Some years ago when playing golf in Wales, I got a piece of unusual advise from the course golf professional. If you have a bad round or play bad shots, he said, don’t take responsibility for it, always find something or someone else to blame. His theory was that if you blame yourself it will dent your confidence. However, if you say someone else is at fault then you can retain your self-belief. To be fair, you often hear of top golfers, when having a bad run, sack their caddy or their coach.
Golfers are not the only ones who seek to put the blame elsewhere. Many football managers are good at it as well and they have a ready made scapegoat in the referee. An old hand is Steve Bruce, now manager of HullCity. In their three-nil defeat by Arsenal he said the whole game changed when the referee failed to give an obvious foul against an Arsenal player with the score at one-nil. Arsenal then swooped down the pitch and scored their second goal. Everyone in the stadium knew it was a foul, Bruce said, the only one who didn’t think so was the referee. What the television replay showed was that referee Jonathan Moss was the one who was correct. Bruce probably took his cue from his old boss, Sir Alex Ferguson who often criticised referees decisions that went against his club, despite video evidence to the contrary. Even manager of the moment, Brendan Rodgers, complained about the appointment of a referee when they lost against Manchester United, because his postal address was Greater Manchester, ignoring the fact that he lived almost exactly halfway between the two clubs.
Then there is the prince of complainers – Jose Mourinho. Reading fans will remember the Chelsea game during their first season in the Premier League when he blamed the Reading club and the paramedics for their late arrival after Petr Cech’s head injury, when it turned out to be the fault of Chelsea’s own staff. Many too will remember the false allegations he made against Swedish referee Andre Frisk when he claimed to have seen the Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard enter the referee’s dressing room at half time. Unfortunately for Mourinho, the UEFA delegate was in the match official’s room at halftime and knew that no such meeting had taken place. This didn’t stop violent Chelsea fans threatening not only the life of the referee but of his family, to the extent that Frisk, one of the world’s top referees, gave up the game. Whilst managing in Spain, Mourinho claimed that there was a refereeing conspiracy when Barcelona beat his team Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final.
Here he is again claiming a conspiracy theory, against English referees although he is trying to be clever. He complimented referee Mike Dean, who he said had come to Chelsea’s game against Sunderland with one objective, to make a fantastic performance and he did that. He also congratulated Mike Riley, the referees’ boss for the fantastic job he had done through the whole season, especially in the last couple of months and in teams concerned in the title race. Having been charged by the FA he now says they have lost their sense of humour. So it was all a joke he’d have us believe and it was not his intention to suggest that Mike Dean had gone to the match with the intention of ensuring a Sunderland win or that Mike Riley has deliberately sent out referees intent on derailing Chelsea’s title hopes.
Mourinho likes to bask in the title of ‘The Special One’ but I think more applicable is the label he was given after the Frisk affair, ‘The Enemy of Football’.