MOURINHO ACCEPTS WRITERS' AWARD
What was already a special Sunday for Jose Mourinho ended on a high note when the Chelsea manager was honoured by football journalists at a gala dinner in London.
Fresh from chalking up the 100th Premier League win of his career, the team having beaten reigning champions Manchester United, Mourinho travelled from Stamford Bridge to the Savoy Hotel on the Strand where he was greeted by an array of famous football faces and the Football Writers' Association (FWA). They organised the evening and presented their Tribute Award, given annually to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the national game.
Mourinho, on accepting the honour, spoke about the four groups of people represented on the night who made his success possible; his family ('because without love and happiness I can't do my job'), his team of assistants ('my brothers'), his players ('without them I have no career') and his former bosses who encouraged him on his way.
The FWA chairman Andy Dunn (pictured below left) before handing over the award said everyone in his profession was pleased when Mourinho returned to the Premier League last summer.
'I don't think we have ever seen a manager generate so much opinion,' he added. 'Jose challenged our opinions as journalists and we are never indifferent to him, never not bothered. He always gives something to talk about and something to analyse.
'We appreciate that but we are mainly honouring him because of his fantastic achievements.'
Mourinho, in his acceptance speech, said he thought there was another reason too.
'During my adventure in Italy and in Spain, people didn't understand how I can prefer England. I defend English football and also England as a country. I was never afraid to say how much I love this country, how much I love working in this country, how much I love Chelsea Football Club.
'I feel this country is a fantastic one for me and my family. I feel the Premier League is my natural habitat.
'I love the relationship I have with the writers. I think I understand your job well, I feel respect and I think you feel the same.'
As well as his wife Matilde, daughter Matilde and son Jose Mario, Mourinho was supported at the dinner by directors and staff of Chelsea FC, his assistant first team coach Silvino Louro representing the backroom staff, and Frank Lampard on behalf of the playing squad.
Lampard, who received the Tribute Award in 2010 as well as the Footballer Writers' Footballer of the Year in 2005, gave a speech in tribute to his manager, recalling their early days working together almost a decade ago.
'From the first pre-season we had and for evermore there was an aim to everything. Every training session rather than being mundane or not for a reason, he wanted something out of us. Every individual in the squad at that time and collectively as a group, we moved up straight away.
'You have to deal with different players in different ways and he has found the perfect way to deal with every individual. He worries about the things that make players perform at the highest level and he drags everyone up a level.
'He is the most loyal and caring manager I have worked with.'
Loyalty was also touched upon by the Netherlands national team boss Louis van Gaal, who was speaking as the man who encouraged Mourinho to take the step from being his assistant to a manager in his own right.
That was at Barcelona, where three years earlier Van Gaal, on taking over, had been impressed by Mourinho's defence of previous manager Bobby Robson when the decision to replace the Englishman was made. It convinced Van Gaal to offer Mourinho a similar role to the one he had under Robson.
'I said I want you to be my assistant and he was surprised because it was after his fanatic support of Sir Bobby,' remembered Van Gaal. 'But he was being loyal, honest and passionate.'
Mourinho was clearly moved by the tributes paid, and spoke of his decision to return to England.
'I asked where can I be happy as a family, a manager, enjoy the job and the life socially and we decided England. Then after that to be perfect it was Chelsea, and I was lucky because the door was open to me.'