'There is such spirit here and that is down to the manager'

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The Independent Football

Sir Bobby Robson spoke yesterday of the pride he takes in the progress of his former protégé, Jose Mourinho.

Sir Bobby Robson spoke yesterday of the pride he takes in the progress of his former protégé, Jose Mourinho.

The Chelsea manager worked under Sir Bobby at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona and the former England manager observed: "He's had a remarkable first season in English football. It's incredible. At the beginning of the season Arsenal and Manchester United were in pole position and looking strong and Chelsea had to get ahead of them.

"I didn't think they could at the beginning of the season but he's come in and modelled the side. He's done fantastically. I take great pride in the fact that he's done well."

Robson, 72, said Mourinho's qualities were evident early on.

"We worked together for six years at Porto and Sporting Lisbon and then I invited him to Barcelona to be my interpreter," he said. "We worked on the pitch every day. He is very bright, very alert, he's a student of the game.

"He's learnt well and he's done great at Chelsea. He inherited a good squad and then brought in a contingent of other players which has added to and strengthened the squad. He's handled the big players very, very well."

The club's chief executive, Peter Kenyon, was predictably effusive, saying of Mourinho: "He is quite exceptional and was from the first time we met him and talked about what we wanted to achieve at Chelsea," he said. "Obviously, he came with unbelievable credentials ... Then from the first time the squad came together when we went to America last year, it was evident he was going to build a team. There is such a spirit in the place.

"That's down to him and the back-room staff. He is also incredibly detailed in terms of his organisation and planning. Two weeks ago we talked and made plans for what we want to do each day during pre-season through to the start of the season. That sums him up."

The club's former centre forward Peter Osgood, a leading light in the last truly impressive Chelsea generation, may have symbolised the glitzier side of the club, but he paid tribute to more traditional virtues.

"I've been impressed with the team's consistency," he said. "I just think this side is going to be a great one for years to come. I think Mourinho's knowledge of the game is unbelievable. He is a great tactician, gives players belief in themselves and buys good players too."

Another former Blues centre-forward was also quick to praise the Portuguese manager. "Jose has been the key," Kerry Dixon said. "He has made some very astute buys, but more than anything he has brought a structure to the club and instilled a belief in the players. The team spirit is tremendous; there's a desire, commitment and a camaraderie that is key to the success and that all comes back to the manager."

For Dixon, although Mourinho is primarily responsible for Chelsea's renaissance, he has not wrought his miracles in isolation.

"Steve Clarke has also done a wonderful job as assistant manager," Dixon said. "His role has been vital. When Jose came in he needed someone with know-how in England. He needed someone who knew the players, the structure and had a history with the club - and Steve brings all of that."

Derek Bentley, 80 years old and one of the heroes when Chelsea last won the title, emphasised the many differences between the two achievements.

"Things were very different in 1955," he said. "We never saw the trophy and never got presented with it. It never occurred to us at the time. I think the supporters were disappointed they never saw it."

Before yesterday's game, he observed: "I read that some players were drinking champagne at £450 a bottle. That's more than I earned in a whole season. I don't begrudge them the money, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit jealous."