Why does the present predicament of Jose Mourinho remind me of the latter days of Alf Ramsey, totally different characters though they may be.
After his years of success at Chelsea, the sudden and abysmal collapse this season suggests that whether or not he has – in the vernacular – lost the dressing room, he has certainly lost his way.
Yet such things, as we long ago saw in the case of Alf Ramsey, can all happen at once. In June 1966 Ramsey was the monarch of all he surveyed. There may have been critics of his so-called ‘Wingless Wonders’ in the World Cup, but England had won it, and it was a tearfully emotional Nobby Stiles at the end of the final who told Alf that it was all down to him.
The 1970 World Cup in Mexico didn’t go as well. True, the sudden and suspicious loss of seemingly food poisoned Gordon Banks wrought havoc on England’s defence, betrayed by the fallible goalkeeping of poor Peter Bonetti. But Alf himself surely took some of the blame for his team’s defeat by West Germany in that hot noon quarter-final at Leon, by failing to substitute his exhausted full-backs Keith Newton and Terry Cooper, while palpably pulling off the crucial Bobby Charlton.
But it was when the quarter-finals of the European Championships came around in 1972 that it grew all too clear that Ramsey had lost the plot. Against West Germany at Wembley he deployed no ball winner in midfield, enabling Guntar Netzer to run the game commandingly – the Germans winning at a canter.
So for the second leg in Berlin, there was a two-goal deficit to overhaul and Alf didn’t even bother to try. Instead he put out a team of destructive hard men and got the meaningless 0-0 draw for which he had obviously planned.
He would last in office for another two years but his grasp had gone, and when he took over at Birmingham City, it grew clearer still.
So are we witnessing the abrupt and possibly irreversible decline of Mourinho? His players, so many stars among them, seem no longer to be responding to his demands. And looking at the photo taken after the embarrassing defeat by Liverpool, on the pitch where he stands in a line of half a dozen including a fitness coach and no fewer than four assistant coaches, you wonder why he needs them all, and how much help they have been to him in this season’s debacle.
Meanwhile, he and Chelsea are being pursued on the grounds of constructive dismissal by the former club doctor, Dr Eva Carneiro, who is demanding personal damages from Mourinho himself. He is accused of being central to the club’s decision to divest her of her first team role.
We know of course that she and Jon Fearn, the physiotherapist, raced on to the field in the last throes of the game against Swansea. Though some recent coverage of the incident fails to mention the fact that the pair had no alternative but to run on to the field to treat Eden Hazard, having been called on by the referee.
Mourinho had no right to call them “impulsive and naïve,” and the club should surely and publicly have said so. It was a piece of illogical arrogance, but perhaps all too indicative of his present state of mind.