Thursday 22 March 2018

Stephen Hunt: Always friction in dressing rooms but Mourinho overstepped the mark

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Stephen Hunt

Stephen Hunt

There are those who believe Jose Mourinho’s alienation of Eva Carneiro was the biggest mistake of his career and I think they might be right but not for the reasons some people say.

It is dangerous for those who manage football clubs to overrule the medical team or question their decision to go on to the pitch, something which is against all guidelines.

Players need to be able to trust the medical staff implicitly and what Mourinho’s row with Carneiro revealed was that these relationships are always fraught.

I’m sure the organisation Women in Football have noble goals but I’m beginning to become a bit sceptical of these groups which tend to show up at the scene of a major news event.

Considering the amount of abuse I’ve received over the years for being Irish, I’m tempted to set up an Irish in Football body which will see me interviewed on Sky Sports News whenever there is a talking point involving an Irish footballer.

I hope Women in Football are going to follow up their high-profile comments on this case with visits to football grounds across England to see how many women are involved in the game and thriving based on their excellence.

I had a look at their website and it says they are a “network of professional women working in and around the football industry”.

There are plenty of people — male and female — ‘around the football industry’ who would have little awareness of the constant friction that goes on at a club between the management, the medical staff and players.

I think it’s right that Women in Football take up the case of Carneiro in some ways. She has been badly treated but I remain sceptical of these groups appearing during high-profile incidents.

I feel the real back story to the Carneiro incident is the endless tussle between medics at a club and the management. I think Mourinho would have done the same wrong-headed things if Carneiro was a man, especially if that man had gone on Facebook that weekend and posted a comment thanking people for their support.

We have no idea if Carneiro’s post was the act of somebody who had been worn down by other criticisms and snapped but everything we know about Mourinho suggests he would consider this a betrayal.

Carneiro was a great role model for women but that wouldn’t have mattered in the dressing room. In there, she would have been respected for her expertise and, from what I understand, the players valued her judgement.

Nothing else matters when you’re a player than the knowledge that the medical staff know what they’re doing. I’ve worked with useless male physios and excellent female ones. I’ve had a physio take the side of a manager who was questioning my professionalism when he said I didn’t have a hernia injury I knew I had and I’ve worked with some of the best female professionals in the game, including a sports psychologist who I owe an awful lot to.

Of course, when women are involved in the game there will be some light-hearted exchanges which those on the outside might consider unnecessary. I’ve never heard anything that crossed the line but we are talking about football dressing rooms made up of mainly working-class boys who have spent their time in a predominately male environment since they were 12 or 13. They may violate some of the rules of behaviour that are in place today and maybe they shouldn’t, but that is the world players have grown up in.

I would like Women in Football to come and talk to clubs and their players about what can be done, it might be an education for all sides.

But football is a world governed by results and while there are plenty worrying about image, Mourinho will be thinking about what he has to do for his team.

Carneiro had to put up with a lot of abuse from the stands but Mourinho can’t be influenced by that when he makes his decision. She has been scrutinised as she wouldn’t have been if she had been a man and that’s unfair too. But if Mourinho had quietly decided to remove her from her position would that have been condemned as well? Is he allowed have disagreements with his medical staff? It’s not Mourinho’s job to take a stand against sexism in sport. He is entirely influenced by results.

In fact, the way he handled it was appalling and no way to treat any doctor who was doing her job.

As it happens, I think his behaviour revealed that he is a man on the edge and all that has happened subsequently would confirm that. He lost a valued and professional member of staff completely unnecessarily. He treated them shabbily and he lost control. He has done it before and he will do it again without thinking about the consequences for the other person or which sex they are.

Sunday Indo Sport

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