David Sheehan provides an insight into the summer activity of some of the Premier League’s top managers, and we’re not talking transfers.
The lazy days of summer are designed to provide the memorable and enjoyable experiences that are enough to get a person through the dark days of winter that follow. Like the Elbow song says – “one day like this a year would see me right”. For regular mortals, the summer break generally consists of the package holiday with the better half and the offspring or an Inbetweeners-style liver-damaging week in the sun for the younger lot. However, when you have the wealth and profile of a Premier League manager, broader horizons become available.
As the new season approaches, and the game’s top managers head back to work after a two month break from the day job, David Sheehan looks at what they have been up to and finds that Jose Mourinho spent his summer becoming a better person, Brendan Rodgers has been distracted by an attractive blonde and Arsene Wenger and Roberto Martinez just can’t kick the habit.
The mystery that is Jose Mourinho’s true character continues to evolve and challenge previously held views. In April of this year, following Chelsea’s season defining 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield, this writer published a piece describing Mourinho as a pantomime villain in the mould of Captain Hook, Blofeld or The Joker.
However, ten days after Chelsea’s season ended with a 2-1 victory away at Cardiff in mid-May, Mourinho was being unveiled as the new Special Ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme. The Programme aims to eliminate hunger across the globe and is responsible for providing free school meals to around 24 million children every year, primarily in Africa.
While the world was busy watching Germany cruise to a fourth World Cup during the month of June, Mourinho and his wife Matilde (also unveiled as an Ambassador) travelled to Ivory Coast in West Africa to observe the work of the World Food Programme (WFP) first hand.
Mourinho’s trip began with a visit to a WFP supported school in the city of Nanan to hand out meals to the children. “We are hungry, we are always hungry”, the schoolchildren told the ITV reporter that accompanied Mourinho’s group. Visibly moved and upset by the experience, Mourinho pledged to pay for a year’s worth of food for the school as he departed.
Next stop on the trip was a visit to a HIV clinic. There, Mourinho met patients so fragile that they rely on food provided by the WFP simply to stay alive. “This is the kind of experience where I feel so little”, Mourinho commented as his visit came to an end. He has called upon fines paid by managers and players to be donated by football federations to charities such as the WFP going forward.
A deep, thoughtful and complex individual, Mourinho’s involvement with the World Food Programme may result in a more compassionate and understanding side to his character emerging. One wonders if Mourinho will still have the same appetite for what will surely seem like childish managerial squabbles with Van Gaal, Rodgers and co next season, now that he has come face to face with life’s true struggles.
As Luis Suarez (then still a Liverpool player and only two-time biter) was single-handedly knocking England out of the World Cup on June 19, Brendan Rodgers was also in the Americas. Naturally, one would expect him to be keeping a close eye on a game involving the comeback from injury of Liverpool’s star striker and the involvement of five Liverpool players in England’s starting 11 and a further two on the bench (Lambert had already signed and surely Rodgers knew that Lallana was on the way).
However, rather than a seat in the Stadium Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Rodgers was in New York keeping a close eye on his new girlfriend, 31 year old Charlotte Hind, Liverpool’s former travel manager. The couple were photographed strolling hand in hand through the city hours before the England Uruguay game (it should be noted that Rodgers denies they are in a romantic relationship, however if you have an example of walking hand in hand with a member of the opposite sex who you are not in a romantic relationship with, power to you).
This was the second vacation of the summer for Rodgers with his non-romantic female friend, Hind, following a break to Spain at the end of the football season.
After a traumatic end to the season, which saw Liverpool fall agonizingly short in their quest for a first Premiership title, Rodgers seems to have taken the view that a break from the game was necessary to recharge his batteries for the battles that lie ahead. Based on Liverpool’s significant recruitment drive this transfer window, it appears that Rodgers is well and truly back in the saddle.
It promises to be another demanding season for Liverpool, with the team now fighting on the Champions League front as well as coping with the loss of a 30 goal striker. Rodgers’ decision to take some downtime before the pressure of the coming season takes hold, may prove to be the difference when those around him begin to wilt next May.
Arsene Wenger and Roberto Martinez
In contrast to Mourinho and Rodgers, it was exclusively football for the managers of Arsenal and Everton. Both Wenger and Martinez took pundit roles at the World Cup, Wenger for French TV station TF1 and Martinez for ESPN. Martinez topped up his television work with a World Cup column in the London Times.
It wasn’t all work for Wenger in Rio as he took the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the Copacabana Beach – a well documented game of beach soccer which included an RVP style diving header and an encounter with a Southampton fan begging him not to sign Morgan Schneiderlin , was followed up with an unfortunate comparison to Daniel Craig, as Wenger emerged from the waters beachside in trunks that left little to the imagination.
Martinez and Wenger seem to have identified the World Cup as the ideal opportunity to strengthen their squads at first hand. French journalist Francois Piraux reported that Wenger was holding meetings with agents on June 23rd, while Martinez added Bosnia’s Muhamed Besic after seeing him first hand against Argentina, Iran and Nigeria.
A working summer for Martinez and Wenger, they just can’t seem to get enough of the beautiful game.
David Sheehan, Pundit Arena.