One week ago the news arrived to my phone from a friend of mine saying succinctly, “José has gone, it’s official”. After finding out he hadn’t been drinking copiously and was in fact telling the unbelievable truth, I stayed up watching Sky Sports News until I could almost recite parrot-fashion the various statements and features produced as the story broke through the night. Seven days on and it is just starting to sink in. Just.
I remember how I felt from Wednesday night onwards when we lost our special one, and looking back on those feelings (and a little help from internet research) led me to a name I’d never heard before but a psychological model which seemed to explain things perfectly.
Kübler-Ross. Not a name which would fit with Hiddink, Van Basten or Ramos, Ronaldinho, Kaka or Ronaldo, oh no. Nothing to do with football really, unless you take into account the over-sentimental, melodramatic nature of the sport in this day and age where wins are emphatic victories, losses are crushing defeats, and a managerial sacking is treated like a death in the family. Kübler-Ross devised the “Stages of Grief” model, and I-perhaps you too-ashamedly found myself going through them.
The first stage is denial. I got the text and thought it was a joke. I waited for the punch line but it never came. I couldn’t believe it! Nobody could, what a strange time for it to happen, what a knee-jerk reaction, stupid Roman Abramovich. Stage two. Anger. Angry at Abramovich, angry at Peter Kenyon, angry at the world. Pillows went flying, Bizarrely, I blamed the friend who lent me the use of his Sky Sports News for the sacking. I contemplated writing an article in the heat of the moment; it was to include mentions of Avram Grant’s backside and Mr Abramovich’s hand involved in a perverse ventriloquism act. Thankfully I thought better of it.
Then came depression. I felt numb and was inconsolable, especially when the news of Avram Grant taking the hot-seat emerged. Imagine my state my mind when I saw Mr Personality himself at that press conference! Flanked by the conspiring and conniving Kenyon and Bruce Buck he proceeded to send me further into turmoil with a dull, rambling string of sentences which meant nothing to anybody. Promises of success were made, and we promptly went to Old Trafford and lost.
Then came the last stage, acceptance. It is only recently entered my consciousness that, yes, Mourinho has gone. Our most successful manager of all time has gone. The man who turned our fortunes around has gone. And he’s been replaced by a yes man (for the time-being anyway). He’s not coming back, and we have grown to accept it.
The grief is over. Now we have to concentrate on the football, the team is still there though the man who led them so superbly has gone. Until it inevitably happens all over again, support the eleven on the pitch, Steve Clarke and yes, Avram Grant – through gritted teeth if you must.
Let’s just hope his rear end doesn’t get too sore.