Religion, football don’t mix
If there’s one thing you could never accuse football fans of it is letting a lack of logic hold them back from venting their emotions.
During last Monday’s FA Cup tie between Chelsea and Manchester United, a section of the home supporters decided it would be appropriate to call Jose Mourinho “Judas”.
Fair enough, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but let’s just take a little look at how accurate that label is, shall we?
Mourinho won three league titles, an FA cup and three league cups during his two spells at Stamford Bridge which, in itself, should be more than enough to afford him perpetual respect from the Stamford Bridge faithful.
But let’s forget his achievements for a moment. There is another reason why the tag of ‘Judas’ is more than a little unfair and inaccurate: it was Mourinho who was sacked by Chelsea.
It’s not as if he walked out on the club to move to another team. It’s not like he unexpectedly resigned mid-season to begin a new career as a monk or a diplomat. He was fired by Chelsea. Not once, but twice. And that despite being the most successful manager in the club’s history.
I appreciate that football is all about the here and now and that the past is very swiftly forgotten by passionate fans who live for the moment. And I appreciate that Mourinho is now in charge of one of Chelsea’s biggest rivals, which must sting a bit.
But Judas? Really? The man is quite obviously anything but, and I can only assume the fans who decided that should be his new nickname are not overly religious.
Mourinho didn’t take the abuse lying down. First he made a three-fingered title-referring gesture to the fans and then, in his post-match comments, he pointed out that, until someone wins four titles for the club, he remains their best manager.
“Judas is number one,” as he put it.
But despite his outward bravado, his voice betrayed a certain degree of sadness that the people who once worshipped him now view him with such disdain. He may spend a lot of time winding people up, but it’s blindingly obvious he is a man who enjoys being loved.
In many ways this could be just what Mourinho needed if he is to up his game at Old Trafford. While you would never doubt his loyalty to his new club, you always got the impression he had left a little bit of his heart down in London.
Last Monday was the day that love affair conclusively ended.
Don’t be surprised if he now redoubles his efforts to win trophies with United and, in the process, creates himself a whole new legion of worshippers.
Who knows, this next bunch might actually have read the bible.
The one-man title machine
Frank Lampard said last week that N’Golo Kante is the best central midfielder in the world right now, and it’s hard to disagree with his assessment.
The little French dynamo was the driving force behind Leicester City’s unlikely title triumph last season with his endless running and merciless tackling.
This season he has taken that unique talent to London where he is now driving Chelsea towards a title triumph of their own.
Unlike Leicester, of course, Chelsea are blessed with a lot of world-class players. But even so, I would argue that Kante’s arrival has been the main catalyst in changing last season’s underperformers into this season’s champions-in-waiting.
Kante is like a cross between the Duracell bunny and one of those hyperactive little dogs that snaps around your heels for no reason other than he doesn’t like the colour of your socks.
His energy levels and stamina are truly amazing as is his ability to take the ball off opponents and break up play. And, as he matures, he is now adding improved passing to his game as well as the ability to score the occasional goal.
All that and he is still only 25.
When Chelsea spent £30 million securing his services last summer a lot of people wondered if they hadn’t overspent on a player who had only really had one good season.
It is now becoming increasingly obvious, especially considering the way Kante dominated triple-the-price Paul Pogba last Monday, that Chelsea may have actually got one of the best bargains of the last decade.
Barring a miracle of cosmic proportions, Kante will be adding another league title medal to his Leicester one in the next couple of months. And winning back-to-back titles with different teams is not exactly a regular occurrence.
In fact, the last person to do it – and the only other one in Premier League history – is goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer (although he didn’t play a league game for either team).
The beautiful twist in the tale? Schwarzer won the first of his consecutive titles with Chelsea two seasons ago and the second with Leicester last season.
Is there a pattern forming here…?
When the music stops, grab a manager
We often talk about the merry-go-round upon which every manager in English football seems to ride these days.
And while we all know it is a fact of modern football life, it is not often we have a clear example of just how turbulent the managerial profession is.
Well, here’s one.
Yesterday Derby County and Nottingham Forest clashed at Pride Park. At the helm they both had new managers – County with Gary Rowett in charge and Forest with Mark Warburton.
Although both those gentlemen have been appointed in the last few days, there is nothing particularly unusual about two teams meeting with new leaders in the dugout.
What is unusual, however, is that this is the fifth consecutive time the two clubs have met when, not one, but both teams had a new man in charge.
In January 2015 it was Steve McClaren vs Stuart Pearce, in November 2015 it was Paul Clement vs Dougie Freedman, in March 2016 it was Darren Wassall vs Paul Williams and in December 2016 it was Steve McClaren vs Philippe Montanier. Yesterday it was Rowett vs Warburton.
So that’s nine different managers (McClaren having enjoyed being fired by Derby so much he went back to get fired again) between two clubs in five games over two years.
In that time, Derby also had Nigel Pearson as manager, but he didn’t last long enough to face Forest. While at the City Ground, Gary Brazil had been due to take charge of yesterday’s game but didn’t quite make it before Warburton arrived.
Feeling a bit dizzy yet?
Imagine what it’s like for the managers themselves...