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Friday, March 25, 2005

PREMIER REPORT

Classless Chelsea, Mourinho facing yet another day in the dock


LONDON -- Another day, another charge.

Christopher Davies

Disciplinary action against Chelsea and Jose Mourinho has become almost a daily event this week. Never in the history of English football have so many charges been leveled against a club and manager in so little time.

The Premiership leader has completed the most ignominious of hat tricks over the last few days and Mourinho, particularly, is proving to be a coach whose tactical genius is matched only by his underhanded methods, ego, arrogance and lying.

On Monday, Chelsea, Mourinho, assistant manager Steve Clarke and security official Les Miles were charged with bringing the game into disrepute by UEFA.

On Wednesday, the Premier League charged Arsenal fullback Ashley Cole for making an alleged illegal approach to Chelsea, while the Blues and Mourinho were separately charged for their alleged involvement in the "tapping up" saga.

Cole was reported to have met Mourinho and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon, who has escaped any charges, at a hotel in London.

On Thursday, Chelsea was fined by UEFA for breaches of competition rules -- Mourinho failed to attend a post-match press conference after the Champions League tie in Barcelona when the team was also late out for the second half.

Earlier this year, Mourinho was fined £5,000 by the English Football Association for his "cheat, cheat" comments after the Carling Cup semifinal first leg against Manchester United. After Mourinho was expelled from the technical area during the final for making gestures to Liverpool fans, the F.A. warned the Portuguese about his future conduct.

Chelsea was also fined £15,000 by the F.A. for failing to control its players during the Premiership game at Blackburn.

There is still an outstanding F.A. charge against Chelsea for the behavior of the supporters during a Carling Cup tie against West Ham.

So this season Chelsea has been involved in disciplinary cases with the F.A., Premier League and UEFA. The "score" is Chelsea 6 , Mourinho 5, Clarke 1, Miles 1 -- a not so grand total of 13 disciplinary cases for the club and personnel.

In Chelsea's eyes they are innocent of all charges. But then prisons are full of "innocent" people . . .

HOW HAS THE club descended to such disciplinary depths?

Former chairman Ken Bates could be rude and abrasive but he would never have allowed such anarchy from those he employed.

Chelsea -- and English football -- changed when Roman Abramovich's Russian Revolution took over Stamford Bridge two summers ago. What the new regime lacks in class and manners it more than makes up for in money, which it seems to think could buy it anything and is all that really matters in life.

Jose Mourinho was recruited from FC Porto at a salary of £4.1 million a year, when Kenyon could not persuade Sven-Goran Eriksson to give up his England job, and at first the charismatic manager was everyone's darling.

The media loved Mourinho because he was outspoken, Chelsea was on the way to a record-setting Premiership crown and Stamford Bridge was the home of sexy football, a sort of footballing Hollywood with money, stars and success everywhere you looked.

"The Russians, they do things differently," said Bates soon after he sold out to Abramovich, the outgoing appalled at the way some of the staff he left behind were treated, or rather mistreated.

Abramovich has never conducted an interview, but as the owner of any company must surely be responsible for the way those he employs carry on, then the Russian billionaire is also culpable.

The arrogance that has come with unlimited wealth at Stamford Bridge is mind-boggling -- however, slowly but surely Chelsea is finding it is not a law unto itself and while fines don't hurt the richest club in the world, suspensions do.

No amount of Abramovich's seemingly endless supply of money can buy a not guilty verdict next Thursday when UEFA's control and disciplinary body meet to discuss the charges against Chelsea, Mourinho, Clarke and Miles, who were effectively accused of lying over allegations that Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard had visited the dressing-room of referee Anders Frisk during the Champions League tie at Nou Camp.

When the authorities announce disciplinary charges against a club, coach or player they tend to be brief and to the point.

UEFA's statement concerning Chelsea was the most strongly-worded statement observers can remember, which suggests those involved will not so much have the book thrown at them but the entire library.

Anything other than severe punishments looks impossible. Few outside of Stamford Bridge will have any pity on a club whose disregard for rules and regulation grows like Abramovich's bank account, or a manager whose ego is out of control.

The minimum Mourinho and Clarke can expect is a two-game suspension -- in reality a stadium ban -- though it would be no surprise if the punishment is as much as six matches.

UEFA is angry at Chelsea's unfounded allegations about Rijkaard.

"We are in the presence of false statements. I can categorically state that this [the alleged meeting between Rijkaard and Frisk] did not happen," said UEFA's director of communications William Gaillard.

"This is not only bringing the game into disrepute, it is using the ends to justify the means -- to get where you want to get to, and maybe this time it's the Champions League [final], you are ready to use even disloyal methods to get there. This is totally and completely unacceptable."

If -- and it is a huge 'if' -- there is any sympathy for Chelsea it is that it can claim with some justification that it cannot have a fair trial in the wake of UEFA statements.

However, given the appalling behavior of Mourinho, in particularly, most people will think Chelsea and its management will get what it deserves in the wake of serial lying.

Apart from Chelsea giving untrue evidence to UEFA -- football perjury -- Mourinho cast doubts on the honesty of Frisk, who retired in the wake of threats to himself and his family, mainly from followers of the English champion-elect.

While UEFA is not blaming Mourinho for Frisk's retirement, had the Chelsea manager not said what he did, the Swede would probably still be officiating.

Have there been any words of apology or a climb-down from Chelsea?

No.

Quite the opposite in fact, and the Premiership leader, (and winner of the head in the sand award) is adopting a siege mentality.

A senior club source said: "We will be standing by our story."

"We feel the whole case had been pre-judged. Our position is that we will take whatever action we feel we need to defend ourselves next week. We are already taking legal advice. We are fully in support of our manager, his assistant and the security officer."

The Chelsea source said: "According to UEFA, it [the disciplinary panel] is fully independent but we are not so convinced that it is fully independent. That's just its claim."

None of the disciplinary committee is employed by UEFA.

Yes, they are all officials of their own national associations but what else does Chelsea expect?

A committee of builders and car mechanics?

The Chelsea source continued: "You have to question why and how this has been done. I'm just asking if people might think there are ulterior motives and why it has happened."

How about -- because you lied to European football's governing body about an opposing club's coach and a respected referee, virtually accusing them of working together against the opposition?

Christopher Davies covers Arsenal and the Republic of Ireland for the London Daily Telegraph.


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