Derby man­ager Paul Cle­ment on the dif­fer­ences with Real Madrid

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

PAUL CLE­MENT says deal­ing with the preen­ing su­per­stars of Real Madrid and Chelsea was a dod­dle com­pared to work­ing in the Cham­pi­onship.

The Derby boss was as­sis­tant to Carlo Ancelotti at Chelsea be­fore fol­low­ing the Ital­ian to PSG and then Real Madrid.

Im­prov­ing the likes of Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Karim Ben­zema would seem a daunt­ing task for a man whose play­ing ca­reer peaked at Corinthian-Ca­su­als, but the 43year-old in­sists he never felt like an im­poster at the Bern­abeu.

“It’s a ques­tion I was reg­u­larly asked at Real Madrid,” ad­mits Cle­ment, who started out as a PE teacher in a Lon­don school be­fore mov­ing into coach­ing. “‘What’s it like for some­one of your back­ground work­ing with big egos?’

“But you know what? I never found it a big prob­lem. Those egos are a nat­u­ral by-prod­uct of play­ing at the top level. It’s the stan­dards they have and de­mand of oth­ers.

“It was never a case of them say­ing to me‘ I don’t agree with that’ or ‘I know bet­ter’ or chal­leng­ing your le­git­i­macy.

Stan­dards

“Yes, you have to prove that you can stand on your own two feet. That you have knowl­edge that will ben­e­fit them. But they want to learn.

“My ex­pe­ri­ence with Cris­tiano is that he was em­i­nently coach­able. If you tried to help him – with a tech­ni­cal as­pect, a tac­ti­cal idea or even his own mo­ti­va­tion – he was very open to it.

“He’d lis­ten, he’d learn, and he’d put things into prac­tice. That’s why he has stayed at the very top of the game for so long.

“Whether it be Cris­tiano, Ser­gio Ramos or Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, Frank Lam­pard or John Terry – they’re all fan­tas­tic pro­fes­sion­als. They’re all driven, all com­pet­i­tive. The big­gest chal­lenge was ac­tu­ally to calm their in­ten­sity down.

“Any­one would love that job. The hard­est thing for a coach is work­ing with play­ers who can’t do what you’re ask­ing them to. When you’re work­ing with fa­cil­i­ties that are sub­stan­dard. Poor pitches, bad in­fras­truc­ture, a lack of equip­ment. That’s when it’s re­ally hard.

“And that’s what coaches are deal­ing with – here in the Cham­pi­onship and right down to semi-pro level. Com­pared to that, deal­ing with egos is easy.”

Not that he is hav­ing much trou­ble at the mo­ment. Brought in to re­place the sacked Steve McClaren in the sum­mer, Cle­ment failed to record a sin­gle vic­tory in Au­gust.

But with those teething prob­lems out of the way, the pre-sea­son favourites have now won six of the last eight to close to within strik­ing dis­tance of the top two – ban­ish­ing mem­o­ries of last sea­son’s as­ton­ish­ing col­lapse.

“I in­her­ited a good team, one who were ca­pa­ble of play­ing good foot­ball,” says Cle­ment, who has de­scribed eight-goal striker Chris Martin as the best cen­tre-for­ward in the divi­sion. “Steve McClaren set down a base here, a cre­ative, at­tack­ing style. So I wasn’t try­ing to do some­thing miles dif­fer­ent.

“Every­thing was in place for me to make an easy tran­si­tion. What I wanted to do was make things tighter de­fen­sively, more or­gan­ised and more struc­tured. So far the stats are good in that area.”

Or­gan­ised

As a young coach learn­ing his trade, Cle­ment ben­e­fit­ted from the teach­ings of Bobby Rob­son, pick­ing the vet­eran’s brains for sage wis­dom. Like Cle­ment, Rob­son worked with the cream of world foot­ball and, when pushed, wasn’t afraid to ex­ploit it.

Dur­ing his time at New­cas­tle, Rob­son fa­mously si­lenced a lippy Craig Bel­lamy by reel­ing off the names of those he’d nur­tured – Sto­ichkov, Lineker, Ron­aldo. “You son,” he told the striker, “are an ant com­pared to them.” So would Cle­ment ever throw his rep­u­ta­tion around?

“I don’t think that’s my style,” he says.

“Th­ese play­ers know what I’ve done and where I’ve worked.

“But when you’re work­ing with peo­ple day to day, what you’ve done be­fore doesn’t mat­ter. Just like at Madrid, I’ve got to show th­ese play­ers that I’ve got some­thing to of­fer them.

“So far, I think I’m do­ing that.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

TRUE TEST: Paul Cle­ment in­structs Gareth Bale at Real Madrid and, in­set be­low, ap­plauds the Derby fans. In­set bot­tom: Chris Martin

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