If Dejan Lovren thinks his situation is bad, perhaps he should walk a mile in the shoes of Haim Megrelashvili. In the space of two away consecutive games in the Eredivisie in March 2008, the left-back started twice for Vitesse, yet played just 21 minutes across both matches.
Jurgen Klopp waited 31 minutes to act upon seeing Lovren take offence to the art of defending at Wembley, but Aad de Mos had a considerably lower pain threshold. Then Vitesse manager, he hauled Megrelashvili off just six minutes into a 4-3 defeat to Twente.
After recalling the Israeli defender to the starting line-up for a 3-3 draw with NAC Breda in the next fixture, De Mos then took his side to AZ Alkmaar. With the score still at 0-0, the Vitesse manager substituted Megrelashvili after 15 minutes, with no signs of injury. Just to stick the boot in further, he would tell the club’s official website that the switch was “too late”, with Vitesse losing 2-1.
Mauricio Pochettino will have known not to mock Klopp for his decision to act early at Wembley. The Tottenham manager has been in a similar situation before.
Manchester United’s 3-0 thrashing of Tottenham in March 2015 is remembered more for Wayne Rooney’s goal celebration than anything else, the striker making light of his defeat in a kitchen boxing bout against Phil Bardsley in the days before the game. The United captain struck in the 34th minute as a hapless Tottenham had no reply.
Three minutes before Rooney capped off one of Louis van Gaal’s more successful afternoons at Old Trafford, Pochettino had seen enough. But he opted not to make an example of any of his defenders, with Kyle Walker, Eric Dier, Jan Vertonghen and Danny Rose having been torn asunder. Instead, he sacrificed right-winger Andros Townsend who, according to a Daily Mirror match report, had ‘left Walker horribly exposed time and time again’. Cutting inside and shooting from 30 yards isn’t the best defensive tactic, I grant you.
After 32 minutes, Samir Nasri had to be removed due to injury. His replacement, Emmanuel Eboue, would not even last the remainder of the game.
“Eboue played for longer than I wanted him to,” admitted Arsene Wenger after Arsenal beat Wigan 1-0 in the Premier League in December 2008. It was a nervy, below-par, difficult victory epitomised by the performance of Eboue, who suffered the ignominy of being the substituted substitute in stoppage time. Even worse, Mikael Silvestre came on for him.
The right-back was booed off by his own fans, and was an unused substitute in the next game, a 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough. His next appearance came as a substitute in the final minute in a 1-1 draw against Liverpool; he managed to last the rest of the game.
Jose Mourinho demands rather a lot from his players. The Portuguese requires absolute dedication, for players to become his disciples and buy into his philosophy completely. The patience and attitude of those players is often tested on the most public platform possible.
“I felt terrible to be subbed, to be honest,” Nemanja Matic said in November of last year, recalling a 3-1 defeat to Southampton in October 2015. “I am a man first of all and, of course, I felt bad at that moment. But as you know, I didn’t react, I stayed professional.
“Normally some of the players react to that and cause some problems but as you can see I didn’t react and showed respect for the coach and for the club and my team.”
Matic had been introduced for Ramires at half-time with the Blues drawing 1-1. Twenty-eight minutes later, Saints had gone 3-1 up, and Matic was instantly removed.
But it was Matic’s reaction that so impressed Mourinho. “He has with me something which marks forever, which was a match where he was on the bench, I play him minute 45 and I took him off minute 70, 75” said the Manchester United manager in September. “He was really sad. But the next day he comes to me and he says, ‘I’m not happy, but it’s my fault. I’m not happy with what you did to me, but it’s my fault, because the way I was playing I can understand the change. So let’s keep going’.”
And that’s why he’s his new assistant coach. Who loses to Huddersfield. Which is still funny.
Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips
Mourinho is no stranger to hanging a player out to dry with a first-half substitution, of course. His first spell with Chelsea saw him sacrifice two lambs in a 1-0 defeat to Fulham in March 2006.
The table-topping Blues had fallen behind thanks to a Luís Boa Morte goal 15 minutes in, with a Fulham side who had lost their previous four games running rampant at Craven Cottage. Chelsea had lost to Barcelona and Middlesbrough in their last seven games, and Mourinho was at pains to avoid completing an unwanted hat-trick.
After 26 minutes, the Portuguese had seen enough. But one tactical substitution would not suffice, and Mourinho’s hatred for wingers would rear its ugly head. Both Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were dragged off for Didier Drogba and Damien Duff.
Sam Allardyce described himself as “completely gutted” after his Newcastle side were thrashed by Harry Redknapp’s Portsmouth in November 2007. The boy from Dudley would only remain at St James’ Park for another two months before his eventual demise, in no small part thanks to Claudio Caçapa.
The Premier League has played host to many wonderful Brazilians, but Caçapa resides on the other side of that fence. Newcastle were already 3-1 down when the centre-half was substituted after just 18 minutes. He had been embarrassed by Benjani Mwaruwari, but it was only when John Utaka bulled him to score Portsmouth’s third that Allardyce had seen enough. Not even 427 pints of wine can rid him of the memory.
Ah, we’d almost banished it from our minds.