Here’s what I really want to say about Jose…and didn’t really get a chance to

Alison Bender   Football  

That’s the thing about TV interviews, you get your 4 or 5 minutes and just as you start to get into a point it’s over. That was me at 7am this morning with legend Peter Shilton on Good Morning Britain. I was on with Piers Morgan so I’d always expected to be interrupted, but now there were 4 of us all trying to get a word in. That’s the thing about Mourinho, there is just so much to talk about. I used to have a list of things he had done that were out of character, but that list got so long I guess at some point you have to accept, this IS his character, this is him now.

Yes of course the players played their part, but I think ultimately Mourinho created his own downfall. I truly believe that (as Susanna Reid so eloquently put it) his public facing image was what had caused things to go wrong. people underestimate the importance of likeability.

Just take Gareth Southgate, ok so he did not win the World Cup, but he completely changed the attitude towards England players and brought a joy back into watching England. That is a huge task when fans are so let down by soaring ticket prices, overpaid players and prima donna attitudes. His SPOTY speech was spot on, so humble, and so likeable; he won the nations hearts in his little blue waistcoat!

That’s the thing about Mourinho, he was the ultimate man manager, and his players would do anything for him. Hardened hacks wore soppy faces in press conferences hanging off his every word. I’m not quite sure when it all changed but there were signs of it at Inter Milan, it stepped up a gear at Real Madrid with him falling out with senior players like Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, and by the time he came back to Chelsea as “The happy one” it seemed like a completely different Jose Mourinho to the one I had come to know and “love” over the years.

I know I’m going to sound “wise after the event” but it didn’t surprise me how it turned out at United. After what had happened at Chelsea I’d half expected a re-brand. I thought he would turn up, new, refreshed and ready to re-boot, but even from day one it was very clear this “new” Mourinho was here to stay. The one who had questioned Dr. Eva Carneiro’s timing, the one who had criticised Juan Mata and Eden Hazard in public, the one who walked around the training ground with his head bowed so you couldn’t engage him in conversation, yes that one.

I had an interview with him up at Manchester United and I rather timidly asked the question I’d been dying to ask in so many of his Chelsea’s press conferences. “Will we ever see the old Jose again or is that one gone forever?” He paused, he looked a little hurt, and then he said it wasn’t really important how WE saw him, it’s how the players see him.

To me that is the whole point. In football there should be no “them” and “us”. The mood of the manager reflects throughout the whole club, I’ve seen it at Real Madrid TV and I’ve seen it at Chelsea TV. If the manager is in a bad mood with the press and the staff it will filter through to the players. I asked Jesse Lingard if we see a different Jose to the one they see (and had to ask the question three times because of drilling). The answer changed each time, from no, not at all, to yes a little, and finally to yes, so it’s hard to know what to take from that but there certainly wasn’t a deafening support of the manger either.

I actually think in the end Jose had had enough (and to an extent I don’t blame him, imagine living like that day to day?) and was doing everything he could to be pushed so he would not have to walk. I felt the same at Chelsea second time around. Yes I agree players made it difficult for him, not raising their game. Of course sloppy performances, hitting the bar and missing chances can’t be the fault of the manager, but it is your job to get the best out of the players, however you decide to do that. You don’t have to like them, but you need to get the best out of them, and when that stops, surely it’s time for a change no matter whose fault it is?

I’ll finish by getting a little melancholy. Rewind to 2007, I came to work at Chelsea TV from Real Madrid TV. It was a great gig, I got to watch training sessions every day, travel to European away matches with the team and spent a lot of time with the players and manager, getting to know Mourinho pretty well. I’ll never forget a balmy summer night in LA at the Beverly Hills hotel chatting to him on the veranda as he let his players have a night off. We chatted about La Liga and life in general. I gave him some advice on Real Madrid should he ever end up there and I felt pretty comfortable in his company. A Few years later I interviewed him in Milan for ESPN and he gathered his whole backroom together in reunion.

Cut to Mourinho second stint at Chelsea, me 2nd row of the press conference as I always am, asking all manner of questions and I’m greeted by a yes or a no. I try to make light of the situation in the club canteen (where I’m often a welcome guest thanks to my time at Chelsea TV) to be given the kind of look that says simply, “I’m not in the mood to talk”. Of course I don’t take any of this personally, and it would be arrogant to think it even matters but it’s just a reflection, I still find it sad.

Three key factors that are rarely mentioned and ones that I think are key are three losses. Not games, not points but a more human side. Jose lost his right hand man Rui Faria, a man he rated so highly, a man who was beside him all the way. The second was losing his family life, he stayed in the Lowry hotel away from his family and dined alone often, and hotel life is good for nobody’s soul. Third, and most importantly the loss of his father Felix. Any man who loses his dad would suffer, but Jose was so close and so proud of his dad, I remember he once spoke about it in a Chelsea press conference. At the time his father was ill and he was flying back to Portugal to see him. He spoke of how proud he was of his fight. I believe when he finally lost his dad something changed in him, perhaps he wasn’t given the time to grieve?

I always regretted never being able to pass on my condolences, I was off on maternity leave having a baby and when I returned it was so far passed it felt uncomfortable to comment. I think many managers suffer depression. Sam Allardyce recently admitted it to me. They are under so much pressure. And often do it alone. Many have wives who can help them, but not when you are living apart. You only need to see the way so many managers age to realise what huge pressure they are under. No wonder Pep Guardiola took a sabbatical, what a smart move. Jose Mourinho did have a short break, but admitted he got bored and needed to get back to work, that is a sign to me of someone who needs the break more than ever, an obsessive.

Forgive me if this is all a bit deep. I studied Psychology and wrote my dissertation in the area of abnormal Psychology, so the human mind fascinates me. In the past I have done counselling too so although I talk a lot, I am genuinely interested in people and what makes them tick. I read one journalist liken Mourinho’s relationship with Manchester United to a loveless marriage and thought it quite clever, at times I felt like the jilted one! Now I don’t let it bother me, it’s Mourinho who has changed not me. Maybe he has good reasons, maybe one day we will find out what they are?

Seeing Jose Mourinho being followed down the road by the Sky Sports cameras in his tracksuit and cap reminded me he is just a man, a man under the spotlight. At some points the lights will fade but he will certainly pop up again centre stage and I wish him all the best when he does, but I do hope we see more of the old Jose, if that’s at all possible? I miss that Jose.

Ali x