An email to the Football365 Mailbox suggests that Mourinho’s kicking up rough about Petr Cech’s treatment at Reading was all about distracting attention from his team’s preparation for the match against Barcelona. I agree… to some extent.
When it comes to getting ready for big games, Mourinho is Clough’s man. Keep your players distracted, be a lightning conductor for the press so that they are left in comparative peace, don’t let them obsess or dwell on what’s to come. If Mourinho’s abuse of Reading was with that in mind, it worked superbly. As the email says, we’ve heard almost nothing all week about Lampard’s form, or Shevchenko’s – and the substitute, substitute goalkeeper was able to gather himself in relative seclusion.
And it’s what he’s done a hundred times before. His “war” with Arsene Wenger was all about taking the rod away from his players and onto his own back (and it had the advantageous side effect of making the Arsenal manager look weak in front of his own players) – and everyone will remember Jose predicting, correctly, not only the Barcelona line-up of two years ago, but the name of the referee. (He failed to predict his own team on that occasion, but even the most astute of punters etc.) So if the Reading comments had the same result in mind, it wouldn’t be anything new.
And yet, and yet. Contrary to what the press would put forward, Mourinho does not have a track record of tasteless lying to cover up for his team. He does have one for apologising when he has spoken out of turn (Wenger received an apology for the “voyeur” remark and has never proffered one for his many occasions of blindness to the behaviour of his players).
On the last occasion Mourinho was seen to have behaved thus, it was once again Barcelona week at Stamford Bridge. He criticised the referee (it turned out that he was hardly alone in his opinion of the man’s abilities, or in his feeling that nepotism and not talent had pushed that particular man in black forwards). He accused Barca of visiting the referee’s dressing room at half time (which turned out to be true, long after). Chelsea failed to back him up – and very nearly lost their manager.
Mourinho is now one of those men who the English love to hate – he’s a moaner, apparently, that blackest of sins! and he “drags Chelsea’s name through the mud” (he does? as much as his Chief Executive, or his Owner?).
I suspect his unpopularity comes not from these things but from a darker place: jealousy – of his talent, his close family, his talent for the memorable phrase, his looks, his money… dislike of his failure to play up to English fantasies of the “old fashioned” manager (the “old fashioned manager” was a corrupt, incompetent tyrant: Busby et al were anything but old fashioned).. dislike of his failure to be English. Dislike of his willingness to take risks – dislike of his success in living up to them. So long as he sounds like Ray Winstone, the English are willing to hero-worship a clever rogue – they’re even willing to have him as England manager. But don’t be handsome, don’t be articulate, don’t be intelligent, don’t be right..
I’m just not sure that his complaints about Cech’s treatment are media management – or that, quietly, long afterwards, as ever, he might not prove to have had a point. I mentioned the other day that I had had Cech’s injury. My ambulance, once the police (who at that point were still convinced that I’d fallen over drunk and was only claiming to have been mugged) could be persuaded to call it, took an hour to get 100 yards up the road from the Royal Free to Hampstead Police Station. The Reading ambulance men have complained about Mourinho – but he didn’t complain about them. One day, just perhaps, long after it’s all forgotten, he might prove to have had a point.