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Patrick Vieira: Arsenal icon for the thoughtful Crystal Palace manager

Vieira mastered the difficult early days at the Palace in an impressive manner

With two defeats in 11 Premier League games and notable wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, Patrick Vieira does an impressive job at Crystal Palace.

Few expected a good performance from the former Arsenal c -tain following the Roy Hodgson takeover as he had a relatively low profile career in management prior to arriving in London.

But those who have been involved in his journey since the day he retired as a player and took on the role of coach are not surprised that he is thriving.

A reluctant trainer who found motivation in promoting young talent

Becoming a coach was not a natural progression for Vieira. In fact, it wasn’t a move at all that he was particularly keen on.

In 2011, when his playing career at Manchester City came to an end, Vieira spent time in various roles at the club, serving as club ambassadors and meeting VIPs before matches at the Etihad Stadium to decide which route to take when he finally hung stayed his boots up.

But it was the direction of ex-Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday winger Brian Marwood, who was then a football administrative clerk at Manchester City, that Vieira credits has turned to management.

“When I stopped playing I didn’t know which way to go,” said Vieira. “I was lucky enough to have Brian next to me to guide me and open my mind to the managerial side.

“He pushed me to hang out with the kids at Manchester City Academy and the more time I spent there, the more I loved being with the players. I fell in love with the job.”

Learn the craft in Wales

If the passion of coaching was sparked by a former Arsenal player and on the training grounds in east Manchester, then Vieira’s leadership style and philosophy was developed on the outskirts of Newport.

In deciding where to take his coaching badges, Vieira followed a recommendation from his former French teammate and former Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly to go to Dragon Park – the home of Welsh football.

Vieira said in 2013 that he was drawn to the National Football Development Center of Wales because he felt it was an environment he would be comfortable in, where “there were no egos and everyone was treated equally “.

Thierry Henry and Patrick VieiraVieira was one of several notable footballers who turned to the Wales Football Association’s coaching program

It seems he was not alone with this thought and some of his classmates included former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry, Belgian coach Roberto Martinez and former Wales striker Craig Bellamy.

All of them cut their teeth alongside fellow footballers nearing the end of their careers and managers in the Welsh Premier League.

Former Crystal Palace defender Craig Harrison was on the same course as Vieira as manager of TNS.

Harrison had faced Vieira on the soccer field, but remembers a very different person than the combative and aggressive opponent from his playing time.

“Patrick was a very wild player, he’s a big guy, he’s very intimidating to look at because of his size, but he’s such a nice guy,” he told   Sport.

“He speaks very softly, he is softly. He’s not overly aggressive when he’s exercising or speaking. He’s methodical in what he’s trying to do.

“He’s very thoughtful. The Patrick Vieira that a lot of people have seen in his playing days – fighting Roy Keane – isn’t the Patrick Vieira who comes across in person.

“He’s a very family-oriented guy who knows football very well. He’s obsessed with it and I think if you want to get to the top you have to be obsessed with it.”

A friend, a mentor, but also a tough teacher

Jack HarrisonVieira is credited with an important role in the development of Leeds midfielder Jack Harrison

These qualities were also evident when he took up his first executive position as head coach of Major League Soccer club New York City in November 2015.

With a mix of well-known stars of European football such as Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Frank Lampard in the books, mixed with local players with only MLS experience, Vieira was about to start a test in terms of the management of these personalities.

Former US youth international Ethan White was when Vieira’s arrival in New York City remembers a manager who had no problem getting the dressing room together.

He told   Sport: “As you can see now at Palace, the players are buying into the system very quickly – both for the respect they show him for his name and for his personality.

“He’s almost like a friend, but also a mentor.”

He seemed like a friend for the most part, but he wasn’t afraid to go rough on the players if necessary – as White himself saw it.

After the defender was late for a pre-game meeting one day due to traffic, he was immediately removed from the game’s starting XI.

“He’s the c -tain of the ship – hard at the right time and soft at the right time,” said White. “I understood that he has rules and you respected that.”

Vieira’s coaching roots in Manchester City youth teams also came to the fore in NYC, and White credits him for making Jack Harrison – now at Leeds – the player he is today.

The midfielder came through the club’s youth system, with Vieira mentoring and promoting the youngster while introducing him to first-team football.

“Jack has benefited a lot from Patrick,” added White. “I really think he helped him flourish.”

Success in New York but trouble in Nice

Patrick VieiraVieira went through a troubled time in Lyon with a change of ownership after his arrival

Vieira did well in NYC, leading her to fourth place in his first season before finishing second in his second season.

But his time in the south of France showed how important it is for Vieira to surround himself with people he trusts and who believe in him.

Club president Jean-Pierre Rivere and sporting director Julian Fournier were instrumental in his decision to take on the role at Nice, who worked hard to convince him. But a change of ownership just a few months after Vieira’s arrival led to her departure.

Despite changes behind the scenes, Vieira managed to lead the club to seventh place in Ligue 1 in its first season – one place better than the season before he arrived – and fifth the following year.

But with increasing expectations and criticism of his style of play and the commitment of players, things quickly began to unravel.

Five straight defeats in the first few months of his third season at the club were enough for Vieira to be sacked.

The right team and the right manager?

Conor GallagherConor Gallagher was on the bench for England against San Marino on Monday

As soon as Vieira was  -pointed Crystal Palace boss that summer, he made sure that he had people around him again, whom he trusted and in whom he believed.

His assistant, Osian Roberts, was technical director at the Football Association of Wales and oversaw the coaching program in which Vieira participated.

Together with the rest of the coaching staff at Vieira, they set out to solve the many problems at Palace, not least 12 players who no longer have a contract.

Many of that dozen left, allowing Vieira to form his own roster. He replaced an aging defense with younger players in Marc Guehi and Joachim Andersen, and brought on other exciting youngsters like 19-year-old Michael Olise and 21-year-old Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher on loan.

Once again, his background in youth development is evident, with Gallagher particularly thriving under the French.

He has scored four goals in 10 Premier League games after playing in a more advanced attacking role from Vieira and that form led to his first call-up in England earlier this week.

Vieira at the Palace is still in its infancy, but so far he’s been proving to be very good for the Eagles – suggesting that his decision, his initial reluctance to become manager, turned out to be a wise one.

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