Alan Biggs at Large: Don’t be fooled by Carlos Carvalhal’s smile

Happy Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal
Happy Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal
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You spend half an hour in the engaging company of Carlos Carvalhal and the now familiar smile barely leaves his face. Except when you ask if his Sheffield Wednesday players ever see another side to him.

“They saw this face also,” says Carvalhal, suddenly stern and revealing that he kicked water bottles in a dressing room rage after a 3-1 home defeat to Middlesbrough on August 29th.

Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal

Sheffield Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal

I hear this with undisguised shock. Then the genial Portuguese head coach is quickly smiling to himself at what is becoming a distant memory after four successive victories. But it does show that a man who has clearly brought a feel-good factor to everyone at the club, from players to supporters, has the tough streak all leaders need.

He talks feverishly about having to make an impact from what he calls “zero” in terms of personal expectation; about creating an “enjoyable environment” for players; and how Wednesday are already rivalling Turkish club Besiktas, where he bonded with passionate fans, in his affections. This, you instinctively feel, is one of life’s good guys.

Anger is untypical, but it’s important to know it’s there. “I was completely crazy,” Carlos recalls. “I kicked bottles of water across the dressing room, I was very upset with the team and players. I know when I must act very hard.”

Fans will identify with that show of raw emotion, just as they have warmed to a little known and unheralded coach who could prove an inspired appointment by new owner Dejphon Chansiri.

by Pete McKee

by Pete McKee

Carlos’s natural style is, he stresses, “much more to encourage than criticise.” But there is a passion in that, too. And it is the positive energy he feels coming from the crowd that made him furiously unforgiving of that meek surrender to Middlesbrough.

“I hope I don’t do it often - but I do,” he says, his warm brown eyes hardening for an instant. “The environment was very positive but we were not doing our job. We weren’t fighting as I like. I didn’t recognise my team. But I think the players are enjoying our methodology. What makes me most happy, more than anything , is when I see, for instance, Barry Bannan and Ross Wallace saying in the press that they are enjoying training. It means experienced players are enjoying improving with you.

“If you are in a good environment you will give your best. You can open your mind to creativity. If you feel someone doesn’t trust you then you protect yourself and don’t give your best.

“In general I create a good environment but I am very straight in discipline. They know me. Discipline is my base in everything.”

Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal

Owls head coach Carlos Carvalhal

It’s telling that we’re now hearing less of Carvalhal having had 14 tenures at 13 clubs (including Vitoria Setubal twice) and more about him bossing truly big clubs in Sporting Lisbon and Besiktas, where he was especially popular amid a continental hiring-and-firing culture that is even crazier than our own.

“Being here is similar to Besiktas – people didn’t know me well,” he reflects. “You must create something from zero. I can tell that the fans here like me and I like them also. That is fantastic. I’m not afraid of this kind of challenge, working up from the ground floor.

“I started in the third division in Portugal and have always been working up. I did good work at Sporting and Besiktas but a lot of people don’t imagine the conditions. If you are in Portugal for ten years at medium clubs you will be fired, for sure. But you are a better coach for the experience. I am ready for this job.

“The team I have the most emotional feeling for is Besiktas – and probably in the future it will be Sheffield Wednesday. I have a similar feeling here. It’s to do with the passion and the supporters.”

For a man who clearly wears his heart on his sleeve, seeing his face and name on banners in Turkey and hearing his name sung there was “important for a good empathy.” Owls fans have delighted him with the “Carlos had a dream” song which had its first rendition at Brentford recently.

“I appreciate it and I’m very proud of it. . .fantastic,” he glows.

“It makes you feel like a soldier coming back from winning a war. I feel and believe that in future Sheffield Wednesday will be in my heart. . .”

More importantly, this football-infatuated man – “no time for hobbies” - has given himself every chance of winning a place in the heart of the club and its fans.