Vieira told Keown what makes him tick before Crystal Palace sacking
‘There’s nothing worse than faking it. The dressing room smell it and that’s the start of the end’: Last month, Patrick Vieira told MARTIN KEOWN what makes him tick… and how coaches get ‘no sympathy’ before his Crystal Palace sacking
- Patrick Vieira was interviewed by Martin Keown on his coaching style last month
- The coach admitted managers are given no sympathy in the Premier League
- The Arsenal legend was sacked by Crystal Palace on Friday after a dismal run
Patrick Vieira was sacked as Crystal Palace boss on Friday after a torrid run of 12 games without a win – stretching back to the start of the calendar year.
The Arsenal legend took over at Selhurst Park in 2021 and initially looked to have stabilised the club before his side were sucked into a tough relegation fight this season – and the board have now acted to preseve their top flight status.
Before his axing last month, Vieira spoke to Sportsmail’s MARTIN KEOWN to shed light on what makes him tick as a manager as the pair discussed their bromance together that helped them bring three titles to the Emirates.
We are only two words in when Patrick Vieira bursts out laughing. All Martin Keown has said is: ‘So, Patrick…’ But it has tickled Vieira to think his old Arsenal team-mate is here to interview him after all their years together. We are in Vieira’s corner office at Crystal Palace’s training ground.
There is no sense of a shrine here. Whereas other managers can turn their inner sanctuaries into personal museums, there is none of that from Vieira. No pictures. No medals. No memorabilia.
Patrick Vieira was sacked as Crystal Palace manager on Friday after a torrid run of results
Vieira was all smiles in February as his old Arsenal team-mate came to interview him at Crystal Palace’s training ground
The two Arsenal legends bumped into Crystal Palace and Ivory Coast star Wilfried Zaha on their walk round the training ground
Only a tactics board, calendar, flipchart, sprinkling of stationery on the table and a copy of James Davies’ Body: Simple Techniques and Strategies to Heal, Reset and Restore on the shelf.
Greatest Hits Radio provides background music and there is a stunning view of Palace’s training pitches. There is dry mud on the laminate flooring, left by the players who come in for a chat with the boss. This time, though, Keown is in the hot seat. Reporter Kieran Gill listened in.
KEOWN: Patrick, we were just talking to Eberechi Eze, who has impressed me greatly. He asked me: ‘What do you need to be successful?’ My advice was: ‘You need to make your mark. There’s no time to lose.’ Do you feel the same way as a manager?
VIEIRA: I know how tough this industry is. There is no sympathy in the world we live in as managers. I wanted to give myself the best chance to stay in the business and to do that, I had to build my credibility. Not as a player, but as a manager. That’s why those two years with Manchester City’s youth was massively important.
Going to New York, to Nice. I went through a proper journey to the point where I can say: ‘You know what? I like what I’m doing, I’m good at what I’m doing, and I want to do it for a long time.’
KEOWN: Clubs don’t do this enough — giving former greats of the game their chance to stay in football. Even though you were only their player for a year and a half at the end of your career, City gave you that.
VIEIRA: That’s why I have a lot of respect and time for City. It didn’t start well… when I signed, I failed my medical.
KEOWN: Because of your knee?
VIEIRA: Yes, I arrived injured from Inter. I was in a hotel and City told me: ‘Patrick, you failed the medical.’ I said: ‘I have to go back to Inter?’ They said: ‘No, but we need to change your contract.’
I wanted to come back to England so badly and we did a contract based on the number of games I’d play over the season. I loved my time at City.
Vieira shared how he wanted to build his credibility as a coach which is why the two years with Manchester City’s youth was crucial for him
KEOWN: I’m glad you got to stay in the game. Looking around this office, you would never know you had been an Arsenal player, let alone a legend. But I’m like you. I don’t have anything on display at home. Although I do have a ‘Vieira’ shirt hidden away somewhere.
VIEIRA: I don’t have any of my old shirts so you should give me it back!
KEOWN: Is it not your style to look back?
VIEIRA: I don’t like talking about the past. It’s done, finished. It’s like I put it in the cupboard, locked it and threw away the key. I live in the present. Stopping the way I did, and achieving all I did, made it easier. I don’t miss playing.
KEOWN: You are still getting your football fix. You are still competing, only now in management. What do you want to achieve?
VIEIRA: If I leave one day, I have to be proud having taken this club to a different level. The level of the Premier League, when you look at the teams around us and how they improve their squads, it’s tough. But I believe in this club’s values.
Vieira the midfielder was imperious, a 6ft 4in leader of men who won the ball and knew what to do with it next. Vieira the manager has spent the last 10 years working his way to the top, first with City’s Elite Development Squad, then New York City in MLS, then Nice in Ligue 1, and now Palace in the Premier League.
The Crystal Palace boss admitted that he has none of his old Arsenal shirts because he doesn’t look back at the past
It is fitting this chat between these Arsenal Invincibles falls on Valentine’s Day. Theirs was a bromance which spanned eight seasons and three Premier League titles won under Arsene Wenger. Sportsmail’s columnist shadowed Palace’s manager for the day, starting with training at 11am.
KEOWN: I’m glad I got to see you in action today. Your list of managers reads like a who’s who of illustrious leaders, including Wenger, Fabio Capello, Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini. I won’t ask you who your favourite was! But do you see yourself in any of them?
VIEIRA: They were top managers because they were true to themselves. They didn’t try to copy anyone. Mourinho, you like him or you don’t like him, but he was himself. Wenger was the same. There is nothing worse than somebody pretending to be someone else. The dressing room will smell it, then that is the start of the end. Of all my managers, I never had a time where I thought: ‘He’s faking it.’
KEOWN: From the outside, Mourinho could come across as arrogant. His team might score a goal at Highbury and instead of celebrating, he would sit there.
VIEIRA: Nooo, it’s not arrogance.
KEOWN: What is it?
VIEIRA: It’s confidence. Look at Michael Olise. He scored that free-kick against Manchester United (last month’s stoppage-time equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park). He didn’t celebrate. You might look at this and think it’s arrogance. But I talked to him and it was because he wasn’t happy about his game. He was being hard on himself because he did not think he had played well enough. So when you don’t know him, you may think: ‘Oh that’s arrogance.’ No it’s not.
‘There is nothing worse than somebody pretending to be someone else,’ Vieira says. ‘The dressing room will smell it.’
Mourinho was the same. I knew him and it’s confidence. He’s secure about who he is. He knows when he’s good and when he’s not. He knows who he is. This is what I liked and learned mostly from my managers: be yourself.
You might think Vieira would be intimidating in person, given his gigantic presence. You would be wrong. He is welcoming, softly spoken and polite. Deep down, though, there is a desire inside this 46-year-old to take Palace to the next level with the young talent at his disposal.
VIEIRA: I look calm but inside, I’m boiling. When I look at the squad we had at Arsenal, it was experienced. We’ve got youngsters here at the beginning of their careers. Mentally they are still learning. It is a good place with good people. They care about the club. They want to do well for this club. That is a good foundation to work with.
KEOWN: If you are ‘boiling’, do players have to get to that point, too?
VIEIRA: It’s not about getting them angry. But to be more aggressive, more competitive, more ruthless. This is what is required at this level. Being nice is good. You can be nice. But also be aggressive, competitive, ruthless. A game of football is just details. But sometimes what makes the difference is the mindset to win. This is something we have to create.
KEOWN: You had that perfect cocktail of aggression, passing and playmaking as a player and I’ve gone on record saying you were the single biggest catalyst for Arsenal’s success.
VIEIRA: Something I understood at Arsenal was winning was everything, because the players reflected that mentality. Martin Keown. Tony Adams. Nigel Winterburn. We always talk about technical talent or tactical talent. But the most important talent is having that winning mentality. It will sound hard but, in our industry, there is no space for weaknesses.
When I worked for the first time at Selhurst, you could feel the passion. That passion is something this club should never lose. That’s a reason this club has stayed in the Premier League, and will stay, because of that passion at its core.
Vieira believes that his Palace side will always stay in the Premier League because of the passion at its core
It’s about having players who can identify themselves to the club. Wilfried Zaha is the perfect embodiment of that. He gives everything and the fans love him for it.
KEOWN: Looking out of this window, you can see the words ‘South London and Proud’. Palace’s new £20million academy is over the road. Making sure your local talent want to stay at home is vital.
VIEIRA: To make them stay home you need those facilities. You need an academy like that to compete with other clubs. We show young players there is a pathway, more than the clubs around us. Now when a young player comes to visit our academy, we have a chance. I didn’t realise so many players were from South London. When you look at how many of those players have been through Palace, it’s not enough.
KEOWN: I like that you go to watch the academy games. That’s huge for those kids. It tells them there’s a first-team connection.
VIEIRA: A good example is Tyrick Mitchell. When I signed, Dougie (Freedman, Palace sporting director) told me he had fantastic potential. I said: ‘No problem, if you think he is good enough, we should play him.’
They need to know the club trusts them. If we are going to buy a left back and stop Tyrick from growing, what will he do? He will leave. These young players can look at Wilf (Zaha) and all that he has achieved for this club.
We must plan for the progression of those players. We are different from teams who have 25 players at the same level, or who have the money to sign player after player. We don’t have this possibility. For young players this is a good place to be.
Vieira was a lanky 19-year-old when he arrived at Arsenal from Milan and was not even their big-name signing on August 14, 1996. That was France international Remi Garde. But he soon became a household name on these shores. Before parting ways, Sportsmail reveals a copy of Vieira’s 2005 autobiography and, specifically, the passage on page 223 which reads: ‘Keown is the player I liked most at Arsenal.’
KEOWN: Thanks for that, Patrick! I remember when you arrived. You were eating English breakfasts. I wanted to check your passport to make sure you were French! But I liked how you embraced everything in England.
Martin Keown jokes about seeing Vieira hugging Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi before kick-off
VIEIRA: I didn’t have a clue about London, England, the culture, the football. The top French players played in Italy and 90 per cent of games shown in France were Serie A. It was when Eric Cantona went to Leeds and then Manchester United that France learned about the Premier League. I loved everything in England: the passion, the craziness, the diversity. I felt at home. I still do.
KEOWN: Although I did have to teach you a few things.
VIEIRA: When we played Chelsea or any teams with French players, we would be hugging in the tunnel. You couldn’t understand it. In our minds, we weren’t taking away our competitiveness.
KEOWN: The truth is, I didn’t want you to be their friend. I wanted you to be mine!
VIEIRA: We were French! We won the World Cup together. So when we see each other, we hug.
KEOWN: I see you hugging managers before matches still. You are hugging Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi and I’m thinking: ‘Patrick, get away from him!’
VIEIRA: That doesn’t take away the competitiveness. It’s about respect.
KEOWN: Although we disagreed on the odd thing, above all we had a special togetherness at Arsenal.
VIEIRA: It was special. As a manager, it’s important to create that togetherness, especially through difficult periods. You depend upon that team spirit to get each other through it all. You understand?
KEOWN: I do, Patrick. Thanks for today and best of luck on Saturday boss!
Vieira and Keown enjoyed great success together at Arsenal, winning three Premier League titles
There is a sign of the camaraderie at Palace afterwards when we bump into Eze and Olise.
They could be at home but are still at the training ground, playing table tennis in the canteen.
Polite guys, too, as they shake the hands of every kitchen staff member, as well as Keown, before leaving.
This was the welcoming environment Vieira instilled at Selhurst Park, but the good-natured environment has counted for nothing after being forced to pack his bags. Vieira was a warrior as one of the Premier League’s most distinguished midfielders – but now Palace will have to fight this next battle without him.
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