Our European guru educates and enlightens
Mourinho was the new Cloughie. Old Big Ead even said as much in Champions magazine. But with his meticulously prepared dossiers on opponents, the professionalism with which his teams exploit every law and loophole to win and preference for efficient, rather than stylish football, the special one is really the new Don Revie.A supporting villain in David Peace’s brilliant novel about Clough at Leeds The Damned Utd, Revie is long overdue a reappraisal as a flawed, great manager with some prophetic ideas. Revie’s Damned Utd were hard, masters of gamesmanship, so ruthlessly cynical they were accused of crimes against humanity, but they could pass the ball, knew how to control games and – apart from an odd knack for blowing it in some big matches – were a complete football team. Just like Chelsea, after a century of flashy underachievement, became under Mourinho.Revie’s dossiers were not the fruit of an obsessive, anal retentive mind but evidence that someone in English football had realised the old ways – demanding a bulldog spirit, running around a lot and invoking Winston Churchill in the pre-match team talk – wouldn’t cut it. The scorn shown for these dossiers by stars like Kevin Keegan typifies a distrust of professionalism – the quaint notion that being quite so methodical is a bad show – which has contributed to the English game’s present nadir.To digress briefly, the existence of a corps of oppressed, potentially world class English footballers deprived of first-team football by Johnny Foreigners is as debatable as the existence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. As a weapon of mass distraction, handy in a crisis, English football and the media have always sought a scapegoat – a bottle of dodgy beer in 1970, a crap referee in 1993, the heat, when we lost away to Spain in 1929 and against Brazil in 2002 – rather than confront the harsh truth – we’re not good enough – and progress to the difficult, interesting bit: how do we become good enough?Anyway, a third of a century later, up pops Mourinho, with the self-confidence of Genghis Khan and the obsessive attention to detail of a trainspotter to triumph with dossiers. Revie, in his final years, fiercely regretted not letting his Damned Utd turn on the style, perhaps fearing he had undermined his legacy. Mourinho should remember that when he takes over at Barcelona, Milan or Nuneaton Borough this summer. If Jose’s the new Revie, who’s the new Mourinho? The Guardian is divided on this. Nicky Campbell reckons Frank Rijkaard is “Jose with a Dutch accent and Jose is Frank with stubble. No wonder they loathe each other.” Match reporter Sachin Nakrani thinks QPR boss Luigi Di Canio “has a José Mourinho-like quality about him” (read his report here) while Barney Ronay, (in his blog) reckons Juande Ramos is the new Mourinho, because a) he’s from the Iberian peninsula, b) he’s good looking and c) he’s endearingly loopy. Avram Grant, who is literally the new Mourinho – as his successor at Chelsea – is really the chemical antidote to the special one even if his team, confusingly, are winning with Mourinhoesque efficiency.I thought I’d exhausted the new Mourinhos until, in the Newcastle Chronicle, I found the Mourinho of Latvia (just google “Mourinho of Latvia”). Oddly enough, the Mourinho of Latvia isn’t Latvian at all, he’s a former Canary called Paul Ashworth who coaches Skonto Riga, who won 14 titles in a row and are quasi-officially known as “the Manchester United of Latvia”.All of this new Mourinho rubbish does prove one thing: like Jacobites pining away in the Scottish moors for the return of bonnie prince Charlie, we’d like the old Mourinho back asap.
Paul Simpson is the editor of Champions, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League
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