Tottenham Hotspur head coach Jose Mourinho addressed the assembled football media for the first time this morning from Spurs’ training ground. And as we expected, it was a very different experience from the press conferences held by Mauricio Pochettino.
Mourinho looked calm and relaxed, speaking directly to not only the press but also to the legions of Tottenham supporters who were hanging on his every word. And he started his remarks by praising the work of outgoing manager Mauricio Pochettino and saying he’s welcome back anytime.
“First of all, I think I have to and I do it with a bit of sadness, I have to speak about Mauricio.
“I have to congratulate him for the work he did. I have to share with you what we already shared indoors, which is that this club will always be his home. This training ground will always be his training ground, he can come whenever he wants.
“The door is always open for him and from my experience tomorrow is another day and he will find happiness again. He will find a great club again and he will have a great future. He will always be welcome.”
There are a lot of questions swirling around Mourinho’s appointment, not least being what, if anything, he will change in the short term future. Jose said that while change is likely coming, the tactical shift will be minimal, at least at first.
“I cannot think that I can come and in two days or four days I can change things. I don’t have a great experience of taking teams mid-season; it is only the second time I have done it. I did it in Porto I think in 2001 but I thought about it during these months because I had the feeling I was going to get a team mid-season.
“The conclusions was I was going to have a game one or two days after my appointment. I need to trust the base and the base is what was done before. They were in hands of a good manager and coaching staff. Of course we have principles of play and leadership style that is going to change, that is obvious, but I cannot come here and think it is about my fingerprint or myself. It is not about myself.”
“I don’t want to make big changes, I want to respect the base and the work that they did for five-and-a-half years, not two days. We hope that is an update, it is not a change. The base is what they did before. This is not about me and not for me to come and say ‘everything was wrong with Mauricio’, not at all.
“It is to try and understand why results in the Premier League were not good and to try and reach a good level again. The players are very good and I’m not here to make dramatic changes.”
Those comments are instructive about what we might potentially see on the pitch this weekend at the London Stadium, when Spurs play a derby against West Ham. But despite showing what seemed like a softer, fuzzier side rather than the prickly demeanor that he’s known for, Mourinho has said that while he’s changed his approach to management upon reflection, deep down he’s still the same manager.
“You never lose your DNA, you never lose your identity, you are what you are for the good things and the bad things. But I have time to think about many things. I realize that during my career I have made mistakes but I won’t make the same mistakes. I’m going to make new mistakes.
”I am stronger from an emotional point of view. I am relaxed, I am motivated, I am ready and I think the players felt that in two days. I think they feel that I am ready to support them, this is not about me.
”I am in a period where it is not about myself, it is about the club, the fans, the players. Not about me. I am here to try and help everyone.”
Jose has managed clubs all over the world and has one of the largest collection of silverware to his name of any current manager in Europe, but he suggested that the Premier League is where his true football home is. Coming to Spurs is a natural fit, he said, because this is where he has had the best experience, even taking into account the ruthless nature of the modern football game.
“I have always said the Premier League is my natural habitat is where I am most loved is where I felt if I had the option is the league and the country that I considered the best and found most enjoyable and where I am really happy.
When you decide to stay more years in the country – I think [Arsene] Wenger was probably the last of that generation of big era in football clubs, Sir Alex [Ferguson] and Mr Wenger. Mauricio — five and a half years was really amazing but it is normal to change from club to club. I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow Mauricio is manager of another English club – that is modernity in football.
”Now I only have one shirt and only one passion and only one thing in my mind which is my club and that is Spurs. I’m not Chelsea, I’m not United, I’m not Real Madrid, I’m not Inter – I am all of them, I gave everything to all of them and that is what I am going to do here, give everything.”
I said it before, but as far as first impressions go this was a good one. Mourinho came across as humble, warm, and accommodating, neither promising status quo nor massive change immediately. He praised the players, indicated that the squad is very good and has potential, and said he believes in the project, whatever that might be in the short term. It’s everything he should’ve said and it ticks all the right boxes.
But because this is still Jose Mourinho, he did have one especially noteworthy moment, when he was asked if losing the Champions League final in June had affected the team, leading to the dip in form.
“I don’t know because I never lost a Champions League final.”
Mic drop. Exeunt. Be champions.