It's almost a year since Brian Clough passed away so sadly and suddenly but the old boy would have heartily approved of the way Jose Mourinho treated one of his star players a few days ago.
When necessary Cloughie was prepared to kebab verbally an errant player in front of his teammates, working on the principle that humiliation was preferable to a fine when your work-mates are the audience. And a Clough rollicking was something to behold, because he was quick-witted, cruel, articulate ? and never wrong.
Mourinho is cut from the same cloth. As Ricardo Carvalho found out painfully. He?s a very fine defender, costing #20 million last year. But what possessed him to criticise his fellow-Portuguese for dropping him from the team for the opening Premiership match at Wigan?
He did, after all, play for Mourinho at FC Porto and must have known the drill ? that the manager has the last word, not the player.
All last week Mourinho had brooded over Chelsea?s poor performance at Wigan. He waited until his new signing Michael Essien was paraded in front of the first-team squad on Thursday before letting rip. By all accounts it was a vintage bollocking.
?He wanted to explain but I gave him no chance. My meetings are my meetings. I speak and the only other people who speak are the ones I want. I don?t need to be in love with my players, I just need a correct relationship between manager and players. He will have plenty of time to understand me.?
In other words, Carvalho can look forward to a prolonged spell in the stiffs after his outburst. And the same fate awaits Arjen Robben if he continues to brood about not getting a complete game.
If Sir Alex Ferguson had treated Rio Ferdinand the same way, perhaps he might have signed that contract earlier than he did. And Patrick Vieira, brooding over his aborted transfer to Real Madrid last summer, should have been told his fortune by Arsene Wenger in front of the other Arsenal players. Now we?re told that Vieira is irreplaceable. Rubbish ? he was venerated far too much at Highbury and became a disciplinary liability.
Even great managers like Wenger and Ferguson have to bite their tongues when their instincts must be to spell out to their star players exactly their responsibilities. Yet players are now too mighty, their agents call the shots and the PFA just wring their hands in anguish.
That ? s why Mourhino is, indeed, the Special One.
He won?t take any nonsense from any player and is willing to take all the responsibilities off the field away from the player, so long as he delivers for him. Like Cloughie, his ego is large enough to embrace the media fripperies.
That?s why Mourinho ought to be supported by the neutrals. Forget the overweening arrogance of Chelsea FC, this bloke is a proper football manager who would be a success whatever budget he had to work with. He is a welcome antidote to the grey compromisers in so many managerial seats.
Just to round off his withering monstering of Carvalho, his manager suggested the player ?needs an intelligence test?. That?s something Jose Mourinho will never have to take.
Reality dawns on the wasted Age of Eriksson
Can you imagine Sven-Goran Eriksson frothing at the mouth at one of his England players if one of them stepped out of line? A wintry smile, a terse shake of the head and a verdict of ?disappointment? would be the nearest he got to an impersonation of a human Mount Etna.
Judging by the latest revelations from his private life, the one thing guaranteed to get Eriksson worked up is being thwarted in his current scheme to beguile yet another gullible woman 20 years his junior.
What he gets up to when away from football is amusing, but a mere bagatelle. The sight of his partner Nancy Dell?Ollio exercising in an England shirt suggests they deserve each other. She is desperate to carve out some sort of media career and if that means sticking with the Inscrutable One with the Stack Heels, Nancy will do what a gal has to do.
Eriksson loses more dignity each time he?s caught with his trousers down or canoodling on the mobile phone, but the damage to his football reputation just can?t take any more after that awful 4-1 hammering by Denmark.
His contempt for friendlies is ridiculous. Has he no awareness of England?s football history, when the likes of Sir Alf Ramsey, Sir Bobby Robson and Terry Venables grabbed every chance to get England on the park, to try out a system that would suit their best players? Doesn?t he know that the 1966 World Cup was won over the previous year, when Ramsey experimented, then settled on the much-derided system that dispensed with wingers?
This manager hasn?t grasped the fundamental truth that English footballers are only consistently effective when they are offering total commitment. They haven?t got enough natural ability to get by, coasting through friendlies. So, after that shocker in Copenhagen, we have Gary Neville assuring the nation that it will be fine next month, when they play two World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Northern Ireland.
We?ll skip the fact that those two sides ought to be swept away as a matter of routine, but how can Neville and his cronies be so philosophical about their awful performance against Denmark, a team unlikely to qualify for next Around 4,000 England supporters paid about #35 to watch that Denmark game, with another 4,000 disappointed not to get a ticket. The game mattered to them.
Yet the England goalkeeper David James ? reflecting on letting in four goals on his watch as substitute ? admitted he hadn?t done his warm-ups properly, because it wasn?t that meaningful a match. James earns a basic #20,000 a week at Manchester City, by the way.
Too many current England players are guaranteed their places and Eriksson isn?t the sort to jolt them out of their complacency. If he thinks friendlies are a waste of time, then why should his players risk injury and the wrath of their club manager by doing the hard yards in midweek, even if it?s their country they?re representing?
Money seems to be the one thing guaranteed to galvanise the modern England international. And the latest annual report by the FA makes interesting reading on that point. For the monumental achievement of beating plucky Switzerland and the limited Croatia in Euro 2004, the England players made #150,000 each in bonuses. That?s a total of #3.5 million from an overall profit of #6.7 million made by the FA from the competition.
We?ll skip the uncomfortable truth that England lost to France and on penalties to Portugal in the tournament, and under-achieved yet again under Eriksson. Consider how much the players would have trousered had they won Euro 2004. A cool #17 million. Greece, playing far above their potential, only picked up #2.8 million in winning the thing.
So the next time you see an England player kissing the badge on his shirt, the next time you hear the FA?s chief executive Brian Barwick say he expects Eriksson still to be in harness in 2008, the next time you watch David Beckham wandering all over the midfield line without being called into line by his coach, remember how fortunate we are to be living in the Age of Eriksson.
There is a strong case for saying that England in 2005 has the most overpaid, under-achieving bunch of players operating alongside the world?s highest-paid coach who has failed twice when it mattered ? in 2002 and 2004.
Next year in the World Cup, as Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard continue to duplicate each other in midfield, Wayne Rooney abuses a referee once too often, and Rio Ferdinand saunters back too late for the killer breakaway goal, the buck will finally stop with Sven-Goran Eriksson. He won?t mind, though. He?ll already have organised his fall-back position. With or without Nancy.
Genuine heroes at Trent Bridge
In contrast to the king's ransom collected by Sven, England's cricketers will pick up a comparative pittance if they win back the Ashes over the next month.
But they?re unfazed by that. They know that they?ve won the unfettered, genuine admiration of this country?s sporting public ? and a wider audience than even that.
Their honesty, pleasure in each other?s success and gratitude at the fantastic support that has snowballed over the past month have marked them out as heroes, no matter what happens from here on in. And to think that exactly a month ago, after heavy defeat at Lord?s, so many were calling for illustrious scalps.
Not the finest few days of the British sporting media.
Fortunately the selectors were able to treat Kipling?s twin imposters just the same and didn?t panic.
Now we stand on the threshold of fielding the same eleven for five Tests in a row. Just shows how your best players react when they are trusted and given necessary jabs of confidence in the arm.
I have no idea what we will face later this week at Trent Bridge. I hope more of the same gut-wrenching, knuckle-biting, draining drama ? and that?s just in the commentary box! Lord knows what it?s like for the paying punters.
What I do know is that this series has already surpassed the historic 1981 series that made heroes out of Ian Botham and Bob Willis.
Believe me, younger readers, there were some boring sessions and days over those six Tests, interspersed with some fantastic periods of play. But Chris Tavare blocked for long periods for England in 1981 while the top score in the Edgbaston Test was Mike Brearley's 49.
And no one who witnessed Dirk Welham's maiden century in his first Test, at The Oval, will speak disparagingly ever again about watching paint dry. Lord?s and The Oval were very tedious draws eventually.
No, this 2005 series is out on its own.
The scoring rates have been marvellous, the philosophy on both sides has been to attack and there have been two gripping, desperate finishes. Plus further proof of Shane Warne?s undeniable greatness as spin bowler and competitor.
When did you last see Australian cricketers thrilled to come away with a draw, as they did at Old Trafford last week?
They were second best throughout that Test and it was the same at Edgbaston.
England?s players will tell themselves that the opposition have all the worries ? of players out of form, at being unable to combat reverse swing ? while the home side have a settled unit, with millions up and down the land wishing them well. The England guys will have recharged their batteries in between Old Trafford and Trent Bridge while the Aussies had to travel to Scotland to watch the rain fall, then down to Northampton for an unproductive couple of days? play.
Whatever their permutations in attack, they have only four main bowlers. When one of them is misfiring they are vulnerable, even acknowledging the greatness of Warne and Glenn McGrath. That?s been the case in the first three Tests and why will that change if Jason Gillespie is dropped? Warne can?t bowl from both ends.
Nothing has altered the perception that the Australians are the underdogs going into Trent Bridge. Now we?ll see what?s left in the locker of such great warriors, ageing though many of them are. It?s the very essence of a great sporting occasion, and I don?t believe any of us will be disappointed.