Adam's moment of magic can't halt Jose's 'countdown'
Chelsea 2 Stoke City 1
Published 06/04/2015 | 02:30
Jose Mourinho refers to this stage of the season as the "countdown".
As he stalks from touchline to press conference to touchline, you can almost see him notching off the games in his mind.
"We need five victories and one draw," he announced after this win over Stoke, leaving nobody in any doubt that, like the second hand on one of his lavishly expensive watches, the clock is ticking inexorably towards his third Premier League title.
The best Mourinho teams exude certitude from every pore. It is why no Mourinho side that has been top of the league in December or later has ever lost the title. Which is a frankly ridiculous feat.
By comparison, Alex Ferguson lost the title seven times from leading positions.
It is also why, despite the occasional sign of rust and fatigue, Mourinho has resisted the temptation to tinker with his first XI.
Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar have all had mixed reviews since the turn of the year, but Mourinho has persisted with them all, convinced that this is a time for continuity.
"I always think stability is very important in a team and it's not in April that you are going to make important changes in the team," he said.
"April is a moment of stability, and obviously I keep faith in the people that I trust from the beginning of the season.
"We believe in ourselves. We have strong mentalities. We are ready to play, we are ready to fight, to suffer together."
Mourinho's words offered a glimpse into what makes his teams such irrepressible front-runners. Consistency is the byword, and it is an ethos that filters through the entire squad.
"It's a cliche, but it's about ticking a box, getting three points and moving on," said captain John Terry.
But consistency, while impressive, is only one facet of the game.
Sometimes the true joy of football is found in inconsistency, and there are few players more gleefully quixotic than Charlie Adam.
Adam (right) scored an outrageous 65-yard equaliser on Saturday - the sort of shot that most players would scarcely consider, let alone attempt, let alone pull off.
Adam is not a box-ticker or a countdowner. He does not exude certitude from every pore. He can be maddeningly unreliable and utterly brilliant, often in the same game, sometimes even in the same minute. He will not win many trophies, but every so often he will do something like this.
Tapping into the thought process of a player like Adam is an intriguing exercise.
Here he is recounting the goal: "So I've seen an opening. I've seen the goalie off his line. And I thought: why not do it at a place like Chelsea? Listen, it doesn't matter where it is, I'll try it."
So how often does Adam weigh up a shot like that? "Every time," he answered. "You always have a look if you've got the ability to try it. The biggest thing is you've got to have the character to take the disappointment if it doesn't come off. "
Sports psychologists identify two broad categories of athlete: those motivated by process and those motivated by outcome.
Someone like Mourinho takes the greatest satisfaction from completing a task to the best of his ability. Set goal; achieve goal; on to the next goal. It is why he collects trophies like cornflake box tops.
People like Adam, by contrast, are driven by acclaim, eclat, the reaction of others.
He sees Thibaut Courtois off his line and he sees his name in lights: YouTube fame, endless replays on Match of the Day, the disbelieving faces of his team-mates.
If Mourinho pursues success, Adam pursues glory.
There was a mildly touching moment in the Stamford Bridge tunnel after this game, when Mourinho and Adam met to congratulate each other on a job well done.
Adam (left)congratulated Mourinho's side on their win.
"We won the game," Mourinho said, "but you scored the goal of the season."
And in that second, their worlds seemed to collapse into one: the builder and the dreamer, the drum beat and the cymbal crash, football's head and football's heart, expressed in one effortlessly mundane sentence.(© Daily Telegraph, London)