Much-travelled Portuguese coach Carlos (Augusto Soares da Costa Faria) Carvalhal currently manages English Championship side Sheffield Wednesday. Previous clubs include Vitória de Setúbal, Belenenses, Braga, Sporting and Marítimo in Portugal, and Turkish side Besiktas.
This interview was made by the journalist Nuno Vieira and appeared in the sports daily A Bola (28/12/15). On any copyright issues, please contact footballportugal.)
After sterling work in Portugal and successful spells in Greece, Turkey and Dubai, Carlos Carvalhal, 50, from Braga, has reached a level he always dreamed of. In England he’s found a completely different reality, and with the work he’s doing at Sheffield Wednesday, he could well look to rising even higher.
A Bola: Working in England is a dream for many international coaches. How did this chance to coach Sheffield Wednesday come about?
Carlos Carvalhal: When I finished my contract in Dubai, I got two tempting offers. One of them was from a Scottish club, which I was negotiating a contract with. On a visit to London, I was contacted by the businessman Amadeu Paixão, who’s linked to [the sports fund] Doyen, to ask if I was interested in having an interview with Sheffield Wednesday’s chairman because he wanted to hire a Latin coach, preferably Portuguese. Although the Scottish offer was quite attractive, Wednesday’s chairman liked my ideas and was the quickest to decide. I was hired, to work in a country which it has always been my ambition to work in. In fact, I’ve had it in my mind to reach English football since I was a kid.
Were you surprised to find how different it is?
CC: It’s completely different from what we know. Not so much with regard to the stability for coaches because the majority of club owners aren’t English, and 13 out of 24 clubs have already changed their manager. But in terms of structure it’s very different. We go to an away game and no directors travel with us. It’s the coaches and their assistants who organise everything, from the preparation for games to the games themselves. Another important aspect is the great respect there is for the people who work in football. For example, we went to Leeds to play a derby, the bus arrived and no one took any notice of us. And on the bench, which is in the middle of the fans, we don’t hear any words from them. There are a lot of people in the stadiums and even for lunch-time games there are 20,000 in the stands, and there’s always a fantastic atmosphere. It’s brilliant.
Sheffield Wednesday have practically a new team. How did you form the squad?
CC: It’s new in terms of players and the style is different, too. This is a big club that’s been off the big stage for 15 years. Now it’s regaining prominence and self-esteem. Fans have returned to the stadium, the club’s owner has made some improvements and we’ve introduced our ideas. Our midfielders, for example, have an average height of 1m70, that is, they’re all small, which is different from the English style. But that’s what we want because it gives us exhilarating, attractive football, a mixture of English and Latin, with a view to always playing well. This makes our side appreciated, and I have no doubt that it was these ideas that won us games against such strong sides as Newcastle and Arsenal.
And the referees? Do you get on well with the English style?
CC: There’s more communication, and that makes everything easy. An hour before games, the coach and the captain meet with the match officials. They ask us to speak to them during the game, to converse with the fourth official, who will immediately explain all the ref’s decisions. The relationship is also closer with the opposing coaches. The home manager will usually invite the visiting manager to a snack or a glass of wine. There’s healthy fraternisation.
The fans are already dreaming of promotion to the Premier League. Is that what they asked you for?
CC: Out of 24 clubs, 20 want to go up and are very well prepared. Getting to the Premier League is El Dorado because the financial rewards are fabulous. Only this division is very difficult because the teams that come down [from the Premier League] are entitled to amounts of money that allow them to maintain the high budgets of the previous year, to avoid bankruptcies. They’re budgets that are incomparable to ours. So there are always three favourites, and then three or four others that in recent years have always fought for that objective. We’re at the beginning of the path and we’ll always be outsiders, but obviously, if we manage to finish in the top six and get into the promotion play-offs, that would be great. If we don’t do it, the first objective will have been achieved because the fans are happy, they’ve come back to the stadium, they sing, get excited and follow us away in great numbers. There are always 3 or 4 thousand.
Personally, is getting to the Premier League a dream of yours? There’s already been talk of Swansea’s interest …
CC: From the bottom of my heart, I feel better and better and at peace with myself. I know my skills and I know that I can help the team. What could happen tomorrow doesn’t matter. I don’t make plans and just concentrate on the next game. I’m living a childhood dream and absorbing all of this 100%. I feel happy and fulfilled, I’m liked and I have a good relationship with everyone. So why should I think of other things? If something happens, it will always be because of the work done. At this moment I just want to be aware that I do my best on a daily basis.
Semedo, Lucas João, Marco Matias, Filipe Melo; and also Sougou and Sasso, all famous faces from our football, are in your squad. What’s the Portuguese community at Sheffield Wednesday like?
CC: It isn’t easy for a foreigner to play in the Championship. It’s the second division but not everyone can make a go of it because it’s a difficult, specificchampionship, and there’s a great danger of not being able to adapt. Marco arrived and fitted in well until he was side-lined with an injury; Sasso played in a few games but stopped because of a knee problem; Sougou had a shoulder problem, but now he’s on his way back; Semedo is a typical English footballer. Lucas João has adapted more and has been brilliant; and finally, Filipe Melo, who we were counting on a lot, had a very serious injury and this is a lost year. They’re excellent professionals and have collaborated with the team.
Lucas João is perhaps the Portuguese at the club who’s had the most media attention. And he’s been called up for the national squad. Can he go to Euro 2016?
CC: That’s something that has nothing to do with me. My role is to make him a better forward and team player, because a forward isn’t just a player who scores goals. He’s been evolving and at the end of the season, I’m sure he’ll be a player who’s ready to die for the team and contribute to its success with goals. Whether or not he goes to the Euros is up to our national team coach [Fernando Santos].
How do you follow Portuguese football from a distance?
CC: I don’t follow it much because we often have two games a week and we have to work a lot and prepare the games. I see the odd match, and unfortunately, the news coming from there isn’t very pleasant.
You think there’s still too much controversy and not enough football?
CC: Of course. The recent situation with Tonel [of Belenenses, who gave away a penalty against his old club, Sporting] was a disgrace. He played for me; he’s an excellent person, a great professional, and I think it’s ridiculous that his professionalism was brought into question in such a frivolous way. What they said about him was horrible. I was a player, too, and what happened with him could have happened with me or with anyone else. These things leave marks, and for many years I didn’t see this happening. It seems it’s back. It makes me sick …
Do you think that accusations like this, where they accused Tonel of deliberately giving away a penalty against his old club, are caused by the climate of war that exists?
CC: No idea, but I’m sorry that players’ professionalism is questioned. It’s terrible and very low. He has a wife and children. I’m not in touch with him personally, but he was always someone who was totally above suspicion. Today it happened to Tonel, tomorrow it could happen to anyone else. In England this is impossible. Insinuations like that are terrible for Portuguese football.
On the pitch, how do you see the return of Sporting to the top spots.
CC: The championship isn’t going to stray much from the norm, apart from this new fact of Sporting being up there. It’s a normal Portuguese championship, with three teams fighting for the title and Sporting Braga an outsider – [Braga coach] Paulo Fonseca’s teams play well and with their quality, they can get in amongst the top teams. Rio Ave have climbed a few rungs with [coach] Pedro Martins, Paços de Ferreira also play well and will be up there, and the Madeiran teams [Nacional, Marítimo, (União)] are always good. Then there are those who are fighting to avoid the drop. The imbalance between the Big Three and the others is getting more and more pronounced, so that it’s very difficult for anyone to get close.
About the Wednesday song “Carlos had a dream.”:
CC: The first time I heard it was after a win at Brentford. I didn’t understand the words but it sounded fantastic. When I got to the bus I found out that they were chanting my name. I’d already had that experience at Besiktas, and it’s a fantastic sensation. I’m proud … We play from the back, we’ve got loan players because there are financial limitations, and Lucas João is scoring goals and playing well in attack. It’s more or less what the words to the song say, and it’s true.”
On the rumours that he was going to Paços de Ferreira at the beginning of the season:
CC: I had dinner with the sports director at Paços, Marco Abreu, but that meeting had been planned a long time before and had nothing to do with the possibility of my going to the club. At that time I’d already committed to Sheffield Wednesday and despite the news, there was never the possibility [of my going to Paços].”