They say you should never go back and most of the time, in relation to football managers seeking to reprise past glories, they are right. Ron Atkinson at West Bromwich Albion, Graham Taylor at Aston Villa, Howard Kendall and Kenny Dalglish on Merseyside, Kevin Keegan on Tyneside all found the going much tougher second time around and departed sadder if wiser.
Not that any of those had led teams to a League title in four different countries or a single European Cup, let alone two. They were special for a while in their own way, but they were not Jose Mourinho, voted the third greatest manager of all time in World Soccer's recent poll. Now, having made a career out of transcending even great expectations wherever he happens to find himself working, the self-styled Happy One must try to find contentment for long enough to defy the convention that fond memories are generally sullied in the re-creating.
To be Mourinho is to believe that will happen, as night follows day and trophy follows trophy. Furthermore, it will be a long stay, longer he hopes than the previous one of three seasons and a bit, which is itself his record to date for staying put at any one club: "I'm happy to stay while the club is happy and I'm happy," he said on Friday. "I don't see myself in Spain or Italy coaching another club or in other leagues, because these are the leagues I most love and I was very curious to work in. And in this country my big connection is with Chelsea Football Club so I will try for the club to be happy with me and I will try at the end of this contract – quite a long contract – that we both want to keep together."
At present, when all is sweetness and light, Mourinho can foresee only one set of circumstances in which that would not happen. "I'm not the person to be in a club three or four years without winning a trophy. In this case I wouldn't need the club to say 'we're not happy with you, goodbye'. I'd be the first one to say 'I gave everything I could but I didn't succeed, let's go and try a different thing'." But of course he cannot seriously imagine such a thing: "Of course it's about winning trophies. My feeling is when you work well, I think the trophies will arrive naturally, based on this stability, so I'm here for that."
Talk of stability is not something heard much around Chelsea this past decade except in lamenting the absence of any. Yet for a while at least it seems likely to become a buzzword, echoed in the past few days by Frank Lampard, one of the few squad members to predate Mourinho's first coming nine years ago. "It's nice to have a feeling around the place where it's not an 'interim' manager situation," Lampard said.
"There certainly is a plan of a longer-term (strategy), given the players we have got. That was always what we needed. But at the same time, at a club like Chelsea, you always want that instant and regular success. So, I think it's a nice balance at the minute. We want to do well this year but we are also looking for the long term. We got used to an interim manager because we were very successful doing it. We can't complain too much. But it's certainly nice to have a feel of stability around the place."
Lampard clearly speaks for the old guard in his genuine pleasure at welcoming Mourinho's return. Any changes that the players have picked up on? "Not really, he's the same man. Obviously, he's a bit more experienced. We all change with years of experience. He knows the club inside-out, he knows some of the players already. He has been very good to work with for some of the young players that we have got. He's demanding on the training ground, which is the best way to be. He's easy to talk to, off the pitch, let's you know what he wants."
If they do so today, it promises to be a daunting first day for Steve Bruce and Hull, both back among the big boys. From Mourinho, meanwhile, there was an appeal to the media and other interested parties in which tongue was surely located adjacent to Portuguese cheek. "I remember in my time here all the pressure was on us. Everyone was permanently speaking of Mr Abramovich's millions, this player cost that, the other player cost that.
"So hopefully you speak about other clubs where it looks like the Financial Fair Play didn't arrive there and give us the protection you gave to other teams by saying they are a young team, they need time, they need to improve, they need to make mistakes. Hopefully you are fair and you do this the other way and you say 'Jose, work with calm, no pressure, take your boys and do your best.'"
Never go back
Ron Atkinson (West Bromwich Albion)
1978-81 Exciting team finish third and fourth, earning him Manchester United job.
1987-88 Avoids relegation to Third Division by one point.
Howard Kendall (Everton)
1981-87 Winner of League (twice), FA Cup and European Cup-Winners' Cup.
1990-93 Mostly bottom half of the table.
1997-98 Avoids relegation on final day of season.
Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool)
1985-91 Three League titles and two FA Cups, including one Double.
2011-12 Sacked after joint lowest (8th) position in memory.
Graham Taylor (Aston Villa)
1987-90 Runner-up to Liverpool two years after promotion.
2002-03 Unhappy 16 months ends in bottom five.
Kevin Keegan (Newcastle)
1992-97 Third and second (twice) in style after winning promotion.
2008 Resigns after three games of new season following dispute with owner Mike Ashley.
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