There is a small band of Chelsea fans that I know who consider Jose Mourinho to be the nemesis of the beautiful game. They consider his tactics to be negative and his style of football to be functional rather than exciting to watch. They would not want him back under any circumstances. I have a different view. For me Jose Mourinho was the single biggest catalyst of change this club has ever seen in terms of making the club what it is now. Yes, of course the benevolence of Roman Abramovich was also a huge factor in how we moved from former mid-table journeymen into feared and loathed calculating winning machine. We’ve probably now got a a permanent contract with local builders to reinforce the strength of the trophy room* lest it collapse under the weight of silverware we’ve garnered recently and will no doubt continue to garner for the foreseeable future. However, none of this would have been possible with money alone.
*Note for Arsenal and Spurs fans – note we have a trophy room not a cabinet. You won’t need those builders for some time yet……
It needed a driving force to come in and change the culture of the whole club, from top to bottom into winners. It was done with stunning verve, lots of belief and inspiration and of course the vital Jose ingredient of controversy. Of course, the Premier League had been well used to his type of media presence having been spoilt in the previous years by the Wenger/Ferguson battles as their respective teams did their best to impose a duopoly on the Premiership in much the same way as Rangers and Celtic have done in Scotland….and where of course Real Madrid and Barcelona have done the same in Spain. Whilst Mourinho was at Chelsea we had our own smarter, spikier and better looking version of Wenger and Ferguson. And he strode into the league and won everything he could see. He upset the senior Premiership coaching duopoly and led our club to split the hate/hate relationship between Arsenal and Manchester United apart by giving them both a single target to hate even more. All because we had finally become winners. Ruthless, cold-eyed winners. I’d take him back tomorrow. I think he’d fill Stamford Bridge on a close season Saturday morning with fans eager to revere him again. And I don’t buy this negative anti-football rubbish attached to him. He can mix and match pragmatic grinding football with style when it suits and he does get it right more often than most. Ask Alex Ferguson, his friend. He does exactly the same.
Since Jose left Chelsea many of us have chosen to follow his career with a keen interest. In my case it’s almost an equal amount of scrutiny that I apply to the coaches who have succeeded Jose at Chelsea. I watched on in awe as he took a journeyman Inter Milan squad to the top of Serie A and then delivered the Moratti family dream of a Champions League success as part of an overall treble for that side. It wasn’t built on money, the days of Inter being a huge monetary force seem to be over, but it was built in very much the same way as Chelsea was built. By taking good players and developing them into great players, by engendering a team and club fortress spirit which left others furious and frustrated but which focussed on it’s job and delivered the honours emphatically. Who can forget his Inter team picking us part at Stamford Bridge? Who can forget them being down to 10 men against Barcelona and holding them to knock them out? Masterclasses in Mourinho-ism. I am now a keen real Madrid watcher, eager to see if he can break the current reign of the sporting charlatans Barcelona.
So, I’m drawn to the levels of vitriol being hurled at Mourinho by the worlds press this morning after his post match conference last night after Real’s defeat to Barcelona. I’ve watched over the years as the Champions League has descended from the rather splendid European Cup featuring the champions of each domestic league into the current shambolic mashed up league/cup competition featuring numbers of teams from domestic competitions based on co-efficients of previous performance. Then to cap it all they’ve have added seeding to protect the TV, Corporate sponsorship, advertising revenues and no doubt the fragile egos of the major clubs who have traditionally dominated the competition. We’ve featured well in this hideous competition…..hell….no-one gets closer than we did in Moscow. But one can’t help but look at 2008 as an aberration which had UEFA grinding their teeth in frustration at the fact that two English teams had reached the final of their money-laden circus showpiece. It must have broken their hearts that they didn’t have one of their pet darling clubs in place to show the footballing world how the ‘right’ way is their way. To see a club like Real Madrid suffer at the hands of blatant play-acting, diving, feigning and referee harassment might be the catalyst to get the ball rolling for changes that might make the competition fairer or at least less biased towards the current fervour for ‘tippy-tappy’ being the right way to play the game. This is leading to the distorted view that ‘tippy-tappy’ is becoming the ONLY way to play the game. For what it’s worth, I think Jose’s comments were absolutely in order. I think he was saying what a lot of ordinary objective fans are saying or thinking. He speaks for a lot of jaundiced fans watching the charade unfurl. Maybe even some of the press and media are starting to see this as well. Is it just coincidence that teams that play Barcelona in this competition invariably end up with 10 men? Or that those who keep 11 on the field are denied decisions that in any other match would be granted? Remember , they’ve never beaten us when we’ve had 11 on the field!
Anyone who watched the fateful games we had against them where we lost due to being down to 10 men, one refereed by Anders Frisk and the other by Tom Ovrebo will be well versed in the conspiracy theories of incorrect dismissals and valid penalty claims being rejected. But look at the history of Barcelona and see similar instances against Inter Milan and Arsenal and you might just start to believe them. And then last night the dismissal of Pepe for a slightly late tackle on one of the masters of fakery and play-acting, Dani Alves, and suddenly things start to look murky for UEFA and Barcelona. Just watch how Barcelona instantly surround the referee, something we used to be guilty of but have now stopped (ditto Arsenal and United) at the drop of a sombrero. Step back in awe at the immediate brandishing of imaginary cards whenever they’re fouled …or even tackled. What I saw last night (and yes, Real were no angels either) was an out and out disgrace. Will UEFA act on anything Barcelona did? Ooooh…..was that a pig I saw fly past my window? Or will they immediately throw the book at Real and Mourinho? You wouldn’t even get odds for that at any bookies. Will Alves and Pedro get sanctioned for obvious cheating? Or will they stand more chance of a BAFTA award? Don’t even buy the postcard because I know the answers already.
So, my rant is over, and my plea follows. Roman, Ron…Take the pressure off of Carlo and the team for the Champions League. Sure, we’ll qualify. We might do OK as well before the UEFA booby-traps kick in. But give us the means to win the Premier League first and foremost every year. Plus the FA Cup. Let us do a domestic treble (never done before) or 3 – encourage us to rule everything Britannia. Then maybe one day, out of nowhere we might slip the UEFA radar and actually win the Champions League. Then, maybe then I’ll lift a sleepy apathetic eyelid to it’s alleged greatness. But for me, it’s the bragging rights at home that count. The glory on my doorstep that matters. Lets rule the roost here and let UEFAs pet clubs expend money and energy winning this sham of a competition.