THE Scottish Football Association's coaching department have no need for a public relations arm. Already this summer they have been praised for managing to entice Duncan Ferguson back into football. Now Largs is being pinpointed as being the place where it all started for new Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas.
The 33-year-old has made repeated journeys back to Ayrshire since first landing in Largs to obtain his C licence badge. He was only 17 years old then. He has since earned his B licence, A licence and Pro-Licence under Jim Fleeting's tutelage at the Inverclyde National Sports Centre in Largs, where Jose Mourinho, Villas-Boas' mentor, also gained some of his qualifications.
Like Mourinho, Villas-Boas mucked in with his colleagues on the courses. Most recently, he was joined by the likes of John Hughes, Owen Coyle, Jim Weir and Craig Brewster, the recently appointed coach of Crawley Town. When Brewster scored the winner for Dundee United against Rangers in the final of the Scottish Cup final in 1994, Villas-Boas was just 16 years old - and preparing to come to Largs for the first time. "He was a nice guy," recalled Brewster, who last studied with him three years ago.
"He wasn't one to shout his mouth off. He was a good lad - he had time for everyone. But in terms of some of the projects we had to do, you could tell that he knew his stuff."
Villas-Boas proved this at Portuguese club Academica de Coimbra, who he saved from relegation after joining them from Mourinho's Inter Milan in October 2009. He joined Porto the following summer.
"He did a terrific job when he left Jose at Inter and went Academica," observed Brewster. "He was only eight or nine months there. Then Porto came calling. Three trophies in a year says it all.
"Jim Fleeting will be happy," added Brewster. "That's another one who has come through the Scottish system. It gives them kudos. Obviously Jose recommended to him to come to Scotland to do his badges. And he knew his stuff even though he was never a player."
Due to having not played football at a serious level Villas-Boas was forced to take the C licence badge, which professionals are allowed to bypass. He has kept coming back to Largs and went on field study with the likes of Brewster and new Rangers manager Ally McCoist to Euro 2008, held in Austria and Switzerland three summers ago. "We had to analyse certain parts of games," recalled Brewster. "That was second nature to him because he had been a scout with Jose."
Brewster might even meet up again with his old friend as soon as next month. Crawley are scheduled to play a Chelsea XI on 16 July at Broadfield stadium. But another Chelsea team are due to be playing at Portsmouth on the same day as well.Given Villas-Boas' lack of pretension, it would be little surprise should he elect to visit the home of the newly promoted Npower League 2 club. "It will be good to see him again if he decides to come to Crawley," said Brewster, who begins his own new job on Monday, under Scottish manager Steve Evans.
Fleeting, the SFA's director of football development, has also praised Villas-Boas' personal qualities. "What he did have is a determination to be the best he possibly could be," Fleeting said yesterday. "He had a drive to find out as much as he possibly could about the subject he was dealing with.
"He had a great attention span, he was a very good listener, and he was very good at putting things across on the field. These are the kinds of skills that good coaches have. He was very good at sharing with his other colleagues.
"I actually use him as an example. I've used him in the past two courses. One he delivered personally, and in one I used his presentations."
Fleeting added: "He's quite humble in his achievements.
"It's nice he has that humility and respect for others. Andre is his own man and I'm so pleased that he's his own man.
"We're happy for Andre and his family that he's successful, as we are when we see other coaches come on our courses and do very well. We still have contact with them all."