Jose Failed To Prepare, So Prepare To Fail! Stan Speaks…
I thought I’d use this week’s column to give some insight into the dressing room mentality at clubs, and how fragile it can be, and how quickly the happy, smiling footballer can become a one man excuse-making machine of epic proportions.
I read other pundits and analysts and they are roundly seen as the “lore” on dressing room behaviour – players and managers despite some only having played for one man during their careers – so after playing for seven top flight clubs in England, and as many managers and styles I think it’s fair to say i have an idea of what I’m talking about.
Let’s start with Jose though if I may, and the fundamental problems he has heaped on the English champions this season.
The notion of giving players an extra couple of weeks rest in summer who had worked tirelessly to regain the title last season was, in theory, a noble and sensible gesture from Jose Mourinho, but also a huge calculated gamble, designed to help players avoid the cited, lethargic end of season that Chelsea had last term. The problem is football at the top level in 2015 is only about today and tomorrow, about the result, so how on earth Jose can plan eight months ahead was a high risk, cocky strategy which has backfired spectacularly.
Players in the dressing room will have been sounded out at the end of last season as to their fatigue levels, and they would have nodded enthusiastically as the gaffer told them that after a monumental campaign they were going to get extra summer time to rest and play.
The only problem is, English football is the only league in the world where being mentally and physically ready, 100% motivated and ready to go is an absolute given, a rite of passage, an expectation, a must, a need, and Jose, the self-proclaimed Special One, felt he was so special that he could rip up 100 plus years of team preparation lore, and go into a season on 16, yes 16 training sessions.
This is simply woeful, and where Jose needs to take full responsibility rather than giving waffling seven minute television answers blaming anyone but himself.
This then kicks into the players and their role. Like i said, I’ve played with many players at many clubs, and many managers.
Players will listen to the man on the moon for their tactical advice as long as their methods work for the individual player, and as a consequence, the collective.
So in Jose Mourinho, a man with a proven track record, the players fell for the “let’s have an extended holiday” mantra, hook line and sinker, and that is where players need to take responsibility.
My old Forest skipper Stuart Pearce, my former team mates John Barnes and Neil Lennon, and Gareth Southgate who I played with at Villa and Palace were all senior internationals, trophy winners and latterly managers. All of them, at three different clubs questioned the manager and coaching staff openly, in front of players when given an extra day or two off during a week, asking “ is this the right thing to do, should we maintain momentum rather than having that extra day off?”. Chelsea players, drunk on winning the title at a canter didn’t question Jose on the extra two weeks off, trust me they didn’t, because if they did, we’d have read it in our red tops by now. They loved the idea, who wouldn’t, an extra couple of weeks off, reward for a hard season, but the most surprising thing for me was the lack of a Terry or Ivanovic making representation to the manager, and simply saying “Gaffer, we’re cutting this very, very tight”, and that’s where senior players need to take their full responsibility for allowing themselves to go into a season unprepared.
So when the season starts, where does this leave manager and players?
Answer? Unfit, unprepared, not sharp and going into a title defence as THE scalp everyone wants to beat, leaving little margin for error, and the potential for the odd defeat, the odd bump in the road at the start of the season to turn into a full blown disaster, which I believe has still yet to bottom out.
In the dressing room, those players who don’t believe in collective responsibility will already be bitching about the gaffer, how crazy it was to not have a full pre-season, how out of order he was with Eva, how angry and unfocused he seems. That’s not unusual, just the selfish beast that is the professional footballer.
Forget team players, they are freelance individuals who smell blood and know when to smile the smile and when to stab the wounded gaffer in the back.
In the manager’s office, Jose will know full well that Fergie – a man he called gaffer – would in reality never have left the great Man United teams or players unprepared for a title defence, and he would also know that the Fergie’s teams had the individual characters – the repeat winners Fergie had wouldn’t have allowed it either! Can you really imagine Gary Neville, Roy Keane , Bruce, Pallister, Irwin and the rest being happy only having 16 sessions before starting a season? They would have seen it as a professional insult rather than a gift after the previous title winning season. And that’s why Man City and Chelsea and maybe modern Premier league champions will never emulate the back to back to back triumphs of years gone by of United or Liverpool because after one triumph, they’ve been there, seen it and done it!
Ronnie Moran, the great Liverpool coach who presided over the Reds’ dominance of the 70s and 80s used to do something which I found telling when i was told by the likes of John Barnes.
“After a title win, he’d come into the dressing room with a carrier bag full of title winners medals, open it up in the middle of the dressing room, chuck them all on the floor and say “there you go, grab one, means fuck all now, let’s do it again next season”
I humbly suggest that if Jose wanted the dynasty he so craves, winning two, three or even four titles in a row, he and his players need to have more Ronnie Moran and less holiday extensions in the coming seasons.