Letter from America: José Mourinho is our prat, God bless him

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What is it with José Mourinho bashing? The latest example in our pages is to call him a prat (or rather PRAT) which according to my online dictionary, is “an incompetent, stupid, or foolish person”. I’m not personally acquainted with Mr Mourinho, but simply from observing what he has achieved, both at Chelsea and at Porto, the last thing one could call him is “incompetent” or “stupid”, so I suppose it must be “foolish” which draws down the ire. Referring back to my trusty dictionary, this means “lacking good sense or judgement”. Well, I suppose there is a case to be answered on that, but in general, if he is wrong (and even in the infamous case of Barcelona and the Referee, he turned out right about what he said he had observed), he is generally the first (well maybe the second) to admit it.

In the recent Everton game, once he had viewed Andy Johnson’s dive that was not a dive, he said he was wrong and apologised rather handsomely, I thought. Given Johnson’s propensity for doing just that, and Chelsea having already lost two keepers this year from collisions with opponents, his immediate reaction was hardly surprising. Would Arsene Wenger have resisted punching David Moyes? Would Sir Alex Ferguson have resisted haranguing the referee? It seems to me that Mourinho reacted the way nearly every fan would have reacted, and does so consistently. When the opposition scores, he looks glum. When Chelsea scores, he leaps around like a schoolboy and if he runs up and down the touchline displaying his glee, would any of us resist doing just that if we had the opportunity? Like it or not, Mourinho identifies himself with the club and its players, as do all managers one hopes, and if his reactions seem a little off the mark on occasion, it is surely the subjectivity of the moment. Does this make him foolish?

But, I hear our critics say, he is a public figure and should be above such manifestations. His words should be divorced of all criticism, politically and sportively correct. B-O-L-L-O-C-K-S. All the best managers indulge in copious word games to unsettle the opposition. It should be encouraged rather than quashed. Have we all forgotten the duels fought, only a few years ago via the intermediary of the press, between Wenger and Ferguson. It was the stuff of legend and wonderful entertainment, at least to this neutral, but for all the hype, I don’t think that Mourinho is really quite up to that level yet. He seems too willing to adopt the objective view, even if this means he is wrong. Of course, when he is right, he sticks to his guns, except when this puts him into immediate conflict with UEFA or the FA, two organisations notorious for taking any adverse criticism extremely badly. All power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely, wrote Lord Acton. UEFA, especially, would have been grist for his mill. Mourinho is not an irresistible force, and when he meets with an immovable object, it is only common sense to concede, even if this has to be learned the hard way.

If it is foolish to react extravagantly to events, then we are all foolish at times, whoever we support, whatever we do in life. Over the years, I have seen many great managers. They have always been larger than life figures. Just think of Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Jock Stein, to name just a few. Did any of them react to a goal from either side with passivity? Did any of them ever hesitate to say what they felt at any given moment? I doubt it. They were castigated by opponents and their supporters, but they were secretly admired too, for what each of them could do was create a successful, dominating, winning side, and that is a very rare ability indeed. Mourinho is not a politician angling for an election, nor is he trying to win wimp of the year award. What he is doing is create a dominating, winning side. Since football is a kind of zero sum game, his success is someone else’s failure, with all the animosity and jealousy it may engender. He is paid a very large sum of money to do what he is doing, and I for one, do not begrudge him one penny of it. If this involves him saying and doing things that raise the hackles of those less fortunate than ourselves at this juncture in time, then so be it. If Mourinho is a prat, then thank God, he is our prat.

A Merry Christmas to all readers, of whatever faith or sportive persuasion, but I especially wish a successful New Year to all those who so proudly sport the Blue.