Mourinho: Master manipulator, or are press too soft?

Date published: Monday 2nd November 2015 10:09

After every Premier League game, the manager’s press conference is filmed and often broadcast live, especially after a big game. This development has provided a really interesting insight into the relationship at the top level between the press and media and the boss of the club.

The one Jose Mourinho gave after the defeat to Liverpool was especially revealing. In comes Jose, looking like a petulant child, lips pouting, staring sullenly at the press pack, daring them to challenge him. He looks absolutely ridiculous and he’s behaving in a ludicrous, pantomime-style manner. It was, frankly, as laughable as it was risible.

But does any of the assembled press take the mick? No. Does anyone seriously challenge him about this behaviour? No. All you hear are these timid, little voices, trying to coax an answer out of him about something to do with the game. They sound small, weak, intimidated. What do they think he’s going to do – take a gun out and shoot them?

The first one to stand up and say ‘hey pal, stop behaving like a pr*ck, answer the questions, it’s part of your job, yer bag o’ sh*te,’ would win everyone’s admiration, both inside and outside the room. Why isn’t anyone even a little bit challenging towards him in order to hold him to account? Why doesn’t someone just royally take the pish? Why don’t they just point and laugh at him? Why doesn’t someone stand up and say “Not this pathetic act again, Jose. Is this the best you’ve got, ‘cos if it is, we’re all off, because you’re not worth the time or trouble. You’re behaving like a big kid.’ Or maybe someone could just stand up and say ‘hey, you son, you and me, outside. I’ll knock some bloody answers out of you.’ Just see what he does. Provoke him, stop rolling over and hoping he’ll tickle your tummy.

One journalist said something about him being sarcastic, but that was it. In fact, the press seemed to almost run out of questions to ask. It was really, really weak stuff.

People go on about Mourinho manipulating the media to his own advantage, like it’s a brilliant art form, but when you’ve got a press pack as obsequious and tame as this lot, it must be really easy. Just do a little bit of staring, look moody and it seems like everyone backs away, scared.

But this isn’t just a fear of Jose, most post-game pressers seem to follow a similar pattern. The questions are frequently predictable, easily ignored or just outright gimmes and the bigger the managerial name, the more limp it all seems to be. It sometimes seems almost as if they don’t really know what to say or do, beyond a few formulaic routines.

This is the same press pack that often self-confessed to be terrified of Sir Alex Ferguson, even in his dotage. Scared to provoke his wrath. What did they think he was going to do, knife them? There are some managers in the Scottish leagues that genuinely would take you outside, tear off your arm and beat you to death with the soggy end, but not in the tame Premier League. OK you might get banned for calling out a manager, but he looks worse than you for doing that. Why would anyone be frightened of some bloke sitting behind a desk and pouting? You and I wouldn’t be. Rather we’d think it was pathetic that an adult was behaving so poorly and, what’s more, we’d say so, especially if it kept on happening.

Imagine a tough political reporter when presented with someone pulling a Jose, they’d ask him why he was behaving like an 8-year-old coming down from a sugar rush. They’d rigorously question if he seriously thought there really was a conspiracy by the officials against his club, and they would ridicule the whole, fatuous pretence that makes up Mourinho’s facade. Instead we get some reedy-voiced bloke asking where it went wrong today or something equally easy to dismiss. It’s like they really want to give him an easy ride and will take almost any amount of disrespect or abuse. I just don’t understand why, at least once, someone doesn’t just have stand-up blazing row, and really nail him to the wall. What have they got to lose? OK the club might ban you or your paper but when press conferences are on TV and are so banal, that simply doesn’t matter. If you’re so craven that you’re scared to ask any deep questions, anything difficult or simply call him out on his unwillingness to answer or just behave like a grown man, then really, you’re just part of his PR.

At this level, there’s far too much awe and quivering in the face of bad behaviour or outright spouting of nonsense. I’d have thought it would be much more enjoyable to call out a manager on their moody obfuscation, than just to lob full tosses to him, especially in extreme circumstances such as Mourinho’s conference. Surely, in such moments, the gloves should come off and you give him the journalistic equivalent of a stiff right hook and a bloody nose.

So many of these journalists talk a good game when they’re not in front of their man. Some love to aggrandise themselves as being ‘in the know’ and as across the big football stories and the big football people, but they come across as weak and gutless when they most need to be strong and gritty. The broadcasting of post-game press conferences has almost accidentally revealed that, actually, not only does the Emperor have no clothes, neither do the Emperor’s press corp.

John Nicholson

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