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Was R Green man of the match or should he have been sent off?

By Tony Attwood

There is in the football media a hierarchy.  It is not a natural hierarchy, but is one that the media itself creates and re-creates for its own benefit – with each element of the media anxious to keep its own position, endlessly looking over the corporate shoulder at who is coming up from behind.

But like all pecking orders it is open to challenge, not just by who can deliver the biggest peck, but also by exposure of the mechanisms that surround that hierarchy and which keep it in place.

Now if this all sounds a little bit sociological, yes I regret it is.  But I write it in the hope that maybe out in the great wide open there is someone else who like me is screaming, “it doesn’t have to be like this”.

Allow me, if I may, to demonstrate my point with an example.  Robert Green is a goalkeeper of occasional renown.  He plays for West Ham United (known as The Pornographers) and for England (known as A Right Bunch of Charlies)

In the match between Arsenal and WHU the Guardian newspaper (a left of centre newspaper known for the intellectual rigour of both its arts and political reporting) said Green was “Man of the Match” for a “string of fine saves” (and presumably for arranging the goal posts and bar in just the right position so that shots from Nasri and Theo would hit them).

On Untold Arsenal, a report of the same match had R Green as the player who should have been the first to be sent off for repeatedly breaking the rule on holding the ball for more than the allocated five seconds, and for repeated deliberate time wasting (but only up to the moment that Arsenal scored – for after that he was seen scuttling around like a semi-drowned rabbit looking for the exit of the swimming baths).

So who was right?  The Guardian or Untold?

Sadly there is no debate on this, because this is where the hierarchy comes in.  Certain media claim the right to be right, because they are nearer the top of the pyramid.

Starting with the supposed top, there are the TV stations.   They play their card with phrases wuch as “some papers are suggesting” – clearly setting themselves above the tittle tattle of rumour and make-believe that the mere scribblers.  “We present the truth,” is the line of TV, “the papers present the comment, the gossip, the make-believe”.

The papers, one step down in the hierarchy, then play the same game, finding chances whenever possible of criticising the TV coverage of football.

But within this sniping their are ground rules.  Match of the Day is fair game because it has been around so long – a venerated old programme that is considered to be like a doddery old uncle who makes inappropriate and politically incorrect comments about the good looks of young women passing in the street.  “Uncle!” cry the various younger relatives in mock horror, but also in secret pleasure.  “He’s a great old boy really,” they say, “do you know the other day we were in the high street and….”   Some jerk on Match of the Day says something stupid and ignorant, and the papers snigger, but no one calls for the programme to go, any more than the relatives call for Uncle to be put down.

So that sort of sniping is allowed, but attacks on what is said by other journalists are generally not on.   No matter what inanity they spout, no matter what ignorance they show of the depth of a team, no matter how much they forget the prognostications of last week when claiming now that Team X is “looking doomed” or “heading for promotion” it is Not Done to point out a “fellow professional’s” cock-ups.

Nowhere is this more readily seen than with a column in the Observer (a heavy duty Sunday paper) called Said and Done.   Some of the exposes in this column are quite decent – particularly when they have a go against the corruption of Fifa.  But much of the time the articles record what a manager or player said three weeks ago, and then what the said gent is saying now.

“I love this club, it is in my blood, I will never resign,” says Ron Knee, manager of Neasden on September 15.   On September 25th he resigns.  Ho ho!  How amazing!

It is like that week after week – the great and intrepid journalist keeping track on these lesser mortals, these scurrilous managers and players.   Other journalists even give the column an award from time to time.   But does the column ever suggest that there is far more of this going on day by day in the press?  No, of course not.  That would contravene the silent agreement.   Bert Scrugg says Arsenal are going to sign Peter Crouch, and then amazingly they don’t.  Does anyone come back and rub that in Bert Scrugg’s face?   No, because you don’t criticise fellow journalists.

So the press and the TV jostle for top spot in the sporting hierarchy, but agree absolutely on who is below them, because these are the people to patronise and make fun of.   The fact that these lesser beings are also the paymasters – the people who pay to go into grounds, who pay to buy products that sponsor TV shows, who pay the licence fee that keeps the BBC running, and who buy the papers – well, best not to think of that.

The fans are the little people who can be given 15 seconds of fame outside the ground talking about the new or old manager.  The fans are liable to riot.  Fickle.  Stupid.  A mass.  Idiots who will actually pay to go into a football match, while the journalists are given free entry.

When dealt with as individuals they are to be patronised.  If the journalists ever find one who can actually string four words together they say, “and that was Algenon Fitzgibbon – and wow!  He’s a Man U fan who has worked out the size of the Man U debt – all on his own!”    Yes well he also happens to be Professor of Accountancy at the University of Exeter, so maybe he knows a bit about adding up…

The strength of this unwritten unseen rule about the hierarchy (and hence how people should be portrayed) can be seen in the way that many blogs actually accept the hierarchy and try to ape the papers, re-writing the news that appears on Arsenal.com and in the press, as if they too were news-breaking organisations with a hidden agenda, staffed by a hundred journalists spread across the globe.  For me, the great tragedy of these blogs is that they have adopted the pose and style of the press, without overtly recognising how the press is set up to keep the blogs down.  “It can’t be real news,” the press says, “if it only appeared on a blog!  If it were true, it would be in the press.”

Of course it is all nonsense. There is nothing to say that the Guardian’s view of Green as man-of-the-match is more or less right than my view of him as an arch criminal who should be first up against the wall when the Revolution comes.  The Guardian’s view comes from its position that players should not be criticised much for what they do on the pitch, and that past sins should be forgotten.   That’s the view laid down by the press and handed on to the reporters.  A good save outweighs endless breaking of the laws of the game.  No one ever says it, but it is understood.

Just because I take a quite different view does not make me right or wrong, nor does it make my view, or your view or anyone else’s view right or wrong in itself.   The only way of evaluating the view is in terms of the evidence presented and the weight you give to that evidence.   In the end, that’s all you have to work with.

12 comments to Was R Green man of the match or should he have been sent off?

  • Fem Dee

    Sir Tony,
    Wow!
    Seems the big gun journalist ants are running around inside your pant this morning and they are not staying still!
    Not to worry: those of us who read your blog rate you higher than The Guardian, The Observer, MOTD, BBC, etc in all matters Arsenal, Wenger, FIFA and the future of football in UK.
    My bet is that those top guns in those other establishments also read you, respect you and even sometime pick up some of their ideas from you for their rags.

  • indian_gunner

    two

  • Nick

    Tony
    Whilst I positively abhor the continual timewasting of Rob Green (and the rest of West Ham), he was performing the task allocated to him by his manager (waste as much time as possible to break up the game, push it as far as you can, be prepared to take a yellow for it). He also made a number of good saves. For that, his performance was spot on, and Man of the Match is a reasonable call.
    In my mind, criticism should be levelled solely at the referee who allowed the ridiculous amount of timewasting to continue without even a word to Green.

  • indian_gunner

    And a little elaboration for the vote,
    I have been following this blog for about 4months now and i must admit i have totally fallen in love with it.So much so that every time i am watchin an arsenal game i keep thinkg what ll tony come with tomorrow?What ll walter have to say about the tackle and so on.
    you guys are so damn good! keep up the work and sorry for not saying anything about what you ve written tony;) because i am tired of the biased/shitty dimwitty articles
    keep up the good work.

  • PS while I agree that a bit of levity is appropriate for a blog, the continued and exclusive use of the ‘humourous’ nicknames for other clubs is a bit tiresome, and undermines the quality of some otherwise excellent posts, particularly around the financial part of the game. Keep up the good work, but try and keep the Man IOU (funny once) and the Fulham KGB (funny a long time ago) to a minimum.

  • indian_gunner

    Well if there’s one thing i’d complain it has about the format of the blog,how easily some wonderfully written articles become Inconspicuous..
    talk about digressing away from the article 🙂

  • Jonathan

    Theres always going to be hype around english players. Walcott scored a hattrick and he was the future savior for english football. He gets injured and comes back with rust and people say he doesnt have a footballing brain. Rooney does well for united and England become favorites for the world cup. He doesnt score a single goal, england fail against germany and people are saying he’s overrated. One minute your a hero, the next a goat. Of course the media are now going to say Green is man of the match, what else could they say about the time wasting, that “hes not that type of lad” lol

  • A Casual Observer

    The contemporary sports media are now nothing more than bookie-sponsored disseminators of market misinformation. They feed and regurgitate on their own worthless bile like a pack of bulimic dogs. The real issues in the game are so far out of their focus that they, in an Orwellian, or even Baudrillian, manner deny they even exist. What we are left with, as the consumers of their ‘truth’, are nothing more their rather shallow and childish fantasies.

    Anyone with half a brain knows the blogs are where it’s at… but you must search for the good ones. As Paul Simon once wrote (when not discussing philosophy with Billy ‘The Dog’):

    “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls”

    In fact most of the lyrics in that song are relevant to this subject.

    🙂

  • walter

    Another great article and a lot to think about. And some great comments also.

    People just want bread and games and that is just what the media is serving them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

  • FinnGooner

    Great article Tony. I agree with your view more that those media’s (who often ignore the parts they don’t like) Also Sometime I think they rather write or say something that sells than what is true. Like those things about how Wenger critized Scholes when he actually said lot of good things (but that would not make people buy the paper).
    indian_gunner I do same. Or like in match against ManC I was thinking “did the ref read Untolds article and trying to prove he can be fair and get good points from Walter”. So guys keep great articles coming. Also I read this site every morning/noon when I wake up instead of news papers and in evening before going to sleep (I might be addicted but rather this that something that is bad for your health or well being).

  • Bgunnah

    Will your have beee different if it were arsenal keepers that were guilty of that time-wasting tactic?

  • Bgunnah

    Will your have been different if it were arsenal keepers that were guilty of that time-wasting tactic?