Friday 23 August 2019

Chelsea circle the wagons in support of Mourinho

Chelsea technical director Michael Emelano is keeping faith in Jose Mourinho
Chelsea technical director Michael Emelano is keeping faith in Jose Mourinho

Sam Wallace

Michael Emelano, one of Roman Abramovich's closest aides, says the club are confident that Jose Mourinho, who has "delivered so much", can turn around their disastrous Premier League season, in which the defending champions have dropped to 16th place.

Emenalo, speaking publicly for the first time since he joined Chelsea in 2007, claimed that the decision to back Mourinho has been taken right at the top - by the club's Russian owner.

Emenalo has made the decision to speak on behalf of the club because of a mood at Chelsea that their manager has been left to fight too many battles on his own.

Mourinho served a one-match stadium ban in the club's last league game, a 1-0 defeat by Stoke City. This season alone he has been charged twice by the English FA over disciplinary issues related to referees, and Emenalo says that it is important to both the club and Abramovich that Chelsea are represented "with a certain level of responsibility".

Emenalo, 50, is a former Nigeria international who was brought in by then manager Avram Grant.

Promoted to technical director in 2011, he has helped oversee the club's recruitment strategy at academy and first-team level. He is regarded, along with director Marina Granovskaia, as one of two individuals with the closest links to the owner.

After defeat at home by Southampton last month, and partly at the prompting of Mourinho, Chelsea issued a statement to say the manager had the club's "full support".

Since then the team have lost three league games, winning just once. They face Norwich City tomorrow.

"When it comes to decisions, we feel confident we have an owner who has a very good track record, who is astute at making decisions of this kind at the right time to get us to where we want to be," Emenalo says.

"We have never put ourselves in a position where we second-guess him. Part of the reasons he can make those decisions and be successful is because he has the information that a lot of people don't.

"He has the whole picture of what is happening at the club, not just from certain individuals but every sector of the club. When he needs to make a decision, he can make it.

"Right now, the statement from the owner and from the board comes from a belief that we are in a position to trust a manager who has delivered so much.

"We are in a position to trust a group of players who have delivered in the last couple of seasons. We are in a position to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and therein lies our confidence that we can get out of the situation."

Emelano then offered an insight into one of English football's most secretive, and wealthiest, club owners.

"One thing that I knew from the very first day I joined the club is that this is not a toy for him. Nobody has a £1billion toy. It doesn't matter how wealthy you are. He is deeply, deeply passionate about football and about English football and this club. He cares deeply, so when things aren't going well it affects him in the same way it affects a fan."

Our conversation takes place in Emenalo's office overlooking the Cobham training pitches and a few paces away from Mourinho's office on the other side of corridor.

You get the impression the two, who work together closely, have spent a lot of time discussing the reasons for their players' slump.

When the simple question - Why? - is asked, Emenalo says simply that the the Premier League champions have been trapped in a "negative momentum".

"There are reasons. I could list them, but they would only be my guesses. There is no scientific evidence.


"There is no data to support me telling you 'This player is not playing well because he stayed two days later on holiday'.

"The only thing I can tell you is that we absolutely have a negative momentum that we have failed to reverse and we are working very hard to reverse that."

The question of Mourinho's behaviour since his return to Chelsea in the summer of 2013 is an issue that has proved impossible to ignore.

He has accumulated six FA fines totalling more than £140,000 and since April 2014 he has been disciplined by the FA on five separate occasion.

"As one of the big football clubs in the world, we understand that we have a responsibility to greater society and the football world," Emenalo says. "To represent ourselves with a certain responsibility and he (Abramovich) takes that very, very seriously.

"He demands that we must behave in a way that justifies our elevated status in the business. That is important to him, I can assure you that from having a knowledge of his feelings."

If that is the case then surely Mourinho is damaging the club?

"It can be unwanted attention but it is also couched in circumstances that are unfair to Jose," Emenalo says.

"We have to be capable and honest enough to say that Jose has had unfair responsibility in dealing with some of the things we perceive to be injustice.

"Maybe we have to find a better way to help him, to work with him, a better way within the hierarchy, myself, the chairman (Bruce Buck) in presenting our case, when we feel that something hasn't gone the way we expect it to.

"Jose is the one who goes out to meet the press immediately after games, which can be difficult - not just for Jose but any manager in the Premier League.

"We all know that football is an emotion-inducing sport and business and every once in a while passions spill over.

"We are no different to that but again we understand the manager has shouldered an unfair responsibility in dealing with it."

As for the plan laid out for Mourinho at the beginning of his return to the club in 2013, of a long reign that marks a new era in his career, and the club's recent history, Emenalo say that has always been the plan with every manager appointed.

"Apart from Guus Hiddink, when it was very clear it was just to do a firefighting job, we have always gone in with the intention that the manager has a chance to stay as long as is possible. But this is life; this is life in football and it is very, very difficult to predict."

Emenalo rejects completely suggestions that Mourinho has lost the trust of his players.

"Every team, in every sport, that is not winning always reveals that air of vulnerability which people on the outside perceive to be that something is wrong. I don't know what losing the dressing room means, I really don't. As a player myself I have never gone into a game thinking, 'It is never going to happen for this manager'.

"What I do perceive is the players are taking responsibility and just like myself - the head of communications, the chairman, the owner. Everybody is asking themselves the same question, 'What can I do?' 'How can I help?' The players are no different. The manager definitely is no different." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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