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Monday, November 24, 2008

A Positive First Impression of Sousa

Dave McIntyre/BBC 606 - First impressions
- Whether Paulo Sousa can help steer QPR in the right direction remains to be seen. I’m sceptical, to put it mildly.
- That’s no reflection on Sousa. I just believe there isn’t a manager/coach in the world capable of delivering success for Rangers at the moment.
- But while even a world-class coach would struggle to turn Rangers into promotion candidates, a bad one could easily turn them into relegation candidates, so Sousa needs to be made of the right stuff.
- Having not so much as met the man before, my first impressions are based only on what I’ve heard, his polished press conference after yesterday’s game at Watford and QPR World footage of his introductory speech to the players.
- That icebreaker at the training ground this week was virtually meaningless - the kind of thing new managers usually say on their first day (apart from references to the "project" - a word I'm beginning to develop an irrational hatred of).
- Sousa told the players that those who didn’t pull their weight would be out and very much gave the impression of a man in control.
- Strong words, and no doubt reassuring to many who watched it, but no-one in the room will have been fooled.
- After all, while this was happening, the club were trying to bring in Heidar Helguson from Bolton – a signing the new man had nothing to do with.
- And given the contracts and wages handed out to players in the last year, getting rid of underperformers will be easier said than done, as the club discovered after the excesses of the Chris Wright era.
- But Sousa followed that pretty empty speech with an excellent piece of man-management by going to see the injured Akos Buzsaky in hospital.
- Doing that on his first day in the job was a nice touch and far more significant than his earlier words to the players.
- Sousa again conducted himself well after the debacle at Watford, where his new team were diabolical.
- It would have been easy for him to skip the post-match press conference or simply say that his first game in charge is really against Charlton on Tuesday, effectively shifting the blame onto Gareth Ainsworth. He did neither.
- Instead he immediately praised Ainsworth, saying “what he has been through has not been easy, and I have to thank him for all the help he has given me.”
- It was sincere and unprompted praise, and again suggested Sousa has good judgement and man-management skills.
- Like Gigi De Canio, he has thrown himself into working with the current squad rather than taking the easy option of hinting at past mistakes and changes in personnel that are needed.
- Unlike De Canio, he speaks English and will have no problems at all getting his message across.
- He also answers questions directly, whereas De Canio, who was in a difficult situation and reliant on a translator, sometimes replied to questions with the stock answer that he enjoyed working in England was impressed with the standard of football.
- At one point yesterday, Sousa stated that major changes were needed and was then asked if he had contradicted himself given that he had earlier stated he believed in his current squad.
- He very calmly clarified what he meant by explaining that major changes were needed with the current set of players.
- There was also a touch of realism thrown in, which suggested Sousa has done his homework.
- Many new managers, especially those from overseas, immediately talk about getting to work on the training ground to improve things.
- That can be a misguided way of thinking given the amount of games and relatively little training time managers get in England and, interestingly, this was a point Sousa himself made.
- Overall, it was a brief but interesting introduction to a guy who’ll need copious amounts of the tact and confidence he’s already shown glimpses of. The shambles he saw on the pitch is nothing to the shambles he’ll encounter off it.
- The game itself was a disaster and underlined how relatively little progress Rangers have made despite their big spending.
- So good luck, Paulo. You’ve no idea what you’ve got yourself into. BBC606

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