From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.09 :: Feb. 28, 2009

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FOOTBALL / FEATURE

‘Stop grumbling and start winning’

Chelsea’s new manager, Guus Hiddink, wants his key players to take more responsibility for their own performances, writes Dominic Fifield.

AP

Hiddink’s arrival appears to have enthused Roman Abramovich, Chelsea’s owner of almost six years.

Guus Hiddink, the newly appointed manager of the Chelsea side, has warned key players that the time has come to “take responsibility” for their own performances and ensure the club still makes a success of another season of upheaval.

The Dutchman was officially unveiled as Chelsea’s fourth manager in 17 months to begin what, initially at least, will be a 15-week reign in which he must prolong Chelsea’s interest in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup. Hiddink insisted he had seen no evidence of the rifts and cliques which had effectively wrecked Luiz Felipe Scolari’s tenure though, with his new team already behind Manchester United by points, the 62-year-old made it clear there could be no excuses for further underachievement.

“I’ve not come in and told the players ‘give me three or four weeks and then we’ll start work’,” said Hiddink, who will combine the role with his duties as the coach of Russia. “Chelsea are now in circumstances to deliver. The players must deliver up to their standard, up to the club’s standard. I don’t give them any excuses, saying ‘let’s give it three or four weeks to see what has been changed’.

“At any level, but especially at the higher level, you have to have the attitude to deliver and take your responsibility as a big player. If you take the responsibility then you have the right to fail every now and then because players are human as well. But you don’t have that right if you do not take on your responsibilities. They must always do that, no matter who the manager is.”

Hiddink has upped the intensity of training — the players had felt this was lacking under Scolari — and has spoken one-on-one to the squad as he embraces his role as “firefighter.” He reported a squad united, despite the schisms which had developed behind the scenes over Scolari’s last few months in charge.

A trio of key players — Didier Drogba, Petr Cech and Michael Ballack — had spoken with Roman Abramovich in the build-up to Scolari’s sacking as the owner sought answers for Chelsea’s form. Other senior players had, however, remained supportive of Scolari, though Hiddink is confident there will be no lingering after-effects from those differences of opinion, insisting he would have noticed had “any bad relations existed between the players.”

“In any group, whether you are footballers or anyone else, there is a hierarchy,” he explained. “That is how it should be because, with the right attitude, you can challenge those players to take responsibility. Once the manager has prepared the plans for the game, then the execution is up to the players. I like to have a recognised hierarchy in my team because they can help boss the younger players. I see that as healthy.”

While he has reiterated his intention to return full-time to his role with Russia in May, the new manager has flung himself wholeheartedly into the job, watching the reserves at Griffin Park.

His arrival appears to have enthused Chelsea’s owner of almost six years. “There was no demand from Roman to ‘do this’ or ‘do that’,” added Hiddink, who admitted he might have succeeded Sven-Goran Eriksson as England’s manager had the Football Association moved quicker to secure his services, with his word already given to Russia when the call from Soho Square eventually came.

It will be results that dictate whether Hiddink’s future at the club extends beyond this season. The Dutchman admitted he would consider it “a beautiful end to the season” if he emulated Avram Grant’s achievement in taking Chelsea to second in the Premiership and to the Champions League final.

At least he intends to avoid the Israeli’s fate given his commitment to return to Moscow. “I cannot be sacked in the summer,” he added. “Before then, maybe. But our working relationship ends at the end of the season.”

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009



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