January 30, 2023



The Fiver | The Less Obviously Nihilistic One | Football

6 min read


How the mighty have fallen. Fifteen years ago today, Jose Mourinho delivered Chelsea’s first title in 50 years. He was the best manager in the world, adored by his players, with a roguish twinkle in his eye, a Clooneyish flash of grey in his hair and face muscles that still worked. Now he’s delivering vegetables. Sure, there’s a global pandemic and all that, but the Fiver is merely following the scien- sorry, stating the facts. In 2005, Mourinho was the best manager in the world. In 2020, he’s a grocer’s lackey, no better than David Moyes.

And whether it’s because of an incurable addiction to post-match interviews or a squeamishness about his own brain every time he handles a cauliflower, Mourinho is keen to get back to his day job. “I miss football,” he said in an exclusive interview with Vera, 72, while delivering some artichokes and tatsoi. “But I prefer to say I miss our world, like I think we all do. Football is just part of my world. But we have to be patient, this is a fight that we all have to fight.”

Mourinho is keen to finish the season if possible – “If we play the remaining nine matches this season it will be good for every one of us” – and confirmed the bad news that Harry Kane, Steven Bergwijn and Moussa Sissoko are no longer injured, and that therefore he will have nothing to moan about when Spurs next lose. But generally, José was in good form – if not quite the Happy One, then at least the Less Obviously Nihilistic One.

While there was news of chilling barbarity at his old club Manchester United, who are reportedly preparing to ask players to wash their own kit when they resume training, Spurs have already made facilities available for players to train individually. “It’s a positive feeling for the boys to have the chance to smell grass again,” said Mourinho, as somewhere in the world, Gerard Houllier felt an inexplicable tingle.

Mourinho would like to have the chance to smell silver polish again – specifically the good stuff that is used to polish 24-carat silver gilt. “I prefer to think that I’m going to have a fourth Premier League trophy,” said Mourinho when asked about that magical day 15 years ago, when it looked like the football world would be at his mercy forever and ever.

“I have three,” he continued, idly whistling some De La Soul to remind everyone precisely how many Premier League titles he has won, “I prefer to think I’ll have four.” And if not, his new, improved CV will go down a storm at Asda and Budgens.


“It’s a rollercoaster, but I continue to give it a good go and fight as hard as I can do. You have to try and feel optimistic for the future. I’ve got to face the reality but try and stay as positive as I can. But, when I’m here alone, I have time to think. I know that this is my biggest challenge” – Andy Cole opens up to Donald McRae about maintaining his physical and mental health during lockdown.

Andy Cole, pictured in 2018.

Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian


Check out the latest edition of Football Weekly Extra with Sid Lowe and Philippe Auclair joining Max and Barry. Listen right here or via the link below.

Football Weekly

Sid Lowe on Michael Robinson, plus Euro confusion


“Your story on Dexter Blackstock providing PPE across the Midlands [Fivers passim] has finally justified to my bosses that reading The Fiver on work time is worthwhile. The story caught my eye as Blackeye Rovers player Bradley Johnson is involved, and after reading the piece I got in touch with Blackstock’s company. I work for a nearby local council, so we asked if we could publicise what he was doing locally. Not only was Dexter an absolute gentleman and delighted to be involved, he’s also offered to help us with PPE. Dexter Blackstock: top man” – Ferg Slade.

“Dave Mixon [Wednesday’s letters] needs to look hard within himself. I watched York a fair bit in days gone by, and any expenditure on stickers and crisps would easily have bought the team he loved a new centre forward. Two new centre forwards, if one of them was Gary Bull” – Jon Millard.

“I’m a permanently disappointed Newcastle United fan and I can’t decide what disappoints me most – the fact a morally bankrupt regime is going to buy the club and play real life Fantasy Football with it, or the obsession so many of my fellow fans have with tempting Rafa back from his ‘incredible project’ in China” – Daniel Kennedy.

“Re: ‘The Fiver can’t go on like this’ [Wednesday’s Fiver]. Why not? You have been since I started reading” – Guy Robert.

It’s been six weeks since you succeeded in STOPPING FOOTBALL, yet still the Fiver plops into my mailbox every weekday. I don’t know how you manage to keep coming up with interesting, informative and amusing content. Oh” – Robert Blanchard.

Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Ferg Slade.


The president of the Haitian FA, Yves Jean-Bart, has been accused of sexually abusing young female footballers at the country’s national training centre.

The former Stoke and Reading forward Dave Kitson says he is “ready, willing and able” to lead reforms at the PFA after criticising the handling of the coronavirus crisis. “The fact that certain individual Premier League players felt the need to act independently in their response is nothing short of embarrassing,” Kitson seethed.

Liverpool have said they are “disappointed” after the city’s mayor, Joe Anderson, claimed “many thousands of people would turn up outside Anfield” for title celebrations if the season resumes.

Ralph Hasenhüttl has revealed the one positive to come from Southampton’s 9-0 shellacking at the hands of Leicester: a text from Lord Ferg after the game. “I received an SMS from [Ferg],” the Austrian purred. “If I had never lost 9-0 I would have never had contact with him. That was the positive thing from the result.”

In a move that has in no way come back to haunt them, the Premier League wrote to US trade officials in February urging further monitoring of Saudi Arabia and describing the country as “a centre for [TV] piracy”.

And PSG have officially been crowned Ligue Urrrrrrn champions after the 2019-20 season was scrapped. The plucky upstarts were 12 points clear of Marseille with a game in hand when football was suspended in France.


From Edin Dzeko to Benoît Assou-Ekotto, here are 10 more Premier League players who didn’t get the respect they deserved. And in case you missed it, here’s part one.

Hot composite action.

Hot composite action. Composite: Getty Images

Eni Aluko’s start to life as a sporting director with Aston Villa did not go to plan, but she thinks bringing football back in any form will lift our spirits.

The Premier League have some tough decisions to make in Big Phonecall on Friday with “Project Restart” in the balance, writes David Hytner.

Ed Aarons fires up the PowerPoint and gives you the lowdown on the Premier League’s completely-insane-but-we-would-probably-still-watch plan to play out the season.

My Favourite Game continues! Niall McVeigh selects a scorcher from Euro 2004.

Time for another brain-teasing quiz from Gregg Bakowski. Can you match the famous fan pictures to the correct football match?

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

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