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Former AFL coach reveals Mourinho mentorship, Hulk signing and son's Stoke trial

8:47 AM GMT+4 03/09/2019
Hird/Mourinho
"Every morning he was in their face..."

They may have been coaching two very different types of football, but former Essendon coach James Hird has revealed how useful it was to shadow Jose Mourinho. 

Hird, a former AFL player turned coach, was lucky enough to study Mourinho closely when The Special One was still at Real Madrid.

While impressed by the former Manchester United manager's tactics, it was Mourinho's interpersonal skills that really blew Hird away. 

"When I was coach of Essendon I was fortunate enough to have some contacts into Real Madrid when he (Mourinho) was there," Hird said on Santo, Sam and Ed's 2 on 1 podcast. 

"A friend of mine knew the owner of MARCA and he organised it. I spent four days at the training ground pretty much walking behind Jose. Looking at the facilities, their training methods and it was a thoroughly fascinating experience.

"The difference in him as a person to what you see in the media couldn’t be more different.

"The first time I saw him in front of his players, every player got a greeting - a handshake, a 30 second ‘how’s your family?’. I said ‘why do you do that?’ and he was very much about having a personal relationship with them.

"Talking about the clubs he's fallen out with, his predicament he was saying was that the footballers in Europe, they’re such individuals that you just can’t let them go too far down the track.

"That was really interesting to see the dynamic with the players. One thing I really liked was his first impression with the players, every morning he was in their face. You could just see the players lift, he got them onside every day."  

No longer coaching AFL after a troubled stint in charge of Essendon, Hird has begun dabbling in round ball ventures. 

The 46-year-old was recently involved in signing Brazilian star Hulk, who plays for Shanghai SIPG in China, to a new boot deal. 

"One of the businesses I’m in is a football boot that’s being developed here in Australia, it’s been around for a long time, and we just signed Hulk to a deal in China," he said.

"Hulk now wears the boot, it’s called Concave. We signed him up and had a big launch party. He had quite a big posse - two weeks earlier Neymar had come to stay with him!

"He’s the best player in China and he’s got a big presence. It was Hulk or Oscar. We adapted the boot for Hulk and brought out a prototype for him." 

Now working in football, one of Hird's sons is also showing real talent with the round ball having previously attracted interest from clubs in England.  

"One of our boys did a trial at Stoke I think two years ago and did really well," Hird said. 

"But the fact they wanted him to come over and stay there when he was 15 going into Year 10, there was no way - this child is going to come back and get his education.

"There was a place for three months but there was no guarantee. It’s a really tough road for kids from Australia."