AS a proud native of Portugal, Carlos Carvalhal last week tweeted an image featuring seven of his countrymen under the heading ‘League Champions in 2014-15’.
Featuring a cast list that ranged from Jose Mourinho through to Paulo Sousa, who has since left Swiss title winners Basel, and Zenit St Petersburg’s Andre Villas-Boas, this portrait of Portugal’s ‘magnificent seven’ underlines just how successful the Sheffield Wednesday head coach’s home country has been in producing coaches of international renown.
Carvalhal’s task, of course, is to follow in these illustrious footsteps by leading the Owls back to the Premier League within the next two years. It is a task the 49-year-old has taken on with enthusiasm after being appointed Wednesday’s first foreign manager in their history.
“I am happy for my colleagues,” said Carvalhal when asked by The Yorkshire Post about the tweet that also featured compatriots Jorge Jesus (who lifted the Primeira title in Portugal with Benfica), Vitor Pereira (Greece), Pedro Caixinha (Mexico) and Jesualdo Ferreira (Egypt).
“We have a very good generation of coaches. It is good to be doing as well as we are. Nuno (Espírito Santo) in Valencia did very well, too, and (Leonardo) Jardim in Monaco did well last season as well.
“There are very good coaches in Portugal in this moment. I don’t know why. There are also very good coaches in England, in Argentina, everywhere. But, in this moment, it is important because they are winning a lot of things in different parts of the globe.
“It is good for us all. They are our colleagues and we see them as successful. We want to be the same.”
Mourinho, of course, remains the ‘daddy’ of not only Portugal’s hugely successful array of coaches but also managers everywhere.
Last season’s Premier League success at Chelsea was his 22nd major trophy in a career that has included stop-offs at Porto, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
Carvalhal knows Mourinho well, the pair’s paths having first crossed when studying for the UEFA Pro Licence – “we stayed for a month in the same place, studying between morning and night”.
Later, Carvalhal would do battle with the then Porto manager on the field while, when the Owls chief had led third-tier Leixoes into European competition as Cup runners-up against all the odds, Mourinho took a big interest.
“We played in the group stage of the Europa League,” recalls Carvalhal, “and at that time he was the coach of Porto so he followed us, looking at European matches and also some Championship matches as well.”
Perhaps predictably, Carvalhal has been asked many times since taking the Hillsborough job about the Chelsea manager. His stock answer has been along the lines of, ‘Jose is my friend. But Jose is Jose, and I am Carlos.”
There is, though, no hiding his admiration for Mourinho. “He is the best coach in the world,” he said earlier this week. “What I like most in him is he is one of only a few coaches that fight all the time to win in different competitions but does not use too many players. He uses 14 or 15 players.
“All the time, he is a champion, or he goes to the semi-finals of the Champions League. Or wins a Cup, or goes to the semi-finals of another Cup. This is something that makes him a very special coach.”
As Mourinho prepares to try and clinch back-to-back Premier League titles, Carvalhal’s focus is solely on bringing some long overdue success to one of Yorkshire’s serial under-achievers of the past 15 years.
To do so, the former Besiktas and Sporting Lisbon coach will seek inspiration from the fellow Portuguese who featured in the tweet he sent last week.
That said, the Championship is a very different beast to almost every other league in the world and Carvalhal appreciates that.
Not so much a marathon as a slog, England’s second tier is the fourth-best supported in terms of attendance figures and surely the hardest to predict.
A year ago, Cardiff City were the bookmakers’ favourites to go up closely followed by Derby County, Fulham, Norwich City and Wigan Athletic. Of those, the Canaries did make it via the play-offs but Wigan went down and the rest finished anywhere between eighth and 17th.
Bournemouth, meanwhile, clinched the title despite being priced at around 20-1 before a ball had been kicked, while 12 months earlier Burnley went up after initially being rated at odds of 33-1.
Clearly, the mantra of the Championship is ‘to expect the unexpected’ and, in that respect, Carvalhal, despite no previous experience of working in English football, insists he is ready for the challenge.
“I have been a coach in other countries and the big difference here is the balance between the teams in different divisions,” he said in the wake of the Owls’s pre-season programme including meetings with York City and Scunthorpe United.
“There is more of a motivation to face the teams who are higher.
“There does not seem to be a big difference between teams from the Championship, League One and League Two. Organisation and ability are similar in all these teams, only the players make a difference. That is why the matches have been a big test.
“The Championship is different to what I have had before.
“It is very long and we need a team that can fight. We believe if we do fight well, we can produce good football and do well. We have been working hard at that.
“People ask if the pressure will be different. But I have been to 14 clubs in 14 years, where the environment in a place like Turkey is demanding.
“(Joachim) Loew and (Vicente) Del Bosque are champions of the world with Germany and Spain. But I believe they only stayed six or seven months (in Turkey) with their clubs.
“It is a different reality to anywhere else. If you lose two matches, the third match has a 95 per cent chance of firing you.
“It can be difficult in that environment.”
As for his debut season in English football, Carvalhal is desperate to entertain in S6.
“If I fill our stadium full of enthusiastic fans and feel the massive with the team all the time, I will be very happy,” he said.
“If this kind of thing happens, we will be very proud. We want our fans to come to the stadium and enjoy a positive environment. And we want our opponents to respect us when they come here to play in our city and our stadium.”