Not four days before the shock dismissal of Mourinho I was sitting having a drink and discussing the rather unfortunate state of affairs surrounding Martin Jol. “Poor Jol, (I was saying) a coupe of duff results, a couple of rough decisions and now the press are stating with certainty that he’s for the sack”.
Of course, anyone looking at the fixtures list at the beginning of the season could see he was going to have a tough opening month, but the press ignore that, they just see two bad results and start the rumour mill. My companion ordered another drink and I continued; “Poor old Jol, (I said) They did this in January with José, and there was no truth in that. I mean, for a start nobody would sack José, and considering the team, fan base and pay packet he’s got, he’ll never leave. And yet they speculate as if we’re fools”.
As I said these words a shiver ran down the length of my spine. The barmaid behind me had accidentally spilt beer from her tray down my collar. Still, even with that omen I didn’t see it coming.
But it did come, and collectively we’ve gone through the five stages of grief for the suddenly departed manager: Disbelief, Anger, Bargaining, Denial, Self-Pity. This should come as no surprise mind, as it is our innate psychological coping method used to deal with nasty shocks, whether we admit it or not. There are certain things in this life, nasty things, which are inevitable.
Mark Twain knew this and drew the line at Death and Taxis, two ever-presents for sure, and a useful bit of advice if you’re tired of waiting for the night bus and think it might be an idea to cut through the local ‘woodlands’, but I think he was being a bit conservative. Parking tickets are another thing of which we can be certain, lame twists in M. Night Shyamalan films, there’s another, and hangovers, to name but three. These are just a handful of things that are inevitable. So we acknowledge there are more than Mark Twain realised, and the sudden departure of managers in football is another.
I hate to say it but Martin Jol won’t last the season. Then again, there’s no surprise in that. Claudio Ranieri, to my mind did nothing wrong. He oversaw the arrival of Roman, an unknown and unwelcome foreigner as far as the nation’s press was concerned, and with diplomatic buying (first player bought, anyone?*) calmed the country. Then he bought some fancy players (my personal favourite Hernan K.** Crespo) played great football and came second in the league. I had nothing against that, but second wasn’t good enough, and he was off. Proud man walking, as his biography entitled.
I was upset when that happened, I thought it unfair, and I liked his crazy accent and tinkering style. His relentless belief in feeding the Gronk down the wing was questionable, but we’re all allowed our follies. But he was gone and that was that. I didn’t know much about José, he struck me as being arrogant and untested. He’d had a good cup run in the Champions League, sure, and he’d won a bit in Portugal, but really, is it that difficult to win in Portugal? I was sceptical.
I was wrong to be so. Mourinho brought everything that was required, played fast and loose with the press and won the league at a canter, twice. The only thing that stopped him was the third season injuries that inflicted a hairline fracture that would spread slowly but surely to crack the untouchable façade. In time, it proved enough to bring down the impregnability of our special one, and I was sorry to see him go: I thought it was unfair and unnecessary. Simultaneously I am unconvinced by his replacement, Avram hasn’t even got his professional license which to my mind makes him still a student.
But didn’t I feel that way about Ranieri’s dismissal? And didn’t that dismissal leave the tinkerer proud, his reputation unsullied and our club with two premiership titles? All things considered, Mourinho has had the last laugh: he’s loaded, can put his feet up and has an unblemished track record at Stamford Bridge. He’s nothing to be upset about. Meanwhile we at Chelsea have got to pull our socks up, stop crying into our milk and get on with the job in hand: we’ve got a league to win. It doesn’t look likely, I’ll grant you that, but with time to settle, the quality that we have in each and every member of our team and a fortress at Stamford Bridge, it’s readily achievable.
We’ve already seen how middle of the table teams can upset the old top order and you can be sure Man U, an Arsenal and Liverpool will all fall foul to these teams in the coming months. Until then Chelsea, and that means you too, has to get behind Student Grant and the team and carry us forward to the future.
I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let another ‘red’ team pick up the premiership just because I was unhappy about something that happened in September.
*Glenn ‘Miller’ Johnson, but you knew that.
** Krispie, but you knew that too.