Mourinho gives his take on ref Mike Riley's 'phone call' gesture

Clive Rose

The imperious aura from Jose Mourinho's first spell may have slipped, but the helmsman's tongue remains sharp as ever...

The latest storm - of the teacup variety - that Chelsea found itself in the eye of recently was the controversial penalty call at the end of that exhausting home game agains West Brom. The fact that we jumped straight into a lengthy and mostly unremarkable international break right after should've been reason enough for it to subside by the time we've resumed league action again but it didn't, courtesy referee Mike Riley carefully reaching over to stir [lift] the teacup [telephone] again.

So when it was raised during today's pre-match conference again, one might imagine the manager being pestered for his thoughts on its justifiability, Ramires' role in it, etc. for the umpteenth time. Mourinho however, had seemingly different plans, and far from retreating to defensive, advanced straight onto the offensive:

"If there is a controversial — I'm not saying a mistake — decision .. that hypothetically — and, I repeat, hypothetically — favours Chelsea, [they] referees know they are going to be publicly exposed by their boss, that they know,"

"I'm curious to know if this was an isolated phone call. Or is this the start and from now on, it will be the same for everybody. If referees ring me to apologise [for mistakes], then my telephone would be very, very busy."

The second quote there is what interests me, because Mourinho has, albeit by way of a little hyperbole, made perfectly clear his true thoughts about how he would like to see Chelsea treated by referees versus how he perceives we're currently treated. Not only does he firstly challenge referees by calling out their supposed reluctance to send controversial decisions Chelsea's way more often, but also proceeds to remind the media where they can beam the spotlight instead in case of future recurrences.

The doubts Mourinho further raises are as likely cynical barbs as they are calculated potshots, but you could also argue they're in their own way, also sort of pertinent.

"Nobody called me to apologise about the fact it was not a free kick against West Brom for their second goal. Nobody called me to say we should have had a penalty to equalise against Everton."

"I'm interested to know if Steve Bruce (Hull) got a phone call, if Chris Hughton (Norwich) got a phone call, if Laudrup (Swansea) got a call [after controversial incidents this season]."

Anyway, going back to the first set of quotes, attempting to pressurise referees in nothing new in the schematics of the modern game, but trying to get the press in on the act in an effort to sharpen the lens referees are scrutinized under is certainly interesting on Mourinho's part, because he probably realizes years of managers crying foul and issuing cynically exaggerated rants about injustice has made referees impervious to their claims. So if the media take his bait and turn their attentions where he wants them to, we could have an interesting long-term mini experiment to witness, even though immediate impacts are unlikely, and significant ones, even less so.

Having a hounding influence on referees needn't necessarily be a bad thing though. Even if it only results in cheap, 50-50 decisions going your way, as we saw with what happened with Ivanovic in the build-up to the second goal in the same game responsible for this controversy, any leverage can be valuable. Welcome to Mindgames 201 — your instructor Mr. Mourinho will begin by explaining the significance of the spotlight and where to direct it.

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