May 26, 2004



Watching the Champions League Final, it stuck me once again that Jose Mourinho is the most Clough-like manager since the great man himself. It's not only his renowned abrasion and strong will; it's his tactical methods. The discipline and tenacity of Porto's defence tonight, and their capacity for quick, incisive breaks, recalled Clough's Forest teams at their best.

(Of course, the sultry Mourinho is a good deal more dapper and handsome than the raddled Clough ever was.)

All of which is why I predict that, if Mourinho takes on the Chelsea job, it will be a disaster akin to Clough's legendarily ill-starred and brief tenure at Leeds. Like Clough, Mourinho is a master of nurturing young talent and he has made an art out of reconditioning the careers of veterans who, so far as anyone else was concerned, were washed up. Also like Clough, he has limited experience of dealing with pampered playboys accustomed to success. Motivating raw young recruits and those enjoying an improbable Indian Summer in their career is one thing; moulding a disparate group of petulant superstars into a team is another entirely.

Clough was successful at Forest because he was able to dominate the club at every level (much in the way that Ferguson used to be able to preside over United - recent events indicate that this dynasty may be crumbling). As became clear in his press conference yesterday, Mourinho will find himself at odds with everything Roman Abramovich stands for: the (discredited) Real philosophy of headhunting the best-regarded and most expensive players from around the world and then worrying about team-building. Mourinho will simply not be able to rebuild Chelsea in his own image. Much better, if he wants to do that, to go to Liverpool, where he will retain control of transfers, where the biggest players have a homeliness lacking in Chelsea's galaticos and where the fans are hungry for success of any kind.

Posted by mark at May 26, 2004 10:34 PM | TrackBack

Martin O'Neill at Celtic I think is probably comparable to Clough, and for obvious reasons must have learnt a lot from him. O'Neill has total control of Celtic, he psychologically dominates the whole club. O'Neill also specialises in making average players into good ones (Lennon: twice, Heskey, Thompson, Sutton) and good ones great (Henke Larsson, maybe even Petrov). Great admirer as I am of O'Neills Celtic, you wouldnt exactly call them Total Football: like Porto they are organised, well-drilled and laced with the odd skilful player. You'll remember how close last years UEFA cup final was between the two.
I agree: if Mourihno has sense he'll go to Liverpool where he'll be given more time for one thing. But he seems a rather vain man, I suspect he'll think he can tame Chelski...

Posted by: Baal's thyroid gland at May 27, 2004 12:00 AM

OTM about Sutton and Thompson Baal.

Mark, you may want to know i once saw a clearly sozzled Cloughie (this mid-Saturday afternoon) come onto the pitch at Burton Albion (Nigel's manor, of course) to collect some sort of trophy.

the home support were clearly used to it, but us travelling fans were besides ourselves.

even from 180 yds. away his face is tangibly beetroot.
did anyone read what the Celtic chairman said about if Utd wanted to poach O'Neill, about him 'getting the summons' from O/T, and Mr Bhoy said 'who do they think we are, we're not some little tinpot outfit.'

Posted by: scott at May 27, 2004 12:08 AM

..I did...and it's fair comment. The Scottish 'league' is of course a rather sad joke, and Scottish football itself is dying slowly on its arse, but as an institution, and even more importantly as a cultural symbol, Celtic FC is a mighty thing.
I still don't understand why a British Premier League is such a no-no. Surely the big clubs would want to play at 60,000 seater stadia like Parkhead?

Posted by: Baal's ear at May 27, 2004 12:14 AM

Yeh, the O'Neil comparison is just right; I have the same reservations about him for the United job for exactly the same reasons as I have doubts about Mourinho at Chelsea. (Though, that said, NOW might be a good time for him to take over Utd and build them up again).

Apparently the Liverpool board don't like O'Neil; I think Parry felt out with him when Houllier felt that O'Neill wasn't doing enough to distance himself from speculation that he would be taking over at Anfield. Also, they are worried about his negative tactics (though as Martin Samuel said in The Times yesterday, they are like Houllier, but with more wins. LOL!) Nice three page piece on 25th anniversary of Forest's first European cup win in the Times early this week btw.

Posted by: mark k-p at May 27, 2004 12:19 AM

so that's why you prefer the Times!

Baal and i clearly agree about the status of the SPL. Old Firms fans would be bankrupt though, wouldn't they (poor sods), following their lads round a British Premiership?

Posted by: scott at May 27, 2004 12:26 AM

Celtic of course being the first British club to win the European cup....

Porto's domination of Portugal actually similar to Celtic's domination of the SPL....

It's Celtic's adventures in Europe that have guaranteed that O'Neill's rep is based on more than the 'shooting fish in a barrel' achievement of winning the SPL...

Posted by: mark k-p at May 27, 2004 12:27 AM

yeah, when Rangers were similarly domineering as i was going through school (always the time us south-of-the-borderers decide on yr Old Firm 'allegiances', i find, hence me and all my mates are Celtic 'fans', whereas - f'r instance - my 12 yr old cousin is rather partial to the Gers), they still pished it on the continent. i recall running Marseille close a few games but that was about it... least O'Neill has delivered something to the Parkhead faithful.

Posted by: scott at May 27, 2004 12:30 AM

I think you give the current Celtic team too much credit. They are staggeringly average, and it is only the absolute poverty of Scottish football that makes their achievements look even remotely special. For evidence of this, see the two legs of their UEFA cup Q.F against Villareal. Put to the sword (as they should really have been by Barcelona the round before if a single Barca player had turned up for either night).

Larsson will never be a great striker to me, as he never proved himself playing in a top league.

Posted by: Philip at May 27, 2004 06:48 PM

ah go easy mate, Baal's a big Celtic fan...

...nah seriously i do actually agree with you.

you've also emboldened me to come out with my own view on a putative British Premiership, which is that it would be a nonsense. i don't really bother one way or the other, but i kinda think old national categories are the way to keep footy.

Posted by: scott at May 27, 2004 06:54 PM

Larsson scored goals wherever he has played: Holland, Scotland - yes two poor leagues (he won the Golden Boot a coupla seasons ago you may remember). But he also scored regularly in Celtic's Champions League and UEFA cup runs (er... they reached the final last year beating Liverpool, Blackburn, Celta Vigo, Boavista and Stuttgart along the way amongst others... Barcelona, Juventus, and other tinpot clubs have also been disposed of in Europe) and also he scores regularly for Sweden, such as when they finished 3rd two World Cups ago.
The SPL *is* a joke, no dispute. However Henke scored against Barcelona and Brechin, a minor pub team like R*ng*rs and also the now-European Champions Porto...he was a top class striker.

Posted by: Uhuru Mazda at May 27, 2004 10:42 PM

i don't wanna get bogged down in semantics but disposing of the likes of Blackburn and Boavista was no great shakes (and as a manc i shouldn't be allowed to comment on the merits or otherwise of LFC, in case a biased-against tone creeps in and totally invalidates me).

the as-noted despatch of a largely rudderless Barca was not as impressive as it could have been (besides, although they - granted - finished strongly this year in La Liga, Barca had a bloody awful patch anyway for a long time last season).

personally i agree w' Philip (if not quite that strongly, mebbe) about the team but not necessarily Larsson: you can't ignore his scoring record, even though his goals have come in weaker leagues (though god the SPL is far shitter than the Erendivisie so that's a bit of a harsh analogy to the Dutch innit?).

people who disagree with Phil can say it's all conjecture on his part, but he'll presumably only be convinced if Larsson can do the business in his final years in the rumoured Spanish waters (he'll be 33 as the new season dawns); it would be a shame if he goes back to Sweden on a free or something. otherwise, we'll just never know. and that's the point. maybe it's harsh of a 'cynic' like Phil to say how'd we never know but that's also the point, he didn't do it. he turned down Utd once though didn't he.

scoring regularly for your national team is not instant proof of greatness either, i will say. look at Toto Schillaci f'r chrissakes: Golden Boot at Italia '90, then fizzld out, but by the time he was the age Henke is now, he was plying his trade in the J-League and getting worked up about a possible move to Derby.

i don't want to sound like a combative tosser (oh but i do! i know that...), and i realise the youth are lauding him as the greatest ever at Parkhead and all that jazz, but, hmm, i dunno... ...very, very good deffo, absolute top-flight (some media have been saying anyways), dunner.
Rangers are tinpot, that's right.

Posted by: scott at May 27, 2004 11:40 PM

Maybe we are using the term 'great' in a different sense. I don't just mean good, or even very good. I don't believe anyone can make a claim to being a great player (i.e one worth remembering years down the line) unless they have played successfully at the very highest level, and frankly, Scottish and Dutch football don't count. What does Larsson have to show for his career? I'm not sure what he won in Holland, but he has several Scottish league medals, and several Scottish cups and a UEFA cup losers medal. Thats not the haul of a 'great' player. I suppose this does invite the question though of who really does qualify as a current 'great'?

Posted by: Philip at May 28, 2004 03:30 PM

now that is a VERY interesting question.

shall we start with the Prem?

hmm, hats in the ring...;-)

i mean the last indisputably legendary players that have gone into history around the world were Maradona and Platini right.

does Stoichkov yet qualify (the footballing canon, i like it)?
Ronaldo or other Brazilians in there yet, Henry? Zidane will come in in years to come?

good pt.

Posted by: scott at May 28, 2004 05:25 PM

Oh I certainly think Zidane will merit inclusion (though whether he is as a recent UEFA list decreed, the greatest ever European player is open to a lot of debate). Aside from him talent, which is beyond sumptuous (has there ever been a better exponent of the 360 turn?), he has also produced in the most important games of his life. Two goals in a world cup final. One of the best volleys I've ever seen, with his 'wrong' foot in the champions league final.

Ronaldinho might just turn out to be better than him though... of course, he has a lot yet to prove, but in two consecutive games at the end of the season (Real Madrid and Espanyol) he was incredible. I watched those games with a grin on my face, and now I am pretty much convinced that he is a footballing genius.

Posted by: Philip at May 28, 2004 05:57 PM

'from him'... oh dear oh dear, I really should proof read before I press 'post'... please insert corrections as necessary to make sense of my ramblings.

Posted by: Philip at May 28, 2004 05:59 PM

your joyous ramblings do indeed come as eloquently powerful corrective to people blathering about how truly exceptional &c. (a lot of a recent ILE thread about him being 'classic or classic' for example was seemingly conducted by one-eyed Celtic fans...) Larsson is though, and that's to be applauded.

Posted by: scott at May 28, 2004 06:51 PM

Larsson's no great, measured by those standards; hanging out in the SPL is what means we've got to suspend judgement on quite how good O'Neill is as a coach too. He must know that....

Zidane greatest European player? I think he's got a good case actually. Only Platini (no world cup winner's medal) and Cryuff (ditto) can compete surely...

Posted by: mark k-p at May 28, 2004 08:00 PM

oooh you've stirred up a hornet's nest there (writes this Zidane fan)!

Posted by: scott at May 28, 2004 08:58 PM

If you guys claim to know so much about Mourinho's inability to lead Chelsea to the top, why is Chelsea currently there?

Posted by: antonio at January 12, 2005 03:39 AM