As was the case in the autumn when I was informed that there was serious and contagious rebellion in the ranks at Stamford Bridge. The dressing room and training ground had been venues for some angry scenes between the manager and certain players.
Jose Mourinho had lost a part of the dressing room before he called the club doctor Eva Carneiro “the daughter of a Portuguese whore.” After that day he faced a rebellion that shocked even him.
Players he thought were his men turned against him. He was outnumbered. His days numbered.
The sacking came as a surprise to many. I don’t know why. Former Chelsea player Pat Nevin has for weeks stated that he didn’t believe Roman Abramovich would fire Mourinho. Even earlier this week he was backing Jose to keep his job. I begged to differ.
Martin O’Neill knows plenty about not being backed as a club manager. Now in charge of the Republic of Ireland he says: “Very little surprises me in modern football management but this has surprised me. It came as a complete surprise to me. Whether you like or dislike the man, his record is there for all. I thought he would have got longer to turn things around. If the world were to stop tomorrow morning, his record is as good as anyone’s.”
O’Neill added: “If you criticise your players in public in this day and age, players don’t take that well. I know from my own playing days you had to take the criticism, whether it was in private or public, and just get on with it. There’s a different reaction from the modern player.”
Indeed there is. You only had to watch Eden Hazard of late to see that with your own eyes. I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. It doesn’t matter what you’ve won. It doesn’t matter how good your reputation. If as manager you do not have the players on your side then you are done for. It is a sad fact of modern day football, especially at the highest level. I suspect Jose knew he would be sacked after the Leicester defeat and his accusations aimed at the squad was a case of him getting his revenge in first.
On Thursday evening Chelsea TV released a video in which the club’s technical director Michael Emenalo went on record in saying that there was “a palpable discord between managers and players.”
While the likes of John Terry kept his counsel, Cesc Fabregas – a man Mourinho had long courted – had been heard to say: “I’d rather lose than win for him.”
So the end did not surprise me. What did was how long Chelsea FC took to deal with the crisis. They badly mishandled the sacking of a club doctor who did what she was trained to do. And they failed to confront the mutiny at the Bridge. The second successive player revolt faced by Mourinho. His man management skills, which I had long admired, have now been found wanting at Chelsea as they were were at Real Madrid, where Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos led a revolt.
At Chelsea, once Mourinho had lost the support of the one who had been so special to him for so long, John Terry, he was on thin ice. Terry, upset at being dropped, also disagreed with the treatment of Eva Carneiro. He was not alone.
Diego Costa, a Mourinho signing, fell out with his manager. Costa will be hoping the permanent replacement next season is his former boss at Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone.
Early in the season I asked my source at the club what was wrong at the Bridge. What, I wondered, was the Achilles heel of the manager?
The answer came thus: “The moment someone is more popular than he is or he thinks they have become more popular, that person is out of the door.”
Now he has gone. He’ll always be a hero to Chelsea fans. No doubt they will sing his name when the Blues run out to play Sunderland at home on Saturday.
But the interesting aspect for me will be how the players perform. Will they suddenly recall how to defend? Will Costa bang in a hat trick? Will John Terry revert to being an inspirational captain rather than a sullen looking bit part player?
Once Jose Mourinho spoke of “betrayal” after the defeat to Leicester, he had, like the Monty Python parrot, ceased to be. In this age of multi millionaire footballers there will be only one winner once they down tools and leave the manager exposed to a bad run of results.
Results cost Jose Mourinho his job. Calling the club doctor a whore cost Jose Mourinho his job. And the players ensured he was a dead man walking. Like General Custer at Little Big Horn, he was surrounded.
He’ll be back. Manchester United should waste no time and go get him.
But I have advocated for some considerable time that he needs to take a break. Go on a very long holiday. Leave the rest of this season alone, recharge his batteries, take time out to consider where he may have gone wrong. It can’t always be the fault of someone else. Referees, ball boys, the club doctor. Be nicer.
Concentrate on what he does best. Being tactically astute. Getting players on his side and not on their nerves. And take a leaf out of the book of his friend Sir Alex Ferguson. When thinking of criticising your players in public, bite your tongue. His media image has got in the way of his skills. He needs to get back to basics. Why not get an assistant to do the interviews? The press and TV won’t like it, but stuff them!
As for Chelsea, I feel sure Roman Abramovich knows who he wants as the new permanent manager from next summer. First choice will be Pep Guardiola (who has already verbally agreed to join Man City). Chelsea fans would not like that. Since the days Guardiola’s Barcelona outplayed Chelsea, the fans have not liked the current manager of Bayern Munich. Regardless, Abramovich will undertake some Pep talk but will have as his second choice the aforementioned Diego Simeone.
Whoever takes charge once Guus Hiddinck – a man whose own managerial career has been tarnished by a disastrous time in charge of the Netherlands – has completed his job as caretaker, that new man will have to hit the ground running.
In Mourinho they will have a hard act to follow and one the supporters love. For them, Jose Mourinho will always be the special one. Many supporters are angry at his dismissal. At the training ground, meanwhile, there was a palpable sense of relief.
Both emotions are understandable.