COACHING CORNER : THE INTERNAL ASSISTANT COACH

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At the time of writing this piece it has been reported that Jose Mourinho has relieved Chelsea’s club doctor, Eva Carniero, from her match day medical duties with the 1st team. Mourinho was left visibly incensed by Carniero’s actions during the final throws of Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Swansea, in which she entered the field of play to give medical assistance to Eden Hazard. This resulted in Hazards removal from the field, which the Portuguese gaffer later labeled a move “lacking game understanding,” primarily as it provided Swansea with a numerical advantage while entering an attack. Now that the dust has settled on the incident I’m sure Jose has had time to consider his actions. Whether he feels in any way vindicated, or not ,only time will tell. However what is abundantly clear is that someone far more detrimental to the team remains on his staff. This figure only makes a fleeting number of visits per year, yet rarely leaves a positive impression. In this piece I explore why Mourinho has chosen the wrong person to remove from his game day staff & how this move could prove to be extremely detrimental to his side’s title challenge.

In an effort to familiarize you with the coach I am making reference to, here is a brief synopsis of his background. He has stood alongside Mourinho both in a personal & professional capacity from the start of his career, however has really only been viewed in public during games where Jose’s sides have suffered defeat or lost their discipline. He too is Portuguese and is multi-lingual, yet unlike anyone else in Mourinho’s inner circle he is able to communicate with Jose on a far deeper level. He has also been known, like Jose, to offer a similar distain toward Guardiola & Wenger as he sees them both as a threat to the Mourinho legacy. It’s unclear if he even likes working with Mourinho, however what’s for sure is that he now thrives upon Jose’s attention and will do whatever it takes for things to remain that way. Still confused as to who this coach may be? Let’s refer to him as Jose’s Internal Assistant Coach; this person is Jose Mourinho’s ego.

What’s important to establish when we talk of ego is that this entity lives within all of us, totally independent of our want or need for it to be there. In essence the ego begins life as a small voice inside our head when we are a child, offering innocent whispers of judgment or decree. “I don’t like the look of that.” “That made me unhappy.” Or “This doesn’t taste nice.” Such is the ego’s desire to connect with whom it lives within, positively or negatively, it will even comment on actions you have completed as if it were their own. “I’m not very good at this.” Or “I’m so much better at this than everyone else.” Over time these mental constructs multiply and strengthen, enhancing not only the ego’s stature but the level of volume in which it emits thoughts inside your mind. By the time most people reach adulthood they are so entrenched in ego opinion that they regard their mind constructs as part of their identity. In some cases as literal in form as a limb or a muscle connected to their body. This becomes evident when someone with a strong ego is challenged or questioned on their beliefs, sparking a visceral retaliation in which they equate the verbal probe to that of a physical attack. This conveniently brings us back to our case with Mr Mourinho during the dying embers of the Swansea game.

Jose Mourinho’s association with ego has led him to an identification that he is Chelsea Football Club. I don’t think it comes as a shock to anyone that Mourinho has displayed egotistical tendencies in the past and will likely do so in the future. Typically they manifest themselves as statements of intent or lavish endorsements as to his or a significant others ability levels, however where many aren’t able to notice the work of his ego is in times of strife. Jose’s display of identification was evident in his explosion of emotion on the side line as Eva Carniero made her way onto the field. This had clearly been the tipping point in what was likely a cacophony of negative self-speak throughout the match. “The players aren’t playing as well as they did for us last year.” “How is Swansea able to dominate us on the left side so frequently?” “The referee has sent off Courtois incorrectly, he clearly wants us to lose” are all likely examples of ego thought patterns that only served to stoke up Mourinho’s mental connection with his emotions. The rational mind is able to see that Carneiro was attending to the physical needs of a player, who at the time was on the ground & displaying discomfort. The ego mindset firmly within Mourinho saw this as a threat to the team’s ability to defend & in turn it was interpreted as a direct attack unto Jose himself. “How dare she go on the field without my saying so.” “If Eden comes off we will be weaker.” “If we lose this game it will be because of this decision, Eva will have lost us this match.” These are probable examples of thoughts spinning around in Mourinho’s identified mind, adding further distraction to what has actually taken place.

The ego does not care for fact nor does it care for truth. The perception of truth it chooses is made up of images selected to fit a narrative. When coaches are referred to as stubborn we often equate this to a refusal to move from a specific opinion or position, when in actual fact it’s a clear display of egoic perception. The stubbornness comes in the minds inability to view the situation rationally, which then manifests itself repeatedly as that individual needs to be identified with being correct. In Mourinho’s case he has compounded the situation by displaying identification with Carniero being wrong, and has since demanded an apology from her. This is a dangerous form of leadership especially as nothing actually came of her action; we are dealing in perceptions of what could have happened.

Ego is only ever present when it’s afforded a platform in which to present itself. It gains strength from its connection with those it lives within and will stop at nothing until it is in complete control of its owner. In Jose Mourinho we have of the game’s most articulate, inventive & strategic minds. His performances since bursting onto the world scene as a head coach in 2004 have been nothing short of remarkable, however in line with his success he has developed an equally sophisticated ego. In the past Jose has used outside influences as “motivating” contributors to convince he & those around him that “someone is against us.” This has ranged from referees, to football associations, to opposing coaches & to the media. To many this may be perceived as a technique that has galvanized his squads & brought about a strengthening of unity amongst the players. This may be the case however it has also presented his ego with an opportunity in which to take charge of his thinking. “They are all against us.” “They do not want to see us win.” “They see us as weak.” Could it be conceivable that the ego could use these mind constructs against those within our own team? Is it possible that this strength and unity would go so far as to consume one of its own? In my opinion this past Saturday displayed exactly that, which leaves us pondering who could be next?

While the potential remains for Mourinho to astound us with his coaching prowess & deliver yet another world class side, he stands at a cross roads with the most important staffing decision he has faced. Will he ever take his internal assistant coach to one side, ask him to take seat in the stand and keep his opinions to himself?

Written by our resident coach, Ally Bain.

Alistair is based in Portland, Maine, USA, however originally hails from Hamilton, Scotland. He is the Head Coach of USL PDL side Portland Phoenix & works with one of the largest youth soccer organizations in North America, in Global Premier Soccer. Prior to moving to the states Alistair held football development positions with Watford FC, Crystal Palace FC & Celtic FC. In 2013 Alistair also started writing a football based blog, entitled “Coach Bain Mused”

You can follow Ally on Twitter @www.thehighertempopress.comallybain