It’s not easy being special. Not when being special has become an act. Not when it is just a line you use in a TV advert for a bookmaker. Not when it has become a fond remembrance and nothing more. Not when it’s part of the past rather than part of the present. Not when you’re on the outside, looking in.
Not when your team blows a 2-0 first-leg lead against Dinamo Zagreb and gets knocked out of the Europa League by a club from a league ranked 19th in Europe. Not when your best chance of sneaking back into the Champions League has gone up in smoke.
Not when your captain says the performance in Croatia was ‘a disgrace’. Not when Hugo Lloris says ‘the team is a reflection of what is going on at the club’. Not when your team plays with a fatal mixture of complacency and timidity that gets you eliminated from the competition that was your best opportunity of silverware.
It’s not easy being special for Jose Mourinho, not when being special has become an act
The former ‘Special One’ is now being left behind by Pep Guardiola (L) and Jurgen Klopp (R)
Tottenha blew a 2-0 first-leg lead against Dinamo Zagreb and got knocked out of Europe
It’s not easy being special. Not when you’re reduced to talking up the idea of winning the Carabao Cup as a milestone achievement. Not when you once won Champions Leagues and domestic titles. Not when you reached the point some time ago where you are so desperate to shore up your reputation that you count the Community Shield as a major trophy.
Not when you succeed a manager at Tottenham who took your team to a Champions League final and second place in the Premier League and you take them backwards. So far backwards that your team are eighth in the league and that when you played the north London derby last Sunday, you made Arsenal look like world-beaters.
Not when your reserve goalkeeper reacts to your humiliation in Croatia by posting ‘Job done’ on Instagram, then blaming his social media team, whoever they are. Not when that post goes viral because it seems to capture the chaos and haplessness of the situation you are presiding over. Not when it adds to a feeling you are on the verge of losing control of the dressing room.
Not when you can no longer back up your haughtiness with deeds. Not when you boast about how your training methods are ‘second to nobody in the world’ and then you turn a team who were progressive and exciting into a side who play safe, play deep and knock it long to Harry Kane and Son Heung-min.
His team now look to play safe, play deep and knock it long to star man Harry Kane (above)
Mourinho can’t get a tune out of his Tottenham team, including players like Gareth Bale
It’s not easy being special. Not when you can’t get a tune out of a football team any more. Not when they seem to have stopped responding to you. Not when you’ve got one of the best strikers in the world in your side and most of the time you’re playing the kind of sterile football that must be making him think he wants to get away.
Not when your defensive brand of football doesn’t even come with the consolation that it yields results any more. Not when you’ve been left behind by managers such as Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Brendan Rodgers and Thomas Tuchel. Not when someone like Julian Nagelsmann is looking like a much better alternative to you.
Not when impressionable chairmen like Daniel Levy hire you because they are seduced by your celebrity and then slowly start to realise exactly what they have let themselves in for. Not when they realise the manager for whom they paid a king’s ransom is a dinosaur dressed in a designer coat.
It’s not easy being special. Not when you are the boss’s vanity project and the vanity project goes wrong. Not when you were hired to raise Tottenham’s profile and the best you can do is get them to the Carabao Cup final. Not when you become the star of a reality show called All or Nothing and the answer’s nothing.
Captain Hugo Lloris said ‘the team is a reflection of what is going on at the club’ after the loss
Not when old habits die hard and you have a little dig at Arsenal by saying you look up, not down. And then you realise that when you look up, you’re so far down that the view’s restricted. You don’t just see teams like Manchester City and Liverpool when you look up. You see West Ham and Leicester and Everton. And Dinamo Zagreb, too.
Not when you start talking about your Spurs players in a strangely detached way as if their failings are nothing to do with you. Not when you criticise their attitude without questioning why you are so powerless to change it. Not when managers such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola seem to have an affinity with modern players but you often talk about your stars with scorn and disdain.
It’s not easy being special. Not when you think back to when you really were special. Not when you know what it was like to be a king of the world, winning the big prizes with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. Not when you must know, deep down, that the game has started to pass you by.
Joe Hart reacted to the humiliation in Croatia by posting ‘Job done’ on Instagram
Not when you know you were great once. Not when you know you’ll still go down as one of the best managers of all time because of everything you achieved earlier in your career. Not when those heady days are slipping further out of your grasp. Not when you know so many people love you, respect you and worship you and are still looking for a reason to lionise you and you’re finding it harder and harder to provide them with one.
That is not easy. Not when all you’ve got to shoot at is the Carabao Cup and an outside chance of the top four. Not when the thing that made you great has fled. Not when you can still talk the talk but you can’t walk the walk.
Not when you must be starting to wonder how difficult it is going to be to negotiate a pay-off with Daniel Levy. Not when you must be thinking your next stop is probably China. At least that way, you might get another chance to try to belittle something Rafa Benitez did.
It’s not easy being special. Not when scorched earth is what you leave behind at a club. Not when the post-Dinamo implosion has got all the hallmarks of how it ends between you and a club. Not when, with every new club where it plays out like this, where you arrive to a fanfare and depart to disillusion, where your reputation exceeds reality, it is getting harder and harder for you to argue that you are special any more.
You start to wonder how difficult it is going to be to negotiate a pay-off with Daniel Levy
Crewe: A sad, cynical excuse for a club
In the wake of the publication of the Sheldon Report into sexual abuse in football last week, the behaviour of Crewe Alexandra has been horribly unedifying and really rather sinister.
Just as it has been for much of the last four years since their former player, Andy Woodward, came forward to talk about the abuse he and others suffered at the hands of former Crewe youth coach and serial paedophile, Barry Bennell.
The FA confirmed last week that Crewe’s long-serving former manager Dario Gradi had been banned from football since 2016 ‘for safeguarding reasons’. Gradi was quoted in the Sheldon Report, when discussing an incident at Chelsea, as saying that he did not consider ‘a person putting their hands down another’s trousers to be an assault’.
Crewe’s long-serving former manager Dario Gradi has been banned from football since 2016
Crewe had never apologised to any of the victims abused by Bennell when they were at the club until last week. When the apology did come, it was a non-apology apology, carefully worded and making saying sorry conditional by adding ‘if there were in fact any warning signs that ought to have led the club to do more’.
Graceless, begrudging and insensitive at best, it got worse when claims emerged on Saturday that the club had tried to suppress a heartfelt apology from current manager, David Artell. Crewe’s press officer, Rob Wilson, told The Times: ‘The board were uncomfortable with the thing about the “sorry” thing and that was the way it was.’
What a sad, cynical excuse for a football club.
The club had tried to suppress a heartfelt apology from current manager, David Artell
Legend of Lorimer will never die
I loved watching Peter Lorimer when I was a kid. He was my favourite Leeds United player.
This legend grew up around him that he had the hardest shot in football and, in my mind’s eye, I see him taking unfeasibly long run-ups to free-kicks from unfeasibly long distances from goal.
I loved the drama of that. I loved how cleanly and powerfully he could strike a ball. His death this weekend was a sad moment for those who remember him as a larger-than-life part of their childhood.
I loved watching Peter Lorimer when I was a kid, he was my favourite Leeds United player