The Premier League is about more than just sport. It’s also about theatre.
The 2013/14 season will see two of football’s great thespians take to the stage once more: Jose Mourinho and Ian Holloway.
They’re two of the game’s great orators. Few managers have such a natural gift for rhetoric. A press conference held by Mourinho or Holloway can be controversial, insightful or emotional. One thing is guaranteed: It will be entertaining.
However, neither manager is a clown. They’re both talented coaches with successful records, albeit at different ends of the Premier League pyramid. Their verbose ways are strategic: They know that by drawing attention to themselves they can take pressure away from their team and manipulate the media agenda.
Jose Mourinho announced himself to the English media with his very first press conference. When he was unveiled as the new Chelsea manager back in 2004, he uttered the immortal line dubbing himself a “Special One.” Mourinho has rarely been off the back pages since.
Holloway’s remarkable character rose to the fore when he was promoted with Blackpool in 2010. His press conferences were every bit as colourful as Blackpool’s tangerine shirts. Blackpool’s playing style echoed Holloway’s forthright personality, and the manager from the West Country made himself a lot of friends during his short stay in the Premier League.
Now, after Crystal Palace’s dramatic playoff victory, he’s back. He doesn’t seem to have mellowed. Throughout last season he was ferociously critical of Watford’s controversial loan arrangement with Udinese. The increased spotlight of the Premier League will see Holloway flourish.
It’s unclear whether Mourinho will display the same bombast second time around. On his second unveiling as Chelsea boss he seemed like a changed man. Rather than the "Special One," he suggested he was merely a "Happy One." The fire had been doused and contentment had settled in.
There’s no doubting that Mourinho remains ambitious. After his relative failure at Real Madrid, he will be determined to write a second successful chapter at Stamford Bridge.
However, perhaps he will have learnt from his difficult dealings with the Spanish press. His brusque manner meant that he made many editorial enemies early on in his Real reign. Arguably, his reputation among the Madrid press never really recovered.
We might begin to see a well-mannered Mourinho: a manager more focused on his on-field activities than his on-camera addresses.
Should that prove to be the case, Holloway will surely win the battle of the quotes.
However, Mourinho’s charisma and status means he won’t be short of air time.
A mild Mourinho is still box-office.
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