WOODEN LEGS; EXCLUSIVE ENGLAND EXPECTS..BIG PHIL How Scolari Soared from a Soccer Zero to Be World Cup Hero
Byline: By ALEX BELLOS and MATT ROPER
HE comes from the land where football is an art form, but as a player Luiz Felipe Scolari was distinctly average.
In fact, he was dubbed "Wooden Legs" at school for his constant blunders on the pitch while others waltzed round him with silky skills.
But when Big Phil turned his hand to management, he became a revelation. He forged a reputation as a blunt, no-nonsense boss - and a winner, driven by passion and desire. And England players used to the sophistication of Sven Goran Eriksson, should prepare for their dressing room serenity to be shattered The former petrol pump attendant from a dusty town in southern Brazil holds no respect for the reputation of pampered stars.
But he is also a fantastic motivator who has scooped titles at every level in his homeland and won Brazil the World Cup in 2002.
Friend Gilboe Mendes recalls the days he and Big Phil, 57, played soccer at school with bottle tops or stones.
The 57-year-old dentist said: "He wasn't very good, in fact he lacked coordination. But what he never lacked was enthusiasm and passion.
"When he was goalkeeper he'd bawl orders at us the whole time."
Nothing has changed. Big Phil, who verbally accepted the England job yesterday, can still be seen parading his dugout area barking orders at players throughout the entire game.
He is stubborn, blunt, head-strong and authoritarian.
He has punched reporters, insulted match officials and has spoken of his admiration for murderous Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet who, he claims, "did a lot of good, too".
But his motivational genius is second to none and the way he galvanised the Brazil team before their World Cup victory led to them being dubbed the "Scolari family".
The squad were on the verge of failing to qualify when he took over.
Fans were appalled when Big Phil dropped the fast-flowing football loved and admired around the world for a more pragmatic, and ugly, approach based on the team and not individual superstars.
Now Portugal manager, he has united the country around the squad like never before. During Euro 2004 Scolari appeared on TV urging everyone to put Portuguese flags in their windows.
Lisbon journalist Tiago Silva said: "He created a wave of national pride that makes my hair stand on end just thinking about it. People came on to the street and formed a human chain 30 miles long, following the team to the stadium. …