Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho opens up about Steve Clarke friendship

Chelsea's Jose Mourinho speaks at length about his relationship with his former assistant and current Baggies boss Steve Clarke

jose mourinho
Steve Clarke took over from Roy Hodgson at West Brom last summer Photo: The Sport Review

Jose Mourinho may have a complicated relationship with former apprentice Andre Villas-Boas but the Chelsea manager was effusive in his praise of Steve Clarke ahead of West Bromwich’s trip to Stamford Bridge.

Clarke helped guide the Blues to two Premier League titles and the FA Cup during three years at Stamford Bridge after Mourinho appointed the Scot as his assistant in 2004.

The pair parted ways when Mourinho quit Chelsea in 2007, and Clarke took charge of his first Premier League club – West Bromwich Albion – following Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager in May last year.

The Baggies have already beaten Manchester United at Old Trafford and held league leaders Arsenal to a 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns this season, and Mourinho expects a tough match against his “special” friend.

“Of course I’m very happy to meet him,” said Mourinho.

“It will not be the same thing to play against Steve rather than playing against any other manager.

“He’s a special guy in my career but during the match I think it will be hard for us.

“He organises his team very, very well. It’s very difficult to play against his teams because they defend very well.

“They’ve got counter-attacking players and they are a difficult team. This season, we have a simple example; they stop Arsenal winning and win at Old Trafford. Steve’s teams are always difficult.”

Clarke has talked up Mourinho’s impact on his fledgling managerial career as the Scot learnt from the Special One first hand at the west London side ahead of this weekend’s clash.

And, unsurprisingly, the Blues manager was also complimentary of the Baggies boss.

“We stay in touch but are not speaking about our jobs directly. He had a good experience with me but he had a very good experience during his playing career.

“He was always very focused and organised and started thinking as a coach with me. I think it was an important period for him. He was probably more than an assistant coach in other cases.

“He was in control of training methodology, training sessions, match preparation. He had a very good experience. He was very well prepared for his first time.

“I knew he would do very, very well.”

Clarke has also spent spells working under Gianfranco Zola at West Ham United before being appointed as Kenny Dalglish’s number two at Liverpool.

And Mourinho isn’t surprised by the 50-year-old’s success at West Brom.

“It depends on the manager profile and many managers like to be on top of the situation or like their assistants to do the practical work and have a direct relationship with the players,” he said.

“When he was with me, he was having a different kind of role.

“I think that changed when he was assistant for other managers with different philosophies.

“Steve went to the first real job as a manager very well prepared.”

Mourinho follows Clarke’s progress closely and cheers on his former assistant’s West Brom side – but the Blues boss won’t be taking any prisoners at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

“He knows that every match he plays, I am with him, and wish that he wins. Tomorrow is not obviously the case, which is strange,” he concluded.

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