Mourn­ful Mour­inho emerges as world-class TV pun­dit

Su­per Sun­day stu­dio is less cheer­ful than a funeral – and all the bet­ter for it, writes Jim White

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Final Whistle -

The for­mer pro­tag­o­nists serv­ing time on the couch in­fu­ri­ate those in work

For much of the af­ter­noon, watch­ing Sky’s Su­per Sun­day this week­end gave the un­set­tling feel­ing that you had tuned in to the wrong pro­gramme. View­ing three scary blokes shak­ing their heads in dis­ap­point­ment, their jaws set, their gaze cold, was un­can­nily like watch­ing the scene in Peaky Blin­ders as Tommy and Arthur are in­ter­ro­gat­ing the bar­man at the Shelby Arms, their con­ver­sa­tion in­fused with qui­etly de­liv­ered dis­may at his treach­er­ous be­hav­iour, just be­fore they put a bul­let through his throat.

The idea of a panel of re­luc­tant as­sas­sins is al­most as old as tele­vi­sion foot­ball coverage it­self. It be­gan in the Sev­en­ties with Brian Clough and Derek Dougan, bloomed in Ire­land in the Eight­ies as Ea­mon Dun­phy ap­peared to be ad­dress­ing a funeral even when his side had just won a game and has now, this sea­son, reached its apex on Sky.

The gath­er­ing to­gether of the sigh­ing su­per group of Graeme Souness, Roy Keane and Jose Mour­inho, a trio who could make the lyrics of Danc­ing Queen sound like they were crafted by Leonard Co­hen, sug­gests we have reached peak mis­er­abil­ism.

Watch­ing them as­sess a match is rem­i­nis­cent of go­ing into the head­mas­ter’s of­fice to be told that you have let down the school, you have let down your par­ents but, above all, you have let down your­self.

And the most dis­ap­pointed – and, thus, the most watch­able – of the three is Mour­inho. What a bril­liant pun­dit he is prov­ing to be. His read­ing of Manch­ester United’s woe­ful per­for­mance at West Ham was quite su­perb: pre­cise, de­tailed and de­liv­ered with a tone of wea­ried regret. So good was it, you won­dered what might have hap­pened had he been al­lowed to take con­trol of the side. Surely it would not have been like this un­der his care­ful, con­sid­ered di­rec­tion. Oh, hang on a minute, the game he was talk­ing about was al­most an ex­act re­run of last sea­son’s meek sur­ren­der in east Lon­don when the man in the United dugout was Jose Mour­inho.

That is the thing about pun­ditry: in the stu­dio, re­al­ity does not im­pinge. No won­der it is the for­mer pro­tag­o­nists now serv­ing time on the couch who so in­fu­ri­ate those in work. For man­agers, it ap­pears that what is writ­ten in the news­pa­per is of so lit­tle con­se­quence as to be be­neath con­tempt, but what an an­a­lyst says can bur­row un­der the skin.

Jur­gen Klopp, for in­stance, only the other day spent much of his press briefing sar­cas­ti­cally dis­miss­ing the cri­tique of a for­mer star at An­field.

“If only we could all be em­ployed as pun­dits,” the Liver­pool man­ager sneered. “Eas­i­est job in the world.”

In­deed, when he was still pac­ing the tech­ni­cal area, Mour­inho him­self was in­vari­ably driven to re­spond to what was said about him by for­mer pros. Af­ter Paul Sc­holes de­liv­ered a broadside on BT Sport fol­low­ing that de­feat at the Lon­don Sta­dium last sea­son, he re­fused to re­sist a drive-by re­tal­i­a­tion, sug­gest­ing he could not wait to see how the ginger great fared as a man­ager. And, in truth, he had a point: Sc­holes was back on the pun­ditry cir­cuit less than a month af­ter tak­ing his first steps into man­age­ment.

With every sigh, the gap be­tween the ex-pros in the stu­dio and those who remain in proper em­ploy­ment grows wider. It is now im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine any chair­man will call up Souness or Keane to come in and sort out their club. Their days of fail­ure are be­hind them. Now they can de­mon­strate their man­age­rial ge­nius purely in the ab­stract.

And there is a sense with Mour­inho that his very ex­cel­lence as a pun­dit – and the in­evitable in­creased ex­po­sure that will bring – will slow up his chances of a re­turn to the job at which he once ex­celled.

If he har­bours am­bi­tion to get back into the fray, he must hope the ru­mours of Zine­dine Zi­dane’s im­mi­nent exit at the Bern­abeu are ac­cu­rate. Be­cause the longer he stays in the stu­dio, pro­vid­ing with­er­ing put-downs of his suc­ces­sors, the less likely it is that he will ever re­turn. Which is good news for us.

Frankly, he is so good he could make Craw­ley against Stoke in the Carabao Cup the must-see tele­vi­sion ap­point­ment of the week.

Out­spo­ken: Jose Mour­inho’s ex­cel­lence as a pun­dit could slow his re­turn to the job at which he once ex­celled

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.