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Insult of the day, and a consideration of the minds of Keown and Souness

By Dr Billy “the dog” McGraw.

Being negative and being critical brings a few advantages in life.  Both can help if one wants to be a political or trades union leader, but for generally getting on ok in life it doesn’t tend to bring job advancement or win new friends.  Except I suppose in journalism and blogging.

The trouble is though, it becomes a bit of a drug.  Having being critical one day, and having negativity as a fundamental aspect of one’s life, all one can do the next day is be a bit more critical, and then a bit more and then a bit more.  It’s a drug disguised as a manner of speaking, it eats into the individual’s inner being and becomes all consuming.

So in the end people who criticise all the time get their own punishment; they become miserable gits and get less and less out of life.  But every day the media tries to outdo itself.  Everyone wants to produce the ultimate insult – the insult of the day.

I remember a piece by a faculty member of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry who became a business coach in later life who argued that the harshest critics are often talented and productive people.  The argument was that “they have a flaw that compels them to disparage others – almost, at times, as though they are diagnosing an illness in need of eradication.”    It is as if they have read Mark Twain’s comment, “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” and seen it as an fundamental guide to how to live life, rather than a warning about how not to behave.

The approach (especially among ex-footballers who become football commentators) goes like this: you see what you perceive as a player’s failing and you take it upon yourself to criticise.  It doesn’t matter whether your criticism has been repeated elsewhere or whether there is any chance of you making a difference to the player’s behaviour – it is utterly vital that you criticise, because, well, it is really vital that you criticise.

According to the mainstream psychological theory, when this is handed out by a person who used to do the job about the person now doing the job, the old timer is being driven to criticize by a repressed-and-intolerable feeling that he also had what he deplores in others.  In terms of a footballer, that he didn’t always give 100% and now he’s too old to go back and make amends.

In short, by criticising others all the time, he’s hiding what he perceives to be flaws in his past.  Those flaws might not be what we as outsiders felt, but can be a ex-footballer or ex-manager just thinking that in his playing days he should have done more, he should have won more, he should have pushed on more.

It’s called “projection” in psychology – a mechanism that enables a person to deny their his/her problems (be they current or past) by attributing those traits to others.   To give it a simple everyday example, a divorced lady spends a lot of time on the phone to her two sons, now in their 20s.   She encourages them to phone her regularly and when she doesn’t hear she’s on the phone to them, checking that they are ok “as I haven’t heard from you for a while.”  Her partner doesn’t do this, but one day gets a call from one of his grown-up children, and the woman is outraged.  “Oh, so you’re going to talk to me now,” she says when he finishes.   Projection, in other words, is commonplace.  Vast numbers of people have it, and it appears in many guises.

It is generally traced back to a regret.  The ex-footballer looking back believes (often quite wrongly) that he didn’t train enough, or wasn’t tough enough, or how too many nights out, or was not accurate enough in his passing, so now he blames and blames and blames anyone he sees the trait in.  The ex-manager believes he could have got more out of those players

And so when Martin Keown says of Ozil, “Somebody needed to get hold of him a long time ago and give him a shake and say ‘we are working for you, but you’re not working for us… He’s not conning me, that’s not a proper performance, there’s so much more under the bonnet,” we are seeing projection.  NOT I hasten to add because Martin didn’t give everything in every game, but because something else niggles from his past.  Maybe the fact that he upped and left Arsenal and went to Villa, and now he regrets it.

Another ex who appears to suffer from this syndrome is Souness who on Xhaka said, “I’m sorry, it’s more of the same with Arsenal. That guy’s 25 years old. He’s been at Arsenal two years… When they’re in these games they’re not professional. I’ve said this for for a decade. They need a couple of men in there to sort it out.”

So what in Souness’ past as a manager is coming back to haunt him?  Maybe it was his time at Rangers of which he has said, “When I look back on my actions and antics at Ibrox I bordered on being out of order. I was obnoxious and difficult to deal with.”  That’s a clear indication for projection.  That is honest but he was less self-aware speaking of his record at Liverpool which he blamed on the fact that the majority of key players were around or over age 30.  He also seems to have had the problem of falling out with an awful lot of people at Anfield.

At Galatasaray he almost started off a riot by placing his team’s flag in the centre of the pitch of Fenerbahçe and quickly left.  At Southampton he left within a year, after the hilarious (to the rest of us) Ali Dia incident in which he put the player on the pitch without ever having seen him play or train.  He couldn’t play; it’s a classic film if you can get a copy.

Four months at Torino and he left.  Just over a year at Benfica (saying of the President, “Vale e Azevedo lies when he looks in the eyes. Be careful, this man is dangerous,)” and on and on and on and on.  Always someone else’s fault, never his.

It’s projection, a psychological condition, and these people need help.  Taking their opinions as mainstream is, in my view, not doing football any good.

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13 comments to Insult of the day, and a consideration of the minds of Keown and Souness

  • Gooner Mikey

    Nice article dog. It’s a shame that many fans won’t be able to recognise this next time they watch MotD, read an article or listen to the radio. They’ll be back on here repeating the iditioc ramblings of Savage or some other fool whilst actually believing they’ve analysed the game and know exactly how to put things right.

  • Zam

    Hmmmmm, by this logic Walter, OMG and others on here who are always critical of the refs are just projecting their frustrations from their own Reffing careers, right?

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    Let’s stop deceiving ourselves and be honest to ourselves by calling a spade a spade when we see it. I can’t fault Martin Kewon’s criticism of Ozil. For, it is the comfort zone performance by Ozil for Arsenal which Kewon has seen in him not just in the Atletico match yesterday night, but in many Arsenal games since he has joined them that Kewon saw and has emphasized.

    I once said it on this blog that Ozil is a luxurious player for Arsenal now earnings £350k/w at Arsenal but doesn’t influence result for Arsenal in Key games such as the one we watched Arsenal played at Atletico Madrid yesternight in the Europa that saw Arsenal getting knocked out at the semi-final stage to Atletico.

  • Tom clancy

    “Hmmmmm, by this logic Walter, OMG and others on here who are always critical of the refs are just projecting their frustrations from their own Reffing careers, right?”

    you’ll get IP banned in no time 😛

  • Mark Mywurdz

    Interesting analysis, which may or may not explain their over the top criticism.
    In their defence, it needs to be said that Graeme Souness does know a thing or two about the position of centre midfield, even if he was an awkward, difficult sod. Overstated, obviously, but was there anything he said about Xhaka which wasn’t valid? What is he meant to say, without sounding bland? Depends on what you want to hear from pundits. Alan Shearer, anyone?
    Likewise Keown, a man who knows a thing or two about defending and out and out commitment. Does he have regrets? Quite possibly. What he must find galling is watching a performance lacking the very qualities he built his career on at a club he still cares about. Alan Smith and Lee Dixon are often criticised by Arsenal fans for being too measured and impartial. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Jammy

    Mark Mywurdz – ” Alan Smith and Lee Dixon are often criticised by Arsenal fans for being too measured and impartial.” I’ve literally never heard anyone complain about a pundit being too measured or impartial towards Arsenal. From what I can remember of their commentating, they are anything but impartial and measured.

  • MickHazel

    Mark Mywurdz
    Alan Smith impartial to Arsenal. Possibly, but it seems to me that in an attempt to be impartial he goes ridiculously too far the other way and ends up rarely having a good word to say about any Arsenal performances from what I have heard when he co-commentates.
    Dixon is just a twit with very little of any value to say and boring with it.

  • Fengunner

    Keown writes for the Daily Fail and is a pundit for a TV broadcaster that also employs Michael Owen and Robbie fucking Savage.

    Last night, I saw Ozil race back at least 3 times to tackle and come away with the ball. I also saw Ramsey LOSE the ball, then amble back, but not challenge to win the ball back.

    I saw Danny Welbeck and Alex Lacazette defending as well.

    People who HATE certain players fail to recognise these little things.

    A bit like those pundits!

  • genorm

    I am disgusted by the vile rant of Keown on Ozil, just as I was by the verbal tirade of Souness on Xhaka. Both attacks are unwarranted and explain more about their own mental derangement, than any constructive opinions. I like both Mesut and Granit and will continue to support them at my club, whilst switching off from these vitriolic outbursts.

  • pop

    When your best players don’t step up when it matters what’s the point of them being there? We admire other teams for that extra bit of quality to win games so when Arsenal don’t do it we should just accept it?
    Fed up with some of our players seemingly getting a free ride. Glad that people are talking about it, hopefully something changes with a new manager.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    I don’t know anyone who likes to be shat upon the way people crap all over our players.

    And, outside of combat, I have never reacted faster or better when someone screamed profanities at me or the literary equivalent.

    Those talking heads know better. They never liked the stick they got when they played but they seem to have forgotten. Mores the pity.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Maybe Sourness is still bitterly regretting his stupid decision of dismantling that famous Liverpool boot room , when he was the manager there.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Boot_Room

    And ever since they have never won a first division/Premier League title .

    Coincidence ?

    Or as the article above says, ‘ Contrary to popular belief the renovation of the boot room was a requirement rather than a request by Graeme Souness to demolish it.’

    And there was no room anywhere in Anfield to set another think tank for coaches and future managers ?

    What do you think !

  • Sagalout

    The opposite also applies. Constant praise of a manager or player who clearly are not up to or doing their job is according to this theory is a reflection of something in their past.
    Clearly the reason for this article is defence of a 2 players. Before using physiology to highlight the performance of these players the critic must examine both sides.
    So first Ozil, has he played to the best of his ability in an important game. If you think so then evidence to support that must be demonstrated.
    Secondly Was Souness correct in his criticism of Xhaka.
    Sourness with the aid of replay showed the incedent & gave reasons why that was wrong. Anyone playing at that level would also suggest the same.
    Ozil was poor in the game as he was this week, so we’re others.
    If you as the author of the article feel the 2 people were wrong they have to demonstrate why both incidents were correct, then add the psychology theory into that criticism.
    It does not stand alone!
    I’m a 6o odd yr fan 1958 I stood on the clock end, I’ve seen the lot, played to a reasonable level as well. I love Ozil, but he’s not immune to critism & at times Xhaka has been very poor.

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