Liverpool V Chelsea Balls: Learning To Hate Mourinho And Love Steven Gerrard, And Vice Versa
IT’S hard work being a football writer for the dead tree press, hitting an opinion to deadline. Take the usually excellent Michael Calvin, writing in the Indy the day before Chelsea won 2-0 at Anfield and upset Liverpool’s Premier League victory parade:
Jose Mourinho, Enemy of Football. The long-standing slur might be excessive and ultimately meaningless, but the status is irresistibly melodramatic. It conjures images of intrigue, a plotter’s face captured for an instant in the beam of a spotlight, shone into shadow.
Calling Mourinho an enemy of football only “might be” excessive. What odds Calvin is not a Chelsea fan? And is Calvin a fan of the Petulant One, who delivered a tactical masterclass at the weekend?
Mourinho is a professional irritant, a polemicist whose scripts are increasingly shallow. There is no nobility in his persecution complex, no redeeming factor in his role in a predictable pantomime.
Isn’t winning a redeeming factor? His Inter Milan were dull, outplayed by Bayern Munich in the Champions’ League final, yet ultimate winners. His Real Madrid were prosaic and lacking in flair. Mourinho is a pouting plonker. But he does know how to win.
And about his second stint at Chelsea… Was the Liverpool game to be cathartic?
Today might just be the first day of the rest of his life.
Neutrals will appreciate the symmetry of the baton being passed to a protégé, Brendan Rodgers, at Liverpool, the club on which Mourinho doted as a boy.
What is this obsession with talking of Liverpool as the neutrals’ friend? No true football fan is neutral about other teams: they are either full of hate or indifference.
Should the Chelsea manager look to his right from the dugout and scan the Anfield directors’ box he will see Kenny Dalglish, a formative hero. The innocence of those days, when a global interest in football reflected the liberalisation of Portuguese society following the so-called Carnation Revolution which ended the Salazar dictatorship, has long since dissipated.
Modern football is a dictatorship in the mode of the of Salazar, scourge of democracy? Portugal’s revolution began on April 25, 1974. Kenny joined Liverpool in 1977. It’s hard to fathom what point Calvin is making, but it seems to be that Mourinho is to football what Salazar was to civil liberties.
The energy Mourinho channels is relentlessly negative. It creates a siege mentality which satisfies a superficial need to rationalise wider unpopularity. Rodgers, by contrast, is a conduit of positivity.
We’re then told that Mourinho is letting his chairman down:
…Liverpool play the sort of intelligent, uninhibited football which captivated Roman Abramovich when he watched the original Ronaldo destroy Manchester United with a Champions’ League hat-trick for Real Madrid in 2003.
Is that the Abramovich who has employed Mourinho not once but twice?
Calvin says Mourinho is an exponent of “fourth-form politics”, a “sarcastic” attacker, a “smirking teenager”, who “cheapens words such as integrity and dignity”.
Jose Mourinho is no enemy of football, but he is his own worst enemy.
After the game, Calvin wrote that Chelsea “reduced football to the lowest common denominator of cynicism and negativity. For some of us, that is simply not worth watching.”
It is all too easy to dislike Mourinho. But if you’re a Chelsea fan, it’s likely that you rather like him.
So, what else did the writers say of the match?
Here’s Paul Hayward in the Daily Telegraph:
Liverpool v Chelsea: Steven Gerrard’s cruel slip ruins Anfield’s romantic notion.
As the stresses multiply romance has a habit of being flipped on its head. No image from this battle between attack and defence could have been crueller than Steven Gerrard miscontrolling the ball and slipping over to allow Demba Ba to race upfield and score the first of Chelsea’s goals.
No. I’m an Arsenal fan. And I found the sight of Gerrard stumbling for the ball and Ba scoring very entertaining. I also liked the statue to David Moyes, the Liverprool fan in the celebration shirt and the jokes at Gerrard’s expense. I’m not neutral. I want to be entertained.
Ian Ladyman tells Daily Mail readers of Steven Gerrard:
“When you play your football on the limits of courage, like he does, though, you always risk the occasional calamity.”
Yeah. It’s courage that made the ball slip beneath his foot and not a lack of concentration. When Jan Vertonghen slipped when playing for Spurs against Chelsea, the Mail called it an act of “folly”. Compare and contrast.
And then in the rush to save Stevie G., the Sun fails to check its facts – or organise an editorial meeting:
Shaun Custis writes:
The travelling Chelsea fans cruelly taunted Gerrard with chants of “he’s done it again”. That was a reference to the own goal he scored in the 2005 Carling Cup final.
Steven Howard notes:
It came just four years after another slip by the Liverpool skipper at Anfield had allowed Didier Drogba to race away and score the first in a 2-0 victory that saw Chelsea take the title in 2010. Chelsea fans didn’t let him forget it, either, as they chanted: “Steven Gerrard, he’s gone and done it again.”
No. It was an own goal.
And that chant wasn’t cruel. It was funny, just as it will be entertaining should Chelsea fail to win the league in the last kick of the season and the likeable Manuel Pelligrini, a man who watches football in the manner of an accountant viewing his new Audi, takes the honours for Manchester City…