Only in England can you be a prophet in your own country whilst still coming from abroad.
It’s been a bad eighteen months for the people I’d call prophets. Martin Amis is being dragged backwards from the broadsheet pickup truck because of one 2-year-old line which contradicts a dozen others of his before and since. Richard Dawkins is to be condemned for what Walt and Mearsheimer are not, nor countless other incompletely-politicized middle-class types. Ayan Hirsi Ali is disdained by sui-disant left-wing Brits who have had things considerably easier than she. I don’t agree with everything these people say – and I have no heroes as such. But the balance of talent is with the prophets and not with the critics. It always was, and that’s been the problem.
Then there’s Mourinho. “Moanrinho”, or whatever “funny” name you might repeat endlessly to your friends, laughing loudly each time. I find this following clip shatteringly sad. It’s all in the eyes:
Actually, it’s not all in the eyes – it’s in the shoulders as well, in the corners of the mouth, in the tone of voice and in his choice of outfit.
Arsene Wenger, Cristiano Ronaldo, Stephen Hunt, Andy Johnson and, most of all, the Berkshire Ambulance Service, deserved their apologies from him over the last three years.
But tell me you don’t appreciate a man who will allow himself to be smuggled into a changing room in a laundry basket under the noses of UEFA.
I think he’s better off out of England, and especially out of English football. From Portugal, it must look all Bobby Robson, all Paisley, Clough and Shanks. A place where large personalities who know the game get the time to build big sides from nothing. Where fans understand more than the fate of their own club and applaud opponents. That’s still part of it, as Wenger, Ferguson and perhaps Sam Allardyce can testify. But what an underbelly: passive aggressive, alcoholic, fickle, cowardly and stupid. There are still places in the world who think all Englishmen are David Niven, but we’re not. When Mourinho arrived in 2004, I truly believe he thought he’d arrived to do his career-defining work in the oldest, greatest league in the world. By the time he left, I wonder how his feelings towards us had changed.
Even England at its very best – and Cobham, where Chelsea trained, is England at its very best – is a long way from Portugal and Spain. Not a long way timewise, of course – you can be there in two hours nowadays. The gulf’s social, cultural; it’s hundreds of little assumptions and attitudes that you barely notice when they belong to you and you’re at home. Four years at Chelsea was Mourinho’s longest stay at a club. It’s also the longest by far that he’s been away from home. And away from the people amongst whom he built up that marvellous, witty confidence that we saw so much of in 2004-5 and have scarcely seen since.
That confidence was wittled away more at Stamford Bridge than anywhere else, of course. The last player Mourinho truly brought in to his side was Michael Essien in the summer of 2005. The tight group Mourinho gathered around him – not without difficulty, just without half the trouble that would follow – then had to cope with the addition of an unwanted outer lining. That lining was a mix of bargain basement stuff and Championship Manager picks like Ballack and Shevchenko. Then there was the slow and steady castration by degrees Mourinho was subjected to by his boss. Neither Frank Arnesen nor Avram Grant were brought in as support as such. Arnesen in particular is not the kind of man who thrives out of the sun or under the thumb. And there were others beside them. Latterly, both CEO Peter Kenyon and Frank Arnesen are reported jockeying for the credit for Chelsea’s recent run of success. If that’s true, it’s outrageous.
It’s a long time to stay within unhappy walls. I hope Mourinho finds the right place to do his real work. I don’t expect him to turn up at Sheffield Wednesday or Nottingham Forest, although I think he’d do superbly, history-changingly, at either. But now that the England job is back on the market, I say, run! and keep running!