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Dublin: 2°C Sunday 17 January 2021

David Meyler: My wife has a soft spot for Mourinho after his act of kindness to her

Our football columnist looks ahead to the Portuguese coach’s return to Stamford Bridge and gives predictions on a bottom-of-the-table clash.

Jose Mourinho embraces Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Lucas Moura after the win over Man City.
Jose Mourinho embraces Harry Kane, Heung-min Son and Lucas Moura after the win over Man City.
Image: Neil Hall

EX-IRELAND INTERNATIONAL David Meyler has joined The42 as our new football columnist for this season.

Every Friday, the former Hull City and Sunderland midfielder will give expert insight and his predictions ahead of the weekend’s Premier League action, alongside the latest William Hill prices. 

In his latest piece, he previews Tottenham’s trip to their London rivals Chelsea as the leaders take on third place, before running the rule over West Brom v Sheffield United. 

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Chelsea v Tottenham, 4.30pm Sunday

I’ve only ever had one real interaction with Jose Mourinho.

Sure, when you play against teams you’ll often bump into opposing managers in the tunnel afterwards and they might say ‘Well done’ or whatever, but I mean apart from that.

A few years back, I was at Hull City when we hosted Manchester United during the Portuguese coach’s spell in charge. My little girl, Alanna, was ill at the time and I had arranged for my wife Cally to bring her to see the club doctor at the KC Stadium after the game.

The doctor’s office is located next to the away team’s changing room. Mourinho came walking out and ended up spending five minutes chatting to Cally while she was waiting. She had felt a little uncomfortable being down beside the dressing rooms but he put her at ease. 

I arrived over and what struck me was how nice he was to us. You could tell he had kids of his own and he said we should enjoy these years while our child is growing up, before telling my wife that he hoped my daughter felt better.

You always remember the small things, and I’ll never forget that. It’s a side to Jose that the vast majority of people don’t see.  

My wife and I sat down to watch All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur on Amazon Prime recently, and she now has a soft spot for him because he took the time to  show kindness and speak to her.

In stark contrast to that, the biggest thing I’ve taken away from that documentary is that he doesn’t want his players to be nice guys. You need that nasty streak in you to be successful and it certainly looks like he’s starting to build something at Spurs after a difficult start to life there.

After last weekend’s win over Manchester City, he struck me as someone who has the bit back between his teeth. He has been successful everywhere he’s gone and hasn’t lost that winning mentality, so if can instil it in the players then Tottenham — who currently sit top of the table at this early stage in the season — could finally win some silverware. 

Most people don’t see them as title contenders, and tend to agree, but I’d imagine he’s trying to drive that point home to them — that it’s us against the world. He wants that confrontation and even thrives off it.  

Harry Kane and Heung-min Son are special players in world football right now, and you need those match winners to decide games in your favour. They have been vital to the club for a long time and are now second in Premier League history in terms of combining for the most goals, behind Didier Drogba and current Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.

Remember how important Drogba and Lampard were for Mourinho? If he can get Kane and Son reaching that level then it would go a long way to bringing success.

Then you’re looking at Gareth Bale, who has returned from Real Madrid. Can he get back to being the same player he was before? You can see he’s being given minutes here and there, as his manager is clearly trying to get him up to speed.

They have got a number of exceptional players in their squad but I’ve been really impressed with how he has brought more out of Tanguy Ndombele, who looks a proper player now. He really is affecting games, you saw that with his assist for Son’s goal against City.

Pierre Emile Hojbjerg has been a massive signing too, as that enforcer in the midfield. His stats are through the roof in relation to distance covered and tackles made.

tottenham-hotspur-v-lask-uefa-europa-league-group-j-tottenham-hotspur-stadium Matt Doherty. Source: PA

When Matt Doherty’s move from Wolves came about during the most recent transfer window, Irish football fans and anyone who knew him was excited as we have not had a lot of players at the bigger clubs in recent years.

Unfortunately, he missed last Saturday’s game after contracting Covid-19 while on international duty. I actually spoke to him this week and, after a period of self-isolation, he is hoping to be re-integrated back into the squad.

There is no doubt that Matt will play loads of games for Tottenham, particularly as they’re involved in the Europa League. The last right-back we had playing regularly for them was Stephen Carr, who enjoyed a fantastic career. I hope Matt can go on to have similar success.

Spurs face a difficult proposition on Sunday as Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge to take on his former player.

Lampard seems to have found the right balance in his team and they come into the game on the back of a late win against Rennes in midweek.

You could make a strong case for both clubs here, but I’ll go with them cancelling each other out in a 1-1 draw.

West Brom v Sheffield United, 8pm Saturday

Both West Brom and Sheffield United go into Saturday’s bottom-of-the-table meeting without a league win this season. 

I’ve watched the Blades closely in recent weeks and I still believe they will come good. As I’ve mentioned in this column before, I like what they’re about, I have friends playing for them and I have a lot of time for Chris Wilder.

Similarly to Ireland, the biggest problem they have is not being able to put the ball in the back of the net consistently.

sheffield-united-v-west-ham-united-premier-league-bramall-lane Blades boss Chris Wilder. Source: PA

When you’re in that situation, you’re always looking to your next game to try to turn things around.

The Baggies have been unlucky at times, particularly at Old Trafford last weekend. It should be a tight affair but I feel that Sheffield United will win 2-0.

William Hill odds above correct at the time of writing. New online customers get €30 in free bets when they bet €10 with William Hill. Just use the promo code P30. For all the latest prices, visit williamhill.com. 18+, always gamble responsibly. For more information, see gamblingtherapy.org

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