By Tony Attwood
The notion that the size of Tottenham’s pitch might be the cause of their heartache might or might not be true – I really don’t know. But I thought the importance that their manager gave to it and to the psychological fitness of their players was interesting, and something that I’d commend him for. Much of our ability to perform at what ever task we take on is down to the way we think and the environment in which we work.
But of course for the sports journalists who daily betray the game we like to watch, it was a chance for more sniggering. They are not interested in anything other than the rumours of transfers they create and relay day by day, so an explanation that moves away from that single issue is to be ignored. Or if you can’t do that, it is to be laughed at.
The Telegraph, perhaps noting Untold’s interest, perhaps not, (and to understand what I mean by that you will have had to read the previous article on the coincidence of how it is that we publish something and they come along a few years, a few days or an hour or two later with their view), has taken up the issue of the pitch size.
But they’ve done it by suggesting the pitch size is a great excuse up there with the ball being too bouncy (Newcastle), the kit being too grey (Man U), the lasagne being off (Tottenham on losing the WHU), Liverpool losing the 1971 Cup Final to Arsenal because their shirts were too heavy, a lack of ball boys in the second half (Jose explaining that it is more than tactics), playing on a Friday night not being done on Merseyside (Liverpool losing the league to Arsenal with M Thomas scoring at the end), sexy cheerleaders distracting the players (Palace), various curses (gypsies at Birmingham, Lord Nelson at Blackpool), no birthday cake (Toure), the local press (as when Pardew said, “I don’t think the local press helped us” and the local paper went wild on the front page back page and almost every other page), and Mr Wenger saying “I didn’t see it.”
What of course the press never got was the fact that Mr Wenger was winding up the press day after day week after week by saying it over and over again, with a smile on his face. It was part of his long running retaliation to the way the pressmen treated him on his first day at the office.
But what makes all this even more interesting is what it excludes. We’ve shown for year after year that the quality of refereeing is nowhere near what it should be. Indeed Radio Five Live and Sky regularly agree with this (I watched the evening show on Sky last night picking up the scores as they go along, and atrocious refereeing was a central theme), but they never ask why.
Why is refereeing so bad? Shhhhhh. Don’t mention the word “why?”
We might ask why the Telegraph is presenting all these excuses but not mentioning the one that is talked about the most – which is clearly the quality and consistency of the refereeing. Could it be those recent articles in relation to the PGMOL in the Telegraph that is affecting their eyesight?
In fact laughing at stupid footballers and their managers with their excuses seems to be the order of the day at the moment. And in part that is undoubtedly because football fans are expressing their viewpoint as to just how bad some of the professional commentators are that the media is fighting a rearguard action.
We’ve talked before about the atrocious Adrian Chiles who utterly fails to understand the way fans see football, and who failed to understand why laughing at supporters did not endear himself to them.
The Independent got onto dodgy ground recently, by running a poll of who their readers disliked the most among broadcasting commentators. Repeated attempts by some readers to extend the poll to print journalists were rejected furiously.
Andy Townsend, Michael Owen, and Mark Lawrenson all did badly. One wonders why no one bothers to think, “hey shouldn’t we get in people who are more popular?” But no, they don’t. The only change we’ve seen of late is the dramatic turnaround at BT Sprout when we all got annoyed at the way their portrayed Arsenal. Another coincidence? Maybe.
Overall the problem with arguing about football and the way it is reported, be it excuses for failure, or anything else, is that the heart and soul of the problem are the journalists.
Take the Observer’s series each Sunday on Said and Done, in which various awful issues in football are highlighted. Last week they had a go at Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko who said in relation to racism, “Why should we be singled out? A lot of dark-skinned players play in Russia. I don’t really see any problems.” He also said in relation to the Fifa watch scandal, “absolute nonsense fanned by foreign journalists” which left Fifa executives feeling “very much insulted”. The big lesson: “All these technical issues should be kept within the [football] family and never leaked … Why did the British press start all that?”
They then quite reasonably reminded us of the 2010 Russian federal audit chamber report into the expenses claims of senior officials – including Mutko’s claim for 97 breakfasts eaten during a 20-day trip to Vancouver. Mutko called the audit “absolute nonsense and nit-picking”.
All good stuff – except it is a column that makes it look as if all the stupidity, bias, corruption and ineptness comes from politicians, managers, owners and Fifa men. Forgetting how much incompetence and bending of reality comes from journalists. To help us forget this, Said and Done is often given awards… by journalists and others in the media.
I don’t know if there is anything in the short pitch theory at Tottenham, but it is worth considering seriously, rather than lumping it with excuses like Lord Nelson putting a curse on Blackpool.
Just as all the reasons for Arsenal’s injuries are worth considering too. Dodgy training ground? Bad diet? Refs failing to stop thugs like Shawcross?
They way these guys select the news, bend the stories, make fun of important points while beefing up trivia, ignoring the big issue of the day about the quality of refereeing… it almost makes you think they have an agenda of their own.
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- The apparent decline of Tottenham and the question of care for players elsewhere
- Positive injury news for Arsenal ahead Monday’s game with Sheffield United
- Arsenal’s finances stay secure but we can expect more price rises for fans
- How a 14th monk described Arsenal’s failure to buy Moisés Caicedo and Mykhailo Mudryk