Platinum One Chief Executive Fintan Drury discusses Jose Mourinho’s sacking…
The most unedifying element of Jose Mourinho’s departure from Stamford Bridge after a calamitous few months, was the image of him being driven away from the club with the hood of his jacket pulled over his face in an attempt to avoid recognition. The tactic, deployed by suspected criminals arriving to and from court, it represented the nadir in the career, to date, of a man who has courted the media as successfully as he has managed teams over the last two decades. Mourinho’s decision to return to Chelsea was always high risk. At the time I said that the old adage about “never going back” would be tested because the weight of expectation was enormous and because it appeared that his inability to curb a debilitating ego could prove too much of a burden at the club where his reputation as the ‘Special One’ had been cemented. No one could have predicted the circumstances in which all of this would be borne out, particularly after the success of last season and the imperious manner in which Chelsea had reclaimed the FAPL title. What has happened represents, by any measure, the most spectacular collapse of a managerial career and, for now at least, reputation, in the history of the modern game in Britain.
It is hard not to conclude that part of the problem lies deeper within the club however and perhaps within the British game as a whole. Mourinho is clearly a brilliant coach, wonderfully adept tactically both in preparing his team – not that unusual among top managers – and on the sideline in watching events unfold and making decisions. There can be no doubt too that when things are good and work is a source of well being for him he is a brilliant motivator of men and can provide an almost paternal influence on hardened pros. None of us, whatever we work at and no matter our role and the scale of our responsibilities, can motivate others when our own sense of self is low or when we feel under pressure professionally and Mourinho appears to have been unable to prevent his own slide into sullenness infecting his squad over recent months. Worse, as his power eked away he made his complaints public and, in the last few days, offered up his own case for his dismissal live on television after the match with Leicester.
What is interesting is how this all played out over the last few months with greater momentum as the weeks went by and yet there was no sense of anyone within the club taking control. As the club’s value was decreasing no one corporately appeared to be taking a lead, either internally or certainly externally, attempting at least to establish some sense of stability. It is fascinating how standard it has become for club owners to allow their clubs to be represented by the personalities of their managers. It is one thing to allow a new manager influence the style of play but surely it should be another thing altogether to allow the manager of the 1st team to be, de facto, the only public face of the club. Of course, Manchester United reflected Alex Ferguson but David Gill as CEO provided balance. Wenger is more corporate than Mourinho but still Ivan Gazidis has a role which includes sharing guardianship of the club’s long term interests with the manager. In the Championship, Derby County has seen managerial movement with high profile “casualties”, Clough and McClaren in recent seasons but throughout, Sam Rush, as CEO, has been central to protection of the brand and to the continuity – now with Paul Clement – of the club’s ambitions. Ditto, if somewhat differently, Charlton FC and it’s Belgian owners through its excellent focus on youth development and the approach of CEO, Katrien Meire. The Liverpool glory days may have been due to a series of exceptional managers but behind and alongside them was Peter Robinson an administrator par excellence in the English game.
So, with the sad exit of Mourinho, the “second coming” has proven to be not just a humiliating failure for him that last year’s success will not banish, but it has also set the club back by the almost certain loss of a place at the Champions League table next season and longer term consequences that cannot, at this point, be foreseen. One of the lessons should be the need to balance the role and status of the manager – no matter how big his standing in the game – with that of an identifiable (to the fan base at least) corporate figure who looks at the club’s needs through a wider and longer lens than the manager, focused on the immediate terms as he must be, can or should be expected to do. Then, perhaps, in the event of failure it would at least not lead to the dismissed “gaffer” being whisked away from the club a hooded and drawn figure in a speeding chauffeur driven car.