"This is not the best league in the world, this is football from the 19th century,"
Jose Mourinho’s response to Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with West Ham, January 29 2014.
Archived article from Evening Standard – January 29th 1885
‘Twas a dismal evening in the gloaming heart of West London, yet bathed in the glow of Mr Edison’s extraordinary artificial lighting contraptions, a great exhibition was being played out upon the sodden turf of Stamford Bridge.
The brave underdogs from Thames Ironworks, resplendent in a livery of blue and claret, limbs aching from their travails in the workhouses of Whitechapel, crossed our great capital to challenge the might of the Chelsea Blues in a game of Association Football, witnessed by no fewer than 30,000 denizens of the Kings Road dressed ruggedly in Norfolk jackets and woollen britches.
All eyes were on Senhor Mourinho – the great Conquistador and tactical supremo - who has so dazzled our humble nation with his modern thinking. What riches at his disposal! What innovative efficiency in his training methods and tactical acumen! Outside Halves and Inside Lefts! A custodian with a new-fangled helmeted device to protect against leather and hobnail boot!
This correspondent was left to marvel at the unrivalled army of sporting mercenaries the Portuguese has assembled after trawling the four corners of our earth by clipper and locomotive at the behest of his employer , the mysterious “Russian Squire”.
Most notable is the centre-forward “Eto’o” – an African no less! – and a man of exotic majesty who was reportedly swiped from the clutches of the East India Company at the colonial outpost of Kameroun in reparation for a trade embargo during the Boer War. All around him, a veritable swarm of continental popinjays duck and dive and flick and swerve –all paid professionals, many of whom are reputed to command wages in excess of ten guineas a week!
Most of those gathered to witness this prestigious event had anticipated a massacre of those plucky “Hammers” from Upton Park, but – hark! The energetic barrow-boys will not lie down without a good old tussle! Just like our cherished Doctor WG Grace as he fought off the Demon Spofforth at the Kennington Oval in ’77, the Ironworks defence refused to crumble.
Time and again, the diminutive Belgian Hazard and his illustrious associates were stymied in their artful wing-wizardry by soot-covered costermongers and guttersnipes like Noble and Tomkins – eyes agleam with youthful endeavour – who tackled and blocked with the desperate abandon of Royal Engineers in the broiling intensity of Rorke’s Drift.
The rakish Iberian, attired unconventionally in a stylish frockcoat and cravat of Viennese silk, grew visibly choleric as each minute passed – clearly upset at his opponents’ lugubrious tactics of “parking the stagecoach” across their frenzied goalmouth.
But his opposite number, the splendidly corpulent Mr Allardyce, was unapologetic and indeed seemed to revel in his adversary’s discomfort.
As a brief aside, if one were to believe the scurrilous tell of the locals over cognac and cigars at the Barking Gentleman’s Club, Mr Allardyce served as the main inspiration for Mr Dickens’ storied benefactor Magwitch. Clearly, he is a man of means - as evidenced by the golden pocket-watch and ubiquitous cheesecloth top hat - but his origins remain shrouded in mystery.
Some say he was born into poverty in the West Midlands and incarcerated for sheep rustling, before escaping to France and cuckolding Napolean Bonaparte. Others maintain he rose from obscurity after making his fortune hawking black pudding and sausages to the landed gentry in Wolverhampton.
Either way, there can be no doubt that Mr Allardyce’s star is in the ascendant. At court there are whispers that he curries favour with her Majesty herself – consoling her in her mourning, and tickling her royal fancy with ribald ditties on the pianoforte.
But I digress.
At the conclusion of the contest, the gallant Blues had propelled the pig-skin toward the goal area of their spirited opponents on no fewer than thirty-nine occasions, only for each sortie to be repelled with vim and cockney swagger.
And then, with the scoreline being at Love-All, the Umpire brought a halt to the proceedings, and all two and twenty young gentlemen repaired to a local hostelry whereupon the Western fancy Dan’s of Chelsea supped Port and lamented their profligacy whilst the jubilant Eastenders commandeered the taproom and regaled their tales of heroism to wide-eyed scullery-maids and slatterns over frothing pints of mead.
It only remains for your faithful correspondent to report that Senhor Mourinho was last seen lashing out at his Guatemalan houseboy in Latin exasperation before stalking off into the smog.
Mr Allardyce remained to address the gentlemen of the Press and twirled his moustache with glee.
Goodnight, and God save the Queen.