LONDON — Jose Mourinho isn’t a hero at Tottenham Hotspur yet. But the fans want him to be.
Before the game the lyrics of a Tom Greenan’s Song “found what I’ve been looking for” blasted out over the PA system. Spurs and their Chairman Daniel Levy feel like the have, generally.
All the chatter before, during and after the game was about Jose Mourinho. The “born winner” who has won trophies at FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Spurs fans hope Mourinho adds Spurs next to his list and keeps his incredible record going of winning silverware wherever he’s gone.
The former Chelsea and Man United manager has now won his first two games as Tottenham’s manager, beating rivals West Ham 3-2 on Saturday and securing a spot in the UEFA Champions League last 16 by beating Olympiacos 4-2 in dramatic fashion.
It was box office Mourinho to be 2-0 down early, make a tactical substitute after 30 minutes, then rally to win 4-2 and spark wild celebrations on the sidelines and in the stands. It was quite surprising just how positive Tottenham’s fans were towards Mourinho.
Asked by ProSoccerTalk after the game about the reaction from home fans and what he made of his home debut for Spurs, Mourinho made it all about the team, but mostly about himself.
“It is not about me, it is about the team. I just want to help. The fans helped, I helped, the ballboy helped. Everybody that loves Spurs helped the players. The players are the most important thing,” Mourinho said. “My feeling was great, especially because it was one of these matches where I had to play. Some of the matches you play before the match, the way you prepare the team, you work, you train and your action during the game isn’t very important. In other matches you have to play. But today I had to play. “I think that was my 80th victory in the Champions League. Let’s go for 81.”
He is always focused on one thing: Winning above everything else.
Speaking to Spurs fans before the game, they are keen to forget Mourinho’s allegiance to rivals Chelsea (but were also keen to also mention they couldn’t forget former manager George Graham for his links to Arsenal) provided he does one thing: Win.
“If you’re going to go get someone, this club needs someone who is going to win, so you can go on and win. It has been so long. He is a winning manager,” Danny Hood said, smiling, as he stood next to his daughter with his flat cap on. “To get a couple of trophies would be great and then hopefully even if he does go, hopefully they will have it in them to do it again.”
Mourinho is all about the final step for Tottenham.
Under Mauricio Pochettino they came so close to winning silverware but just came up short. That ruthless edge wasn’t there. Firing Pochettino and hiring Mourinho came out of necessity.
“When it happened I was shocked. In terms of Pochettino, I thought he had a little bit of time left. And Mourinho, well, I thought it was quite an extreme appointment,” Duncan Capp, a lifelong Spurs fans from Uxbridge, explained. “At the same time you could see the sense as well. A proven winner of trophies and it is sort of a marriage of convenience for both parties. Tottenham want to get back to the top four and Mourinho wants to get back to the Champions League and hopefully win it, again.”
There was a spring in the step of fans and staff members at Spurs before and after the game, as the new manager bump has arrived big time under Mourinho. For a manager who divides opinion, there is still a sense of hesitation to laud him from Tottenham’s fans.
His name was not sung by the home fans on Tuesday against Olympiacos.
“I don’t think we will be singing his name just yet and any response will be more for the team who are playing in the Champions League tonight,” Capp said. “I don’t think there will be a negative response for Mourinho. He has a chance, especially if he keeps winning. We aren’t going to win every single game under Mourinho, we know that, but the Champions League is a good platform for him. It is his competition, or so he thinks. If we can have a good run in the Champions League and get in the top four, it would be a good season.”
Other were more keen to go all-in on Mourinho: “If we start winning every week then we will start singing his name!” Hood added.
Fans broke down his hiring time and time again amongst themselves, with many admitting he’s probably be gone inside three seasons but if he left with a few more trophies under his arm, who cares? They want to win, any way, any how. One fan belted out that 38 1-0 victories with boring football would do the job.
Somewhere Mourinho’s ears must have pricked up.
“You have the third most successful manager in history now,” one fan explained to another. “Exactly. We sacked one world class manager and replaced him with another,” replied another.
Mourinho was apparently the “best appointment we could have made” but some admitted they were a “little worried about the reaction he will get.”
They know the Portuguese coach is playing the same game he has time and time again to get fans onside early and believe they can succeed. He’s a master at it.
“Mourinho is saying all the right things, Pochettino was saying all the wrong things,” said one man leaning on the edge of corporate box inside the stadium. He and his friends had a theory, if Spurs didn’t hire Mourinho, Arsenal would have. And they believed Pochettino would never go to the Gunners.
The next guy came along and wasn’t happy with Mourinho being the new manager but quipped “he could be a great manager and I hope it works out, but…”
The retort arrived: “But how good will it be for the youngsters, to have a winner like that around the team!?”
It all goes back to winning. It always does with Mourinho.
Winning means Spurs will try to become nasty again, as they try every trick in the box Mourinho wrote to get success.
He was the first person to celebrate with the ball boy who hurried to get the ball to Serge Aurier for Spurs’ second goal. The master of the dark arts approved.
“We want somebody who is nasty and pushing people and mixing it up. When Pochettino took over we were the youngest, fittest team and the most aggressive team,” Danny Hood added. “People talked about us being the hardest team in the league to play against. Dele used to dive, wind people up, Poch told him to stop that and knocked the confidence out of him. I want that nasty team again, that team who fought everyone. I hope that comes back.”
There is still a reluctance to get too excited by Mourinho.
“My initial reaction was shock but once you break it all down, here some of the details and rumors, then you sort of understand it a bit more. You can accept it a little more,” Capp added.
The acceptance at Spurs is that Mourinho isn’t perfect, but he’s a winner.
“He’s proven he can win everywhere, so let’s hope Spurs aren’t the odd ones out,” Daisy Hood laughed. “I nearly fell asleep during the Newcastle game! I want trophies. So it is Mourinho. As long as he’s running up the touchline at Stamford Bridge celebrating for Tottenham, I’m happy.”