Ben Burgess column: Does Mourinho believe in his players like Blackpool's Gary Bowyer?

Once again, we all fell for the razzmatazz and hollow promises that Sky Sports have espoused over the last few weeks.

Friday, 20th October 2017, 11:38 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:55 pm
Ben Burgess

Super Saturday they said. Biggest rivalry in England they said.

What followed was possibly less exciting than one of the times tables tests I give to my class.

Should we have been surprised?

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Jose Mourinho has long been anointed the king of the ‘big’ games because he rarely loses them.

Just think of the amazing upsets he caused as the underdog with Porto and even Inter Milan when he won the Champions League.

In recent times, the statistics tell a slightly different story.

In Mourinho’s last 10 away games against top-six sides, he has zero victories, five defeats and his team haven’t even scored in the last nine of those games!

I think people understand that if your team isn’t as strong as the opposition, then spoiling the game and playing defensively is a great option (an option adopted by Simon Grayson on many occasions when we were first promoted).

Many times we’ve seen some amazing upsets from teams that have soaked up pressure for 90 minutes and then scored against the run of play.

The puzzling aspect of Manchester United’s performance was that they were in much better form than Liverpool and have much better players.

It makes you think that Mourinho doesn’t really have the confidence that his teams can win the big games, which I’m sure will be on the players’ minds as well.

One manager who does believe in his players is Gary Bowyer.

He oversaw a good draw away at Walsall last weekend and followed that up with a hugely impressive and much-needed victory over Bury on Tuesday night.

The Bury game saw the return of another of Blackpool’s failed managers, Lee Clark.

He was one of many poor choices in an awful run of bosses that was thankfully halted by the appointment of Bowyer.

A more welcome face back at Bloomfield Road would have been that of last season’s central defensive rock, Tom Aldred. He gave everything in his time at the club and it was a shame he felt he had to leave.

But I’m sure the fans and his ex-team-mates still appreciate him.

I actually witnessed Bury’s surprise victory over Bradford that preceded Tuesday’s match.

They looked extremely dangerous going forward, and with Jermaine Beckford up front they are always a threat.

Those well earned three points ended the Seasider’s four-game winless run in the league and they now find themselves back in play-off contention.

The visit of Wigan Athletic tomorrow will be the biggest test of the season.

Wigan, along with Blackburn Rovers, have the best squad in the division and are beginning to show that in their rise to second place.

I read an amazing fact recently about the Champions League. It turns out that 83 per cent of the players in the quarter-finals of the Champions League over the past 10 years had played first- team football from the age of 17.

I guess I was always up against it, then, as I made my debut for Blackburn Rovers at 18!

That kind of statistic makes you question the set- up at many clubs, with their Under-19s and Under-23/B/Reserve teams.

It’s been said by many people over the years that the lack of competition and intensity at those levels is not conducive to providing first-class footballers.

When I was 18, I was extremely impatient and I was only interested in playing in someone’s first team.

I would get frustrated in the Under-19s and Reserve teams because it wasn’t ‘real’ football.

The Chelsea model of sending their young players out on loan will be adopted by many Premier League teams because they understand the limitations of youth and reserve football, and they understand that their players will only progress by playing first-team football.

It is just a shame there isn’t room for all these youngsters in Premier League teams.