He was funny, wasn't he, AVB. We were all so excited when he came, because he was young, he was amazing, he was everything we'd come to want. Over the course of the season, however, I think every Chelsea supporter reacted in different ways to the ups and downs in regards to their affection for the Portuguese. A combination of a lot of different factors, both major and minor, meant eventually things got to the point where Chelsea had to call it quits.
It was pretty hard for me to take the news he was sacked, as you'll [hopefully] understand after the jump. As a result it was pretty hard for me to write this, but in getting to the end and drawing a line under my emotions with words, I've managed to bring together my thoughts on the nine months me and AVB spent together.
There are things that people will disagree with, in terms of my thoughts, but this is a selfish piece - this is not about arguing that AVB should have stayed or gone, but rather this is simply about me and Andre Villas-Boas, and the main hope in publishing it is that it shows people at least one side of the fence when we look back at the legacy that Villas-Boas left at Chelsea.
NB: This is article was not written by TPalmer, the normally rational football writer . Rather it is Tim Palmer, the naive 17 year old Australian spilling his thoughts.
Andre Villas-Boas and I go back a long way. We've never met, and he's probably never heard of my hometown in Drummoyne, let alone who I am.
Yet the two of us are inextricably linked. I am 17, and he is thirty-four; at my age he was on his way to becoming one of the bright prospects of football management, a process that has occurred at an astounding rate of knots, and that ascension begun with the day he began writing match reports on his childhood team, FC Porto.
Now I am 17, and I write match reports on my favourite team, Chelsea. And what is my dream? To go on and become one of the outstanding football managers in the world, as Villas-Boas had done. I had heard of Villas-Boas before he was given the Chelsea job, during his successful exploits in Portugal, but on the 22nd June 2011 his arrival at Chelsea made me sit up and take notice.
Here was someone who had done exactly what I wanted to, and beyond that, with his measured calmness and attacking football ideology, here was a man I could look up to; a trailblazer for the road ahead and a symbol for all that I desired. Andre was not just the new manager of Chelsea; he was a guide, a light, a hope.
And in the beginning, it was good. He effected some strong transfer movement, implemented his coaching philosophy upon the players, and the team produced some strong early performances, even if all results didn't go our way. So far, so good, and Andre was living up to expectations.
The team lost occasionally, but these were seen as mere blimps in what I saw as the start of a rich history of Villas-Boas at Chelsea. Even when we slipped further down the table, and slipped up in European competition, my faith never wavered, and no amount of last minute goals that condemned us to defeat could change this.
Of course, as it happens with all faiths, I started to doubt. The process of this was very slow, but it did eventually happen. I can't identify where exactly this happened, but it started during a poor run of form; maintaining my trust began to be a testing practice, and something nagged at my brain. This was only minor in the grand scheme; I still had total belief.
If I had been a little more rational, if I wasn't so dedicated to believing in my role model, then maybe I would have noticed a little more that Villas-Boas was making some weird comments to the press and making some bizarre selections. I maintained my good faith to all my friends, never allowed any of these slivers of doubt to penetrate, sustained my good spirits. We were on the up under Villas-Boas, I claimed, and these short term setbacks will not be remembered when he leads us to trophies.
Of course, non Chelsea fans and Chelsea fans alike could see it. I had erected a brick wall around my hero, constructed out of the hope that he presented to me. I continue to fiercely defend my hero to all who cared, even when we hit the worst. The worst was rock bottom; we were losing, and being terrible in doing so, and everyone else was winning, but all I could see was the light at the end of the tunnel and the salvation that our manager would lead us to. We were going to win the Champions League with Villas-Boas, and I believed that the club thought so too. I was so confident in him, that when the time came to hunt presents for my brother's 21st (a Chelsea fan too), I shopped online and purchased an Andre Villas-Boas signed photo. I bought this in the knowledge that this would become a historical artefact when Villas-Boas become the hero that delivered success to Chelsea, and I knew that the photo would be eventually be a rare, prized possession to be passed down through my brother's future lineage. Andre was the man, he was my man, and even after losing 1-0 to West Brom, Andre was still everything.
And then it happened. Just like that.
On the morning of the 5th March 2012, the day before my brother's birthday, I woke at 4am to the sound of my vibrating phone. I thought it was just an alarm I had accidentally set, so I turned the phone on silent and placed it back on the bedside table and went back to sleep.
I woke up two hours later, and the phone was flashing again. I was still exhausted, so I turned it off this time, not giving it much thought. Thirty seconds later I felt a hand shake me, telling me to get up. I really didn't want to, so I turned over and buried my head into the pillow.
"He's been sacked."
I did not react. My eyes were closed, and I was under the covers. I did not move. My brother said it once more, and when I again did not react, I heard him leave the room.
After two minutes, I slowly opened my eyes. I did not want to believe it. I was in denial. My world was shaking, and I did not want to believe it. Then I remembered the vibrating phone, and it was then I knew it was truth. He was gone.
This was a disgusting, horrible truth, and it quickly sank to the pit of my stomach. This was a deep, heavy weight of sadness, a burden that weighed me down as I rolled out of bed, ate breakfast and dressed.
That morning the plan was for me practice driving on my Learner licence by driving my brother to his work, and then myself to school that morning, and so my driving supervisor, my mother, got in the passenger seat, and my brother sat in the back.
As I drove out of the driveway, I was barely concentrating at all, and slammed the accelerator much harder than necessary; the car jolted forward, and the front of the bonnet rolled onto the road. My passengers screamed in terror, and so I quickly grabbed the wheel, turning to avoid the oncoming cars, there was a long, wailing screech. I had turned the back of the across the gutter, and as a result left a deep cut on the exterior of the bottom. Thankfully, the car was okay, but my passengers were not, taking some time to recover their breath as you do in moments of great trauma.
I was calm. I had lapsed into a quiet peace, as the accident had brought with it a revelation: I had to accept it; Villas-Boas was gone, and there was nothing I could do.
Of course, that was not the end of my mourning. Grief turns human bone to glass, and every barb and every insult I received from my friends shattered my fragile shell. As a result, I retreated from society for a good part of the day, musing in a depressive state over the implications of the sacking. I felt like I was stuck at a crossroads.
If Villas-Boas couldn't it, he who could do wrong, he who in every way was the perfect football manager, couldn't survive, then how could I ever stand a chance in this career? Who was I kidding if I thought I could be just like him? Beyond this, I felt disgust at the club for having giving Villas-Boas little time to effect his changes. I felt betrayed by all around me, and it was only by placing a piece of paper with the words ‘Keep the Faith' written on it in my top shirt pocket that I managed to find a bandaid for my suffering.
The worst part was, I didn't know who to blame. I supposed that I could hate Roman, as he was the one who personally sacked him, but then how could I when he was the same man who had bankrolled Villas-Boas' arrival? It wouldn't be fair to blame him for taking him away when he had brought him prominently into my world. The owner had every right to do with his assets what he pleased, and it was probably good riddance to him what role Villas-Boas took on in my life.
I also can't blame Villas-Boas personally, even though the brick wall mentioned earlier had slowly come down over the course of the day. I had come to see a little more clearly the flaws of his regime, but I cared about him too much to admit that Chelsea were probably justified in sacking him. I can see how it may have reached an irreversible level of toxicity, and that Villas-Boas may have completely stuffed up, but that's not enough for me to turn on my hero. Everyone makes mistakes, and that's why there's the Undo button on computers. Unfortunately for Villas-Boas, that button doesn't exist in football.
But this isn't the point. I've been in this situation of following a manager-less club nine times now, and this is the one that's hurt the most. Regardless of whether he should have been sacked or not, Villas-Boas isn't, and won't ever be, just another one of the managers who was in charge of Chelsea. As the 5th March drew to a close, and rationality crept back into my thinking, I had come to the conclusion that I still want to be just like Andre when I grow up.
Andre transcended my fandom and entered my personal world, and he's given me a purpose. He ignited the fire in my belly, and the sacking won't change any of that. Andre, you may not have been what Chelsea needed, but you've been exactly what I needed in my life. And for that, thank you.