If they bang on your dressing room door, all hell will break loose

If Jose Mourinho has heard of Christmas and peace to all men and women, then he does a bloody good job of hiding it, writes The Secret Footballer.

If they bang on your dressing room door, all hell will break loose

The thing with great managers is that they do what suits them best. If a manager is selfish and does the things that ensures he keeps his job then that gives his team the best chance to be successful.

Alex Ferguson was a master, completely blinkered to sporting hypocrisy in his quest for success and always shameless with it. There was never enough time added on at the end of matches for Fergie, unless of course there was too much.

Last week Jose came out with a pearler of his own. In the aftermath of United’s 2-1 defeat to arch-rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford, he accused the noisy neighbours of showing disrespect when celebrating their win and questioned their behaviour and education.

It was later reported that he had told the City goalkeeper, Ederson, to “show some fucking respect”.

Defeat hurts; let’s make that absolutely clear. And then there are the defeats that really hurt. Last week’s derby defeat would have really hurt Mourinho. It was billed as a war with so many individual battles on the line that the game could well affect both sides for seasons to come. It was Red v Blue, Spain (Catalonia) v Portugal, purist football v anti-football, Pep v Mourinho and perhaps bigger than anything — and for the first time in living memory — a title fight before Christmas.

As somebody determined to be a writer, it is sometimes beautiful to throw a snowball in someone’s face. In the most respectful way of course.

Mourinho. The manager that slid on his knees down the touchline in front of 75,000 people at Old Trafford when his Porto side scored a last-minute goal in the Champions League to make it through the tie. No shame in walking out as United’s manager years later though.

Mourinho. The manager, who in 2010 took an unfancied Inter Milan side to the Nou Camp and knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League before goading the 90,000 spectators packed inside. It took the goalkeeper Victor Valdes to stop him, dragging him away as he gestured to the Barcelona president to keep his chin up. Mourinho called that night ‘‘the most beautiful defeat of his life’’. Barcelona employed Mourinho as their assistant for four years between 1996 and 2000. It mattered not to Mourinho.

But football will always bite you on the arse. Always. It’s the nature of the beast and it has a wonderful tradition of bringing together juxtapositions that would be out of place in any other industry. This time of year is supposed to be a time of joy and forgiveness, reflecting, and understanding. But football carves its own path in the snow.

Nobody cares that Christmas is around the corner in the aftermath of a football match. I’ve been involved in plenty of tunnel brawls having won and lost games. There are a few tell-tale signs of when the opposition is rubbing in their victory and it goes something like this: As the losing team you will be back in your dressing room first because the other team will be milking the win with their fans. Home or away. As they come back to the tunnel you will hear them shouting at each other, ‘get in!’ ‘yes, come on!’ and other poetic nonsense. It hurts and managers will always tell you at the time not to forget the feeling.

The problems start if they do that outside your changing room door as they walk past. But there is one thing that is sure to ignite a fight. If opposition players start banging on your door as they walk past then all hell will break loose. I don’t care if you’re in League Two or the Premier League, banging on the opposition’s door is an unnecessary wind-up. It’s worth remembering that this only really happens if the game has been a spikey affair because even though the same amount of points are on the line it feels a little sweeter.

I’ve seen players completely lose the plot over a changing room door being kicked and banged as victorious players wander past. That’s what happened in the tunnel at Old Trafford last week.

Aside from the anger bubbling up at Old Trafford, there are humbugs being dished out right across the league. At Newcastle the players have cancelled their own Christmas party. Admirable. Dangerous. For the rest of the Premier Leagues squads anyway.

The indifferent displays offered up from the Newcastle players this season could now ripple into other squads that are desperate to keep the Christmas party tradition alive but are perhaps in an even worse position in the table than Newcastle. I’m looking at you West Ham. Barely a season goes by when a West Ham player isn’t in the paper following a Christmas party. The Hammers philosophy is simple: ‘We’re doing really well, let’s have a Christmas party to celebrate’, or, ‘we’re in the shit, let’s have a Christmas party to boost morale’.

I never cared for the Christmas party myself. Later in my career when everybody became a semi-professional photographer, I lamented the fact that I couldn’t be myself. I didn’t do anything that I shouldn’t have done but it was just the sense that you were on show and feeling very awkward with it. It wasn’t fun and fancy dress made it worse. The paparazzi and the fans snapping us as we made our way into the nightclub had no idea just how sad a clown I really was.

Rarely does a Christmas party pass where something positive comes from it. It’s like social media in many ways, one bad tweet in what were a thousand otherwise uninteresting and safe messages before it and suddenly that’s all anybody remembers about you. Christmas parties really should be scrapped.

I’ll be glad when this festive season is over and we can go back to the hypocrisy that serves us all so well and that keeps our game running smoothly.

I can’t wait to hear what Mourinho will say next but I know it’ll piss me off. As I write this, I’m looking forward to my team, Spurs, playing Manchester City but I know we’ll lose and it’ll ruin my week. Football comes into its own at this time of year, tasked with entertaining us by ruining ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ for many. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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