still seen as the highest managerial appointment in the game. Yet there was a strange lack of interest in the job and therefore it was seen in some quarters almost as an act of desperation when Doug Ellis said those famous words, "Hands up if you know this man?" when unveiling Dr Josef Venglos as Graham Taylor's successor, and the most unlikely man to ever become Villa manager.

Venglos was hardly as unknown in the game as Doug made him appear - his Czech side had made the last eight of that summer's World Cup, and it's incredible now to think that such a man would be so comparatively anonymous. He had also managed Slovan Bratislava to the Czech title before succeeding Malcolm Allison at Sporting Lisbon.   

Of his arrival at Villa Park, he said "I like British football, I like the great attitude. Villa are a great club; strong history, great players. It was a great privilege." Many in football hailed the appointment, although Don Howe's description of "a bold and courageous step," showed that while they may have been publicly supportive, they were also secretly relieved that they weren't the ones making it.   

The new boss got off to a decent start, culminating in the first leg win over Inter and the Manager of the Month for October. He was, though, having trouble getting his ideas over to the players who were used to a very traditional style of behaviour. As Paul Birch put it, "I don't think the players respected him as much as they should have done. He was used to the Continental style, he thought that players would be self-disciplined, but that wasn't the case."

Unfortunately, as results declined in the aftermath of the second leg in the San Siro, Venglos seemed unable to do what was necessary to restore the harmony his predecessor had established. Ian Olney said later that, "The whole club still had Graham's identity stamped on it. Jo was introducing techniques that were ahead of their time, and the players never really respected him for that." There was little method in the team's play and as the season spiralled out of control no-one seemed able to assert their authority. The situation was not helped by speculation regarding David Platt's future nor by the attention that was being focused on what one reporter dubbed the Venglos Experiment. 

The press were certainly keen to sniff blood. That Evening Mail headline was the worst example, but he also had to deal with a constant barrage of xenophobic abuse from a media pack wanting to show that despite the ideas coming from overseas in the wake of Italia 90, English football still had nothing to learn from foreign influence. Venglos himself seemed unable to deal with this pressure, which was unlike anything he'd experienced in his previous existence. As Paul Birch also said, "He took the blame too much, he didn't make the players feel guilty about losing. It was an easy get-out for us"

The inevitable came at the end of a season where only Villa avoided relegation in the last couple of weeks. It was announced that rather than leaving, Venglos was to become Villa's Director of European Scouting, but no-one took this statement seriously and he never again appeared at Villa Park in an official capacity. He received a great deal of sympathy, particularly from supporters, while others in the game breathed a silent sigh of relief that they had further evidence for their short-sighted belief that there was nothing we could learn from the Continent. 

After further time spent coaching around the globe, Venglos became chairman of the UEFA Technical Development Committee. Its members comprised the elite of the game's coaches, including Alex Ferguson, Rinus Michels and Giovanni Trappatoni. Their head was a man who the English media would have you believe was an ignominious failure.   

Venglos's departure was a sad ending to what was indeed a bold and courageous appointment, although you do have to wonder if Doug Ellis would have taken it had, for example, Ron Atkinson been available in the summer of 1990. You do also wonder at the sort of attitudes that were still prevailing - that Mail headline, for example, was over a story that said he should be sacked because of amongst other things, his "inexperience in English football, a foreign tongue and totally different social background". We may well shake our heads at the ignorance of such opinion now, but that was the state of the domestic game in 1991.

Paul Birch put it best; "English football was always going to go the European way and Jo was the start of it." Since the club's formation Villa have been pioneers in many areas, but never have we been so far advanced as in the appointment of Dr Josef Venglos. Sadly for all concerned, it was a few years too advanced.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2021, 03:30:07 PM by dave.woodhall »

Online brian green

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Re: An innocent abroad
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2021, 03:10:26 PM »
Thank you Dave.  I cannot escape the image of history repeating itself in the sequel when Remi Garde was greeted, if that is the correct word, by the same brand of Europhobia.


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