David Preece: My take on Mourinho-Costa ‘Bib-gate’

Diego Costa

Diego Costa

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If you look it up on Wikipedia, a “hot take” is defined as “a journalism term derisively used to describe a “piece of deliberately provocative commentary that is based almost entirely on shallow moralizing in response to a news story, usually written on tight deadlines with little research or reporting, and even less thought.”

With that in mind, here’s my hot take on the events that took place on the Chelsea bench during the closing minutes of their goalless game at White Hart Lane last Sunday afternoon; events that were, in my opinion, blown out of all proportion.

I’ve never been an advocate of players banging down the manager’s door looking for confrontation because I’m a big believer in letting your performances doing the talking.

If you were as inclined to a good pun as I am, you might say the ensuing fuss generated by Diego Costa’s apparent act of petulance was biblical in the scale of its escalation but I’ll let you decide for yourself whether you think that falls into the “good pun” category or not.

When I first saw the footage of Diego Costa ripping his pink bib over his head and throwing it up in the air, I initially thought the same as everyone else; that it was a strop, a momentary loss of head as it dawned on him his afternoon, in his eyes, had been a complete waste of time.

That his manager, by not only dropping him to the bench but leaving as an unused substitute, had disrespected a player of his stature, a player who could have changed the game’s stalemate status.

We could’ve all been right and those very same thoughts might have been going through his head, as is common with many strikers and attacking midfielders whose inflated egos are as much the source of the their success as they are of their downfall.

The resolution of self-confidence their talent relies on is also their achilles heel, often spilling over into a childish arrogance that throws a shade of disrespect over the heads of all their teammates.

An anecdote: I was once sat in a dressing room before a game with one of my team-mates, a striker as it so happens, where he proceeded to get changed into his kit to warm-up in before the game.

At this point, I should make you aware that the side that day had not yet been announced, only a squad of 17 players, so, with a team of 11 starting players plus five substitutes that meant one player would have to be left out. You’re ahead of me already, I can tell.

As the manager came into the dressing room an hour and half before the game to read out the names of those chosen to start and those who’d have to wait their turn, my mate who was the first player changed into his kit was the one name unfortunately omitted from the list.

No sooner had the dressing room door creaked to a gentle close, the profanities spewed. I’ll spare you the curses but the general gist of his ire was that “it was a joke” that he wasn’t involved because he actually thought he’d be starting the game up front in attack, not up by the bar in the players’ lounge. According to him, the manager “didn’t have a clue” and he “wasn’t having any of this” and once he had once again replaced his shorts for his suit, he made a bee-line to the manager’s office to vent his anger.

We all sat there quietly, before the silence was broken with a simple “he’s a disgrace, him”, a sentiment I couldn’t have agreed with more at the time.

I’ve never been an advocate of players banging down the manager’s door looking for confrontation because I’m a big believer in letting your performances doing the talking.

Of course you should be disappointed and there’s nothing wrong with asking the manager how he came to his decision and what you needed to do to get into his side but storming into his office just over an hour before kick off certainly isn’t the right time to do it. The correct way to have conducted himself in that situation would’ve been to take it on the chin, get dressed, go around the room wishing every player all the best for the game and then approach the manager on Monday morning.

But what he did was selfish, disruptive to match preparation and most of all, showed massive disrespect to the two players who had been picked ahead of him.

This is where the arrogance and selfishness of the match winners becomes a toxic ingredient in the melting pot of different characters.

Instead of giving him respect for acting professionally and showing sympathy for the acute embarrassment of being left out after he’d already assumed he was involved.

His own actions had now isolated himself further from the squad even more so than his manager had done minutes before. Because of the pace at which football moves, inside and out of the dressing room, these incidents are usually swept under the carpet, with the temporary detrimental effect the stroppy player had on match day soon dispersing.

The only long lasting effect is the small mark left against their role in the group and it takes a special player for it to repeatedly occur and not held against them by those around him.

In similar circumstances, you can take Celtic’s ex-Sunderland striker, Anthony Stokes, as a recent example of this type of behaviour.

Taking to social media to show his displeasure at watching his team from the stands isn’t the wisest move, just an attention seeking move to shift focus on to himself.

If you look at it from another point of view, there was probably a younger, hungrier player sat back in Glasgow who would have given his hind teeth to have swapped places with Stokes just to be involved in and around the first team that day.

In the same way a manager who rants and raves doesn’t necessarily care more than the quiet, diligent type, the player who throws the biggest strops doesn’t do it because he cares more than the others, it just reveals the shallowness of his character.

As for Diego Costa, his actions were probably much less sinister than they’ve been made out to be.

Naturally, he wasn’t happy about his lack of meaningful involvement, but if you look where the bib lands, it isn’t at Jose Mourinho but at the feet of the bib-less sub keeper, Marco Amelia, who simply picks up the bib without flinch nor fuss.

That’s why I fail to see what the fuss is about.

I mean, it’s not as if he exchanged his bib with an opponent before the game was over.

Imagine that!