Former Scotland boss Craig Brown believes Jose Mourinho’s affinity for Scotland would have played a role in Scot McTominay’s decision to represent them instead of England.
The youngster, who has become a Mourinho favourite following sturdy midfield performances this season, was eligible to play for both nations due to being born in Lancaster and having a Glaswegian father.
And over the weekend it was revealed that McTominay had decided to turn down Gareth Southgate and instead opt to play under Alex Mcleish, who reportedly wants to include him in the squad for friendlies with Costa Rica and Hungary later this month.
Speaking to the Daily Record, Brown – manager of Scotland for eight years – noted that Mourinho may have played a part in the decision.
“I read somewhere Sir Alex Ferguson was influential in McTominay’s decision. But the most influential guy will have been Jose Mourinho,” he insisted.
“Mourinho has a great affection for Scotland. He did his coaching badges at Largs and loved his time here. When he started at Chelsea I was at Derby and I met him at a reserve game – in the hamburger queue.
“I was watching the game with the Derby reserve team and I said to him, ‘Don’t you think you can come to England and beat Alex Ferguson.’ Mourinho replied, ‘No chance, it’s not him or the Scottish I want to beat – it’s the English!’
“If the boy had said to Mourinho, ‘Scotland or England?’ I think Mourinho would have steered him down the Scotland route as he is so well disposed to Scotland. I believe Mourinho would also be supportive of him playing for Scotland.
“It’s a massive coup for Alex to land McTominay for Scotland. Pipping England to get a player is just like beating them in a game.”
Mourinho has spent enough time in England to know what our footballing culture – the expectations, the perennial scrutiny, the compulsion to find one player and scapegoat him to oblivion, the capacity to simultaneously expect everything and nothing – to know of its damaging effects on young talents like McTominay.
There is a quote from an interview he did in 2014, ahead of the World Cup in Brazil, that captures this viewpoint – from someone deeply entrenched in the English game but, by virtue of his nationality, also able to look at it from the outside as well – better than I ever could.
“England is the kind of team where I am always expecting something good, but I am never surprised when things go wrong,” he said.
“In every country I know – especially my own country [Portugal] – people live football in a very emotional way. Normally, the press is critical, because everybody has an opinion. The moment the team is chosen and the competition is next door, everybody is together.
“No more critics. Everyone supports, even if you don’t agree. Because for a month, the team is a team. I’m not so sure, with the mentality in this country [England], people are ready to go in this direction.”
With this in mind, you can see why Mourinho doesn’t want McTominay, a player whose general character he admires as much as his style on the pitch, to get involved with a team and wider body of ideas that can only be described as harmfully toxic.
McTominay will probably never go to a major tournament because of his decision; but perhaps that is an acceptable price to pay for avoiding the alternative.