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Much ado about team doctors: On Mourinho's criticism of the Chelsea medical staff

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Here's a question for you.  Who is the head of Chelsea's medical department, the person ultimately responsible for player fitness, health, conditioning, etc?  The answer, for the vast majority of fans, is why care or who cares.  Hint: it's not Dr. Eva Carneiro.  It's also not Neil Frazer, who felt Mourinho's wrath in 2005.

Here's another question.  Who was the head of Chelsea's medical department from 2005 to 2011?  The answer, in case you didn't know, is not Eva Carneiro.  It's Bryan English.  There were several others on his staff of course, including the likes of Glen Driscoll and Bruno Demichelis, but English was the head of the department, the man ultimately responsible and the man Mourinho once called Dr. Needles.  He, along with most of his staff, either left with Carlo Ancelotti or were axed by the incoming Andre Villas-Boas.

The few who survived continued their work for the Chelsea medical team, now led by ... again not Eva Carneiro.  AVB hired the well respected Paco Biosca away from Shakhtar, and the Spaniard has been in charge ever since.  Villas-Boas did promote Dr. Carneiro, who had been with Chelsea since 2009, from the reserves to a first-team role that included sitting on the bench on matchdays to assist the head physio if any injuries occured.  Because she is a woman, the football world took notice.  For better (inspiration) or worse (rampant sexism), she's been the face of the Chelsea medical department in the media ever since.  Her official title is first-team doctor and assistant medical director.

Or at least it was her title.  It might still be, but things aren't exactly clear right now.

If you've been following the mainstream media, you will have no doubt seen the stories about Mourinho losing his cool with his medical team, shouting a string of (presumed) obscenities after them as they rushed onto the field to treat Eden Hazard in the dying moments of Saturday's match against Swansea City.  If you haven't, here's a video of the post-match interview, inter-cut with the sideline antics (fast forward to 2min35s).

Note that the supposed protagonist of the story, Dr. Carneiro, isn't even the first on the pitch.  That would be Jon Fearn, head physio.  He's been with Chelsea since 2010.  And entering the field of play was undoubtedly not their call.  They were waived on by either the referee or Cesar Azpilicueta or Eden Hazard himself -- I've seen the story told all three ways.  Regardless, it was not their initiative, though I suppose they could've refused to do so after the referee gave permission, as Mourinho shockingly claimed they should've.  Never mind that such a course of action would've gone against the entire purpose of having a doctor or a physio present on matchday.

Whatever prompted Mourinho's sideline tantrum and unreasonable post-match reaction -- be it frustration, anger, mind games, or a bit of each -- it was certainly surprising.  The relationship between manager and medical team seemed to be excellent, despite the continuing issues with Diego Costa's hamstrings.  Just the day before, Mourinho said he had complete trust in them.

"There is nobody to blame [for Costa's injury issues]. I can't blame the player because he works hard. I completely trust the medical department. I am calm, positive, and I believe he will be with us for many matches."

-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC

After the game, many were immediately reminded of Pep Guardiola's very public tiff with long-time Bayern doctor Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt last season, one that eventually resulted in Müller-Wohlfahrt resigning his position (for the second time in his 38-year career, it should be noted).  There's no doubt that the Chelsea medical team were equally unimpressed by Mourinho's public outburst, though only one of them deemed it wise enough to actually comment in public.

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Unsurprisingly, it is Dr. Carneiro who now appears to have been punished most severely.  According to most sources, Chelsea do not take kindly to even slight dissent like that -- obviously the same standards do not necessarily apply to the manager, but that's a discussion for another day.  It would appear that Dr. Carneiro will no longer sit on the bench during matches (it's not clear who will take her spot), though she will otherwise continue in her role as first-team doctor.  Jon Fearn and Dr. Biosca, neither of whom have commented in public or on social media, will continue in their current roles, with perhaps just a minor modification or two (again, not clear what those modifications may be).

Chelsea "do not comment on internal staffing matters", so the supposed changes are things that are understood and things that come from unnamed sources.  Some of it is probably true.  What isn't true of course is the Mourinho vs. Carneiro narrative that is being used to sell this story in the mainstream media, playing up the sexist angle and even suggesting that Mourinho should tread carefully and give her special treatment that he wouldn't necessarily give to doctors who happen to be male.

Mourinho lashed out at the medical team.  He mentioned neither Chelsea support staff rushing onto the pitch by name, and there's no reason to think he unfairly judges either of them based on their gender.  Rightly or wrongly, he was not happy with their work, and in that moment, felt it necessary to comment and react in public.  That was probably not wise, and now we get to deal with the fallout.

That said, it's "just" the medical team, where the keyword is "team."  We have maintained a strong reputation for fitness over the past several years, but equating that with the work of just one doctor (who isn't even the head of the department) is quite likely not correct.  There's no doubt that Dr. Carneiro is excellent at her job.  You have to be to get hired at Chelsea.  And if all this results in her eventual departure — again, we hardly have access to all the behind-the-scenes facts and happenings — her replacement will most likely be as well.

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