Neil Warnock may not be the most likable manager in English football -- especially from a Chelsea perspective after his recent exploits at QPR -- but after reading his big interview in Thursday's Telegraph, he's jumped up a couple notches on my list. Like the best grandfathers, at 65 years old, second oldest in the Premier League after Harry Redknapp, and outspoken as ever (though he claims he's mellowed a bit in recent years), he's got old-school values and enough stories to regale us all for days. And no, he doesn't care what you think.
His opinions run the gamut from personal to institutional, but the ones that are of the most interest are his opinions on Mourinho.
"My idol growing up was Cloughie and Jose is the next best thing. To get players on that sort of money, with those reputations, to run through a brick wall is not easy but Jose gets them to do it. He's great for his players. He's turned Eden Hazard into a world-beater."
Brian Clough, if you're not familiar, is one of the best, if not the best English manager who's ever lived. He was a player's manager, strict, outspoken, charismatic, but, most important of all, a winner. An absolute legend at Nottingham Forest, whom he guided to back-to-back European Cups in '79 and '80 after winning the league in '78. He's got statues in Nottingham, Derby (for his exploits with Forest's rivals Derby County), and his hometown of Middlesbrough (where he also scored over 200 goals in his playing career).
"Jose's smooth, good-looking, a multi-millionaire and he's got fantastic players at his disposal so it's easy, isn't it?! He's made mistakes like I have. We all say things we later think we shouldn't have. But he's so good for the game here. He nearly won the league without a striker last year - that's how good Jose is. He went straight in in the summer, got the players he wanted, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas. I know Manchester City still have a chance as well but Chelsea were my choice pre-season, and Costa for top scorer."
And so Warnock gives his verdict on our two big summer signings, and on Chelsea as a whole.
"Costa hasn't surprised me. Costa's not the most gifted in certain things, but, wow, he knows where the net is. He's a street-fighter. Would you want Costa in the trenches with you? You would, wouldn't you? I love him and Sergio Agüero. I can see them on the beach, taking their shirts off for goalposts and playing with the kids."
"Fabregas was a great player at Arsenal but I think he's matured since. He's so much more decisive now, there's an end product to his game whereas at Arsenal I didn't think there was as much. He's almost got the complete midfielder's package now."
"This is the best team I've seen at Chelsea for a long time. It is easy to see why there's such a good atmosphere at Chelsea and players like John Terry is reveling in it. If you gave most managers in the Premier League one choice of a player, other than a striker, I bet you 80 per cent would pick John Terry. He has his critics, as we all do, but week in, week out, he's putting his neck on the line. It's easier playing with top-class players but he brings the best out of them by his leadership qualities."
This of course also means that Warnock will have his Crystal Palace lads up for the fight come Saturday. Palace may not be as tough of a nut to crack as they were under Tony Pulis, but with their always excellent home support and even a newfound hint of a goal threat, they mustn't be taken lightly.