MUTUAL CONSENT

By Mark Daniell
Sep 21st, 2007

“I can’t believe the news today. I want to close my eyes and make it go away.”

Okay, perhaps Bono’s lyrics addressed something a little more sinister than the news that radiates from the Ceefax screen in front of me now, but these things are relative, and besides, for surprise value I’d say the lyrics are applicable.

‘Mourinho leaves club by mutual consent.’ That’s the news, in case you don’t have Ceefax, and it’s true as well, I checked on Teletext. Mourinho, The Special One, is off. By mutual consent.

Mutual consent? What does mutual consent mean? As far as I know mutual consent is when a frisky young couple book a non-refundable holiday together but break up before the departure date. By mutual consent they decide to go on the holiday, but not to get back together. Then they have one last fling, she gets pregnant, he gets cold feet, her father roughs him up a bit, they get married and bring up EJ (named after the flight on which she was conceived) in a tenement flat outside Leeds. That’s mutual consent, but I fail to see how it’s relevant in this instance.

Perhaps most strangely this news actually lends some credibility to the daily press, and I suspect that the daily press themselves will be the first to recognise this strangeness. At the very beginning of this year the press began a series of stories outlining the increasing feud between Mourinho and Abramovich, the origins of which were spurious at best. The trouble is newspapers are only in the business of relating news by proxy, their actual job is to sell newspapers.

Generally this doesn’t matter since they go about it by accurately describing news events and by giving comment thereon. However, in the field of sport there’s a problem: if you know there’s only going to be one game a week, how do you sell papers in the days in between? Some papers adopt a strategy of reporting on news broadcasts from within the club, such as ‘Makelele has hurt his rib in training today, but should be okay for the game on Sunday’ but frankly these titbits don’t sell papers. So another form of journalism has sprung up: the journalism of reported rumour.

If you read in an article the line “it has been reported that…” you know you’re in murky waters. The journalist in question doesn’t want to state it, but he knows including it in his column will sell papers. The same applies in conferences when questions pop up like ‘what would you say to reporters who ask…’ or ‘how would you respond to those who think…’ if the reporter wanted to ask a question, he’d ask it, but if he wants to perpetuate a rumour, he suggests someone else has come up with the story and he in fact is trying to dispel it. Of course, by giving the story coverage, the journalist is not just selling more papers, he’s lending it weight. And the more outrageous the story, the better the system works.

Perhaps, as in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop (where on hearing erroneously that a war has broken out, so many journalists descend upon a small African capital that they unsettle the economy and indeed start a war), the story was made genuine by the persistent reporting. Perhaps the constant suggestion that Mourinho’s job was on the line left him insecure and eager to leave. Or, miracle of miracles, perhaps the press were right, although I doubt it.

Whatever the truth, the fact remains that the Premiership has lost one of its most colourful managers: a man who brought entertainment to the post match interview (Jose on conceding at home: “I can smell it”); energy to the touchline (his frank the tank impression when Drog scored against Barcelona); and redefined the dress sense of the football manager. (In response Roy Keane bought his first Saville Row suit, Sven bought every other Saville Row suit, Rafa did something to his face…)

Still, let’s not wallow in self-pity and muse over where it all went wrong. Let’s simply look back over the good times and enjoy a little self-congratulation, you know, have a drink, have a cry, have another drink and nip down the local whorehouse.

Two premier league titles, back to back, or ‘on the spin’ as Frankie would say. I waited all my life for Chelsea to win the league, and then two come along at once. (It would have been three but for the injuries.) Many will say that it was Roman’s gold that bought the title. So what? Chelsea were simply ahead of others in their thinking. The way that wages and player costs were headed, unless an adrenaline jab of some description arrived all that was going to happen was that clubs with 70,000 seater stadia and lucrative international sponsors were going to remain the only ones who could afford the best.

Youth systems are all good and well, but think wages, where’s Wayne Rooney? Without wanting to appear shallow, just look at the number of premiership clubs that have followed Chelsea, including Man Utd. Obviously fans of an Arsenal will chant that they have not bowed to such measures, but hey, what have they won in the past three years? Anything? Arsene Wenger strikes me as a good man and I find his achievements remarkable, but it’s time to face the modern era: an Arsenal can’t even win the Carling Cup, because, oh yeah, Chelsea took it from them, and that was only one of the five domestic cup trophies Jose brought us in his three years.

But perhaps Jose’s most amazing feat was that he was never beaten at home, which I daresay had an influence over The Special One’s decision to leave. Last Saturday saw Robbie Savage come pretty close to breaking that pristine record. Robbie Savage! Can you imagine the degradation if that had happened? I think Jose must have realised that his Stamford Bridge virginity was in danger of being plucked and he decided to scarper before giving it up to some greasy northerner on a Tuesday night outside Finch’s. I admire that achievement over the others and hope he continues his fine home record wherever his future takes him. I only feel sorry for his kids; I can imagine the policy of ‘I am never beaten at home’ makes for some rather aggressive bouts of Guess Who?

The way I see it, whoever replaces Jose has three obligations: firstly they have to have a loose grasp of English, preferably with a knack for never-before-heard adages; secondly they have to have a natty dress sense, I’m thinking golf jumpers and driving gloves; lastly they have to show disdain for everyone from fellow managers and players to the newspapers. That, to my mind, leaves only one contender: Didier ‘drogalog’ Drogba as player manager. And I think we’re on for another two championships.

(Actually, I bet I know why Jose left, I bet it was the bloody congestion charge. Vote Boris!)

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