Andre Villas-Boas hasn’t let the grass grow under his feet since leaving Shanghai SIPG.
The 40-year-old is currently learning to speak German – his seventh language – and recently raced in the world-famous Dakar Rally.
Admitting he’s in the fortunate position of being able to hold out for the right challenge, the Portuguese manager took time out to speak to the Scottish FA’s Pro Licence group and reminisce about his own days on the course.
The former Academia, Porto, Chelsea, Tottenham and Zenit boss revealed that he rates the Scottish FA’s programme so highly that he’s told his own nephew to follow in his footsteps.
Andre, it’s good to see you back in Scotland.
It’s good to be back. Jim Fleeting asked me come and talk to the Pro Licence group and do a bit of practical work. It’s always great to return here. I think I owe my upbringing as a coach to Scotland – from Largs to Stirling, Glasgow to Edinburgh. I’ve been everywhere throughout this process and picked up a bit of the Scottish language along the way… It was good to be here with the guys and remember when I was trying to get my own licence. Hopefully I shared a little bit of knowledge that can maybe help them for the future.
For those not as familiar with your backstory, what brought you to Scotland in the first place?
It all started when I was 17 and Bobby Robson arranged with Frank Coulson for me to come across and do my C licence in Largs. I was a bit cheeky with Bobby. He was my neighbour and I approached him to talk about tactics. I don’t know how I would have reacted to a younger me doing that but he was a gentleman and allowed me into his world. He helped grow my passion for coaching. My objective was to gather as much knowledge as I could. I was young and inexperienced. I remember it well. I was just telling Jim the other day that I was so sad to see the old white building in Largs knocked down. Of course it’s better now with the new facility. That’s where I spent most of my coach education, learning. I have a lot of happy memories.
What was going through your mind as a 17-year-old starting a coaching course in a foreign country?
I was so excited and I was motivated to do it so I gave myself to the cause. There were fears, of course, of failing in the beginning. I did courses in Portugal, England and Scotland at the same time but I always wanted to see it through in Scotland. I was surrounded by people like Bobby and Jose Mourinho at the time so I was very fortunate. I remember Ian Durrant, Ally McCoist, John McGlynn, John Robertson and John Collins, plus many more. We had a few adventures. There are plenty of bars in Glasgow!
You initially took your C licence here before going on to collect your B, A and Pro qualifications. What was it that appealed about learning in Scotland?
The biggest appeal is how practical the courses were and the theory side was football orientated, so we didn’t lose time learning about stuff we weren’t interested in. When you come on a course you want football content. That’s the best thing you can give to a coach. That’s what kept me coming back. We discussed football and we had a lot of time on the pitch to set out our exercises. I loved it. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve recommended to come to Scotland. Even my 17-year-old nephew, Goncalo Ricca, is doing his B licence now in Scotland. He’s coaching at his district club and I think, one day, he will be part of my team. He’s learning and very keen. This shows the love that I have for the courses here.
What advice would you give to aspiring coaches who are keen to follow your lead?
Motivation is key. You need an opportunity but motivation is the main thing, as well as a knowledge of football. Learn from the top coaches. I was always keen to learn and find out all I could about the top coaches. I would keep interviews, I’d go across the world to see them coach. That made a big difference. Learn different styles and buy as many books as you can.
Why should someone invest their time in a Scottish FA coaching course?
I think the history and the quality speaks for itself, whether it’s been Nuno Espirito Santo, Jose Mourinho or myself. So many have been through. Our Portuguese coaching methods are extremely good but we come to Scotland because the level is high. The content and friendly environment makes you want to come back to continue the learning process.
You took the unusual step of racing in the Dakar Rally recently but what’s next for you in a coaching sense?
The Dakar Rally was a dream from when I was a young boy, after seeing my uncle do it. Initially I wanted to do it on a bike but thankfully I was made to see sense. I crashed on the fourth day and broke my back but I’m just back from another six-day rally in Morocco. It’s a passion of mine that keeps me entertained. I’ll see what comes next in football. I’m in no real rush. I was in Russia for three years but my family stayed in Portugal. We’ve just finished building a house there and the children are happy. I like to choose good projects. I don’t know if it will be this season or next season. At the moment I’m enjoying family life.