Should we buy more spoof players? Should Sir Hardly get the sack?

By Tony Attwood

If you’ve been reading Untold for a while, you’ll know that part of the essence of the site is to use the name “Untold” literally, and do what others don’t do.   That has led to a range of campaigns, and we’ve had a range of targets  over the years, and certain successes (as with things such as predicting that Man C’s financial approach would not get past Uefa last year, and with being I think the only site to highlight the change in Swiss law, which we said would be used to facilitate the arrests of Fifa executives – and of course many others).

Indeed in relation to the latter story – Switzerland takes a greater interest in Fifa – at last – was published on 22 January 2015, way before the explosion, and it is one I was particularly pleased with.  No one else ran that story.  Just Untold.

But a little organisation like ours can’t break new stories every day, so every year in the summer we’ve tried different things, not least because normally we’ve tended not to do too much of the “Arsenal about to sign” stuff.  Indeed we’ve had quite a few laughs with the “spotted at the airport” type of story (although that headline seems to have fallen by the wayside after we did the “spotted on the M25” alternative).

We’ve also done quite a lot about the nature of transfers and how the market works.  Way back in 2012 there was the piece The Vapour Transfer: how the mechanisms of football have been corrupted, which was based around not just observation, and a consideration of the way in which the IT industry was working, but on a couple of conversations with those in the know.  I know, it was just a “couple of conversations” but the patterns we see in the transfer market do seem to fit with the approach outlined in those chats, with non-existent transfers deliberately leaked by those associated with one club in order to mislead those associated with other clubs.

Indeed part of that story arose after the Times actually reported Arsenal being interested in buying a non-existent player.  Our headline “Invented player to sign for Arsenal according to the Times” appeared in January 2009, before we’d got the “vapour” title, and although that was a spoof (that convinced the Times) more than a vapour transfer, it revealed that newspapers were simply not checking even the most basic of “facts” before writing about the possibility of one player moving to another club.

So we’ve been through the lot: football clubs being used for money laundering purposes, the lunacy of PGMO and its bizarre referee accuracy figures, the FA’s gross incompetence and the removal of funding from it by Sport England, the statistical link between the success of a national team and other factors such as how many players play in their home league (answer = none), and the number of coaches (answer = very high), the refusal of the press to ask “why?” in relation to key stories, newspapers running press releases as news (the Independent with FC Barcelona and its lies about tax, the Telegraph with their coverage of PGMO and referees after Walter’s piece about video refs)… well, if you’ve been reading you will know.

This past couple of years has seen the rise of another menace – a set of identical blogs carrying highly misleading headlines like “Arsenal finally have bid accepted for striker and complete the transfer of 23-year old striker” and then a few lines basically saying at best that this is only a rumour, or at worst something very different.

What I noticed about these sites was that they had adopted a different way of generating income from the way that most sites use.   On Untold, as on most sites, the site earns a fraction of a penny if a reader clicks on an advert.  (That is not an invite to click – only do that if you are interested – we do have software that picks up repeated clicks, and if you do that you could get blocked from the site).

What these sites do which is quite different from Untold, is to have on the top right of the page a notice that says “Skip and visit site” while on the left is a series of numbers very slowly clicking down to 0 – at which point the number on the left says “close”.

I must admit that the first time I saw these sites I thought the “skip and visit site” meant, “skip the advert and go to the site with the story” and the first few times I did that.  It was only after a while that I came to grips with the fact that the “skip and visit site” button actually takes you to the advert.

It is to my mind a very sneaky way of getting advertising hits and I am surprised at the bookmakers Coral and other prominent companies are associated with such a process.  But they are.

But these sites are very popular and are normally at the top of the list on the news accumulator sites.  For example, as I write this “Welcome to the Emirates as top-class striker OFFICIALLY signs with Arsenal” is at the top of the list of most clicked on sites – and that story has been up there several days.

As was mentioned in one of Sir Hardly’s pieces, that headline from is indeed true in that it is about a signing by Arsenal Ladies, but the implication is that it is a signing for the men’s first team – it would have been better to mention that in the title.

What struck me in fact was that most of the top 10 stories at any one time on were of this type – and all with the same odd format that induced me (feeble old duffer that I am) to click on the “skip and visit site” button several times before I realised what was going on.

In the past with the various issues that we have focussed on the tendency on Untold has been to go straight in and reveal what’s what, but I thought this summer Untold might try a different approach.

This came about because I was fascinated that people would fall for these crazy headlines not just once (we can all do that) but over and over and over again.  I was fairly certain that the Untold readership was far too bright to be taken in, and indeed our long history of stories by Ima Madeup, Dr Billy “the Dog” McGraw and the like meant most readers knew that we liked to mix the real with the make believe.

So we ran a series of stories with headlines like

Confirmed Arsenal complete 2 shock moves and other spoofs

which if the headline didn’t suggest it was a spoof was set up as being By Dr Billy “the Dog” McGraw, head of psychiatry and odd behaviour at the University College Hospital of the North Circular Road, which was indeed a giveaway I thought.

€40M Arsenal target to have medical, and other spoofs of the day


Top midfielder finally confirmed to sign for Arsenal in next few days. Not spoof!

which had the byline of “By Sir Hardly Anyone, listening to football’s chatter, rumour, and mindless gibberish.”

That to me seemed to make it clear to the audience that this was Untold doing what we have done most summers for the past seven years.  Having a laugh.  As was…

If all the spoofs say it’s a DONE DEAL that must mean it’s a DONE DEAL – the list went on.

As the analysis of our readership shows, the vast bulk of Untold readers are regulars – and for that I am very grateful – and such readers know what Untold is, and (from what readers say) really like the mix of the utterly insane with a spot of serious investigative work that our friends in the press seem unable to do.  Indeed if there ever was proof of this, the generosity of readers in funding the Untold Banner which following agreement with the club will be up in the Emirates this season on permanent display, is really heart warming.

And to me there should be that combination.  When I get together with Blacksheep, with Walter, with Andrew and others involved in Untold we have serious discussions about Arsenal and football, politics, life, etc etc and we have one hell of a laugh.  Same is true in the stadium with the people I sit among.  We get angry, we chatter, and my goodness do we have laughs.  OK not very profound laughs but still, watching a match with your mates who create bizarre chants can be fun.


There’s always a but.  A handful of people have got a bit upset about the Sir Hardly Anyone series.  Two in particular have become quite annoyed, and even now got to the stage of suggesting that Untold is involved in a fraud, rather than mocking both the DONE DEAL type headlines, and the people who are taken in by them day after day.

It is not unusual for people to get annoyed with Untold, and for those who get annoyed with Untold to make assumptions, and here the assumption seems to be that we get paid for the number of times an advert is seen, rather than what happens – we get a little money for each time an advert is clicked upon.  The fact is anyone who comes to the site and feels cheated is not then going to click on an advert.

But we are told we are crooks and fraudsters – and true to the Untold tradition I have published those comments which although occasionally insulting are not just abuse.  (Straight abuse we try to cut, not least because it is so boring.  Threats are forwarded to the authorities).

The fact is that for all blogs the summer transfer is the time of top readership, and this year we’ve seen the number of page views (basically people clicking to read one of our articles) has gone up from over 800,000 in 30 days that we were getting in May with the Cup Final to over 1 million in 30 days, which is rather nice – but it is the sort of rise we see most years.  Hits up about 20% or so in the transfer period.

Of course it is true that some of those people might have clicked on Untold believing that the headline was actually true, because some of the headlines we’ve used in the series didn’t include the word spoof, (largely because even when we did put the word spoof in the headline, it made no difference to the numbers).  But I am hoping those who were misled read the story, and realised that it was the spoof sites who were the problem, not us.

But the fact is that to my mind no one could be deceived  – we are not defrauding our advertisers (and believe me if we were our advertising agency, who have many top names in football on their books would cancel the contract within a couple of hours) and if anyone is misled, they can see from the opening name (by which I mean – an article by Sir Hardly Anyone is not really likely to be real is it?) that this is going to be a bit of fun.

If anyone has been misled into reading one of our spoof stories (with or without the word “spoof” in the title) then I am sure they learned their lesson in one second and if annoyed, have left Untold.  But I think a point has been made – there are some very dubious people around the world of rumours, and they have been encouraged by the endless repetition of the “rumours” (for which read “invented tripe”) by the way the media reports the stories all the time.

If nothing else, I hope our little bit of fun has made the point that we’ve been making for a long old time.  Most of the media world is sinking fast.  Not all – but a lot.

Thanks for reading – and if you have any ideas for our next bit of fun and games, well, you know where I am.

Anniversary of the day

12 July 1998 Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira (along with Thierry Henry and Robert Pires who did not play in the final but were in the squad) became the first Arsenal players to win the World Cup; Petit the first Arsenal player to score in a WC final.  Dennis Bergkamp won World Cup Goal of the Tournament.

We’re on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

35 Replies to “Should we buy more spoof players? Should Sir Hardly get the sack?”

  1. For the sake of restraining high blood pressure ,migraine, acne and marital harmony, the only permitted reading during Window Opening periods should be the official site of Arsenal FC. 😉

  2. Spoofs are OK, if you like that sort of thing. Most of your readers seem to like the Sir Hardly Anyone articles, but I would suggest you stop making incorrect claims.

    Both the Guardian & Telegraph were well ahead of you in reporting the Swiss law change re sporting bodies and the impact on FIFA

  3. Tony , before answering the question of wheather Sir . Hardly should get the sack , can I ask what is in it ? Or have I totally misread the question ?

  4. By Far The Greatest Team, Oohtobeagooner….. these are the 2 worst culprits.
    I admit I fell for them at first until it was ‘Arsenal finally complete the signing of World Class Striker, MOVE IMMINENT” – followed by ‘Campbell has held talks with some 3rd world team’

    They drives me nuts and the people who do this are pretty much scum.
    After a while you can piece together who and what they mean when you see the headline.
    I urge people to never click on these.
    I only stick to here, BBC Sport, Talksport, and ofc
    Good one for writing an article on this, sooner these leeches have their precious pennies disappear as people don;t fall for it anymore, the better.

  5. Talking about spoof, my 3 wish list of new Gunner recruits is not intended to trick the Boss into buying new players for Arsenal. But as a matter of necessity, he has to at least buy 2 if not the 3. Schneiderlin is torted to be an upgrade to maybe will be surplus to requirement – Flamini. If Flamini can be made to leave permanently or on loan, the Boss could sign Schneiderlin if he’s no longer overpriced by Southampton. Walcott and Welbeck are believed will be played as alternate strikers to Giroud next season. Should this be the case, the Boss am sure knows he will need a new top quality right winger as a replacement for the duo. Even if the Boss will stationed Welbeck as his right winger and leaves Walcott with Giroud as his 2 strikers, Welbeck is suspectable to picking up injuries and Wilshere who may be made to play wide to the right side has not yet proved he can do that on consistent basis and productively in terms of scoring many goals. And ofcourse, needless I repeat myself to say the Boss needs to upgrade his left back defending with another top quality left back in addition to 2 options he has on ground. Who will be surplus to need among the on ground duo, and could be sold? Is a speculation. But I like to think the Boss would preferred to keep his English core LB.

  6. I don’t want to call anyone deluded but how can you be reading an article written by “Sir. Hardly Anyone” and think that it is for real. If you believe that then you can believe anything.

    I have been a regular visitor to UT for over 5 years and comment periodically so I know to an extent what to expect from the site. When I go to a site for the first time, I take time to understand what the site is about and decide if I want to be part of that blog or not.

    So coming to a blog to begin to make comments about how insensitive they are after just a few visits means you really have a problem

    The truth is that most people are looking for happiness WITHOUT when true happiness can only come from WITHIN

  7. SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin, you could try leaving the transfers to AW. It’s true that both him and his back room team are not perfect but they do have rather a lot more knowledge and experience than you or I.

  8. Nonny, There are a lot of stupid people out there. I think you’re over estimating the IQ of many, although not having English as a first language may also be an issue in some cases, but they should really read it more carefully if that’s their excuse.

  9. I’ve been enjoying the spoof series of articles so I hope you don’t stop them for the sake of a couple of naysayers.

  10. Interesting post, but please don’t sack Sir Hardly, he is my hero…

    Only two people complaining isn’t that bad I suppose, but it does make me wonder where their sense of humour is…?

    Maybe they both work for Metro?

  11. Is there any truth in the rumour going around (at least in my head !)that many Arsenal fans residing in the Latin Quarters of many European capitals are angry over the failure of Arsenal FC to sign Iker Casillas , who joined Porto yesterday ?
    At 34 years old , he is considered to be in the prime of his game ,and many feel that he would have brought much stability to this suspect Arsenal defence .
    Not only would he have easily integrated himself with this defence which includes fellow Spaniards Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal , but also with Santi Cozorla and Alexis Sanchez who would have formed the Spanish spine in front of him.
    They are cursing AW and the club in being too quick to the draw to sign the expensive Petr Cech from Chelski and their sly and sneaky manager .
    It is now well know that while Moanin’inho hates Arsenal with gusto ,and in normal times would have never dealt with AW ,in this case he manipulated it such that Iker would never join Arsenal , but go to Porto ,one of his former clubs.
    Not only could Arsenal have saved 10 Million pounds in transfer fees , but they now have to fork out even more money to hire Cech’s coach ,who will not only be drilling them in their defensive duties , but also charged to teach them basic Czech .
    It is well known fact that Petr Cech had confused the Chelski defence for years , what , with his propensity to revert to his native Czech , in calling out instructions when under pressure .
    These fans also curse ‘them’ , who always claim that AW waits till the last minute to get his deals done .They feel that AW should have waited patiently to get his man ,as he normally does , and not rushed too early .
    It was reported that effigies of AW in that ridiculous unzippable coat were burned . Sad and lamentable times indeed for certain fans .
    Palls of black smoke hung heavy over these regions , very much like the black plumes that hang over unplucked blackbirds baked in a pie .

  12. My earlier comment has disappeared into moderation, I wonder why.
    It would appear that Tony doesn’t take to being corrected on inaccuracies as all I said was that two UK newspapers were very much ahead of Untold with the Swiss law change impacting on FIFA story. I wont bother repeating the links, but anyone with an interest can find them easily enough.

  13. Masterstroke – you make the error of commenting and making accusations without actually taking the trouble to read how this site works. It is a bit like going to a dinner party hosted by a vegetarian and complaining that there is no beef on offer.

    But of course you are not the first, and I suspect won’t be the last. However for the 9000th time, this site has been under attack many many times and has been brought to its knees by outside attacks. So we have in place some defences, some simple, some complex. One of the simple ones is that all comments that have links in them, are held in moderation, until one of the moderators has a chance to check that it is valid, and not containing a set of links that are irrelevant or harmful, and let it through.

    I was visiting some of my grandchildren today, and I guess the other people with moderator rights on the site were out today (we don’t have a rota) so you had to wait a total of 2.5 hours. Too long for you it seems.

    As a result of that you decided to write that

    “It would appear that Tony doesn’t take to being corrected on inaccuracies as all I said was that two UK newspapers were very much ahead of Untold with the Swiss law change impacting on FIFA story.”

    Upon my return I went back to Untold, found your comment, and posted it, and then came on the site and found this one from 12.49pm which of course got through because it had no links in it.

    Apart from the fact that I would argue that the news agency piece that the Guardian ran which you quoted doesn’t goes as far as the original Untold piece, in my view, there is a much deeper point. What vision of reality could you possibly have that leads you to think that such a comment about the person publishing this site is a clever thing to do, without first bothering to read the rules and regs or actually point the point privately? Do you go around accusing people like this all the time I wonder? If so, what a life you must have.

    Really, from my perception your comment of 12.49pm is childish in the extreme, and I’ve had enough of trying to explain to people over and over and over again how the site works. Any semi-reasonable person does a bit of research, and then allows someone to explain before attacking them in a public forum. That is the normal, reasonable way to behave. You don’t need to know the rules of moderation – just see that something is held, and wait, patiently.

    Please go away, and talk on someone else’s site or better still run your own site with your own rules and your own audience, then we can all live in peace.

  14. Off topic I know but a reminder to all that the Arsenal Ladies re-start their season this evening with a game at Borehamwood. against Liverpool Ladies to the Women’ s Super League.

    We are currently second in the table and unbeaten. Liverpool were last year’s champions so it should be a good game.

    If you can’t get to the ground it is live on BT Sport kick-off is 18:00.

  15. Samuel

    You do know we have a very talented young player, adept at playing wide right and left as well as central midfield? His name as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

    Oh and we also have some bloke called Sanchez too apparently.

  16. Sir Hardly was OK, although a little too often though. Mind you only 1 month and half left for such articles anyway.
    Many are not realising that Theo is going to(i hope) get the chance to be our “new” striker next season. He has until Jan to prove himself too or show sign of cementing that position. If we buy a striker i think Theo will not sign as he he wants to be a striker, and will probably leave next season.

  17. A different transfer story popped up, which makes a little sense in another context.

    Metro dreamt up a story about Arsenal sending Chambers back to Southampton. This doesn’t make sense to me as a transfer story, but it may make sense in that the charges made against Arsenal with respect to something involving the transfer of Chambers to Arsenal I believe are still active.

  18. allezkev
    July 12, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Its like this the media tells the same ‘funny’ transfers every season. When you keep telling the same joke it becomes boring. Change the joke your sanity pleads, least mine does.

    If you like the same over and over again bully for you.
    Please don’t claim that because my sense of humour is not the same as yours that means I don’t have a sense of humour.

  19. Eduardo has returned to Donetsk after being at Flamengo. 18 month contract.

    Seen in DM.

  20. Tomorrow I am going to buy a new eyboard as the 11th letter ey (the one before L) doesn’t wor on this eyboard.

  21. Ladies lineup out on twitter. Starting X1: Byrne, Scott, Stoney, Rose, Janssen, Williamson, Bailey, Losada, Corredera, Carter, Humphrey. Subs are: Veenendaal, Natalia, Ubogagu, Kelly, Clarke, Wubben-Moy, Dean.

    The BBC is doing a text commentary of the game, and I believe I seen somewhere that the game might be televised.

    Chelsea (first place) played earlier in the day to 1200+ fans, and won. So Arsenal need to win to keep pace with Chelsea.


  22. Into the second half. Arsenal were down 0-2 at half time. Apparently ManCity set a record attendance of about 2100, and it appear the Arsenal attendance is about the same (I’ve seen 2 different numbers, one ends 16 and the other ends 61).

    Here is the BBC comment on the Arsenal goal:

    > Oh my…what a beautiful finish by Natalia Pablos, the Spanish forward volleying Jemma Rose’s long punt into the Liverpool box over the keeper.

    > Superb technique from the Arsenal player and the hosts are right back in this.

    And my comment with the Arsenal lineup and no URLs, is stuck in moderation.


  23. Mistake late in the game allows Liverpool to score, game ends Arsenal 1 – 3 Liverpool.

    Better luck next time.

  24. Gord
    Did I read somewhere that Arsenal Ladies have signed Marta? Or is that just gossip?

  25. On October 22, playing Anderlecht (1st game), Alexis had a saved shot on goal in the 49th minute. Was it kicked, headed or something else?

  26. In trying to extract data from files, one learns as you go along. Which means re-running things you’ve done already. Multiple times.

    I think Arsenal played about 50 odd games last season, and I am about 1/4 of that (I think I’m at 17). Hence, I am reasonably close to getting all the way through Arsenal’s games, and can then start looking at the rest of games played by the EPL last season. If nothing else, it is time to change my program to look for problems more effectively for this last phase.

    While this was meant to get data on when yellow cards are issued (and track fouls), there is no sense doing it for just that. In terms of shots, they can score, they can be blocked, they can be saved, they can hit the framework (and not enter net presumably) or they can be off target. They can be from long range, from more than 35 yards, from outside the box, from inside the box, from inside the 6 yard box or from very close range. Is long range further or closer than “long range”? I am guessing long range is closer than 35+ yards.

    According to the Guardian, the chance Alexis had in the 49th minute was a back header.

  27. BBC has a summary article on attendance on this first weekend back after Womens World Cup 2015.

    I would guess that the aggregate attendance for WSL games on the weekend was around 10,000 people.

    It’s likely that attendance will drop in the future, how much is to be determined. The limited reports I’ve read on polling people who attended, is that they enjoyed the games. No trying to break legs, no surrounding the referee, no diving all over the box like an Ashley Young (oops, I meant a salmon).

    Running a womans team from gate receipts is still far from possible, in the WSL. Ten teams in play, so 250 athletes and maybe 5 pounds average ticket (less?), we are looking at gate receipts of 200 pounds per athlete. I will guess that Arsenal is about 50,000 per athlete (both teams) for the men’s side, and is more likely to be higher than the median than below it.

    In North America is isn’t unusual to find successful women’s amateur teams that are independent of a men’s team. I doubt it is common. In Europe, I’ll guess it is closer to mandatory to be associated with a mens team.

    I believe Liverpool is the only really professional team (daily or nearly daily training). All the other teams require the women to have real jobs that still allow them to play football.

    In any event, ManU was getting teased for not having a women’s team. I think at some point, ManU is going to get forced to have a women’s team. And other professional mens teams are also going to get forced. And I think this is where the FA does something like: to join the league next season is same as this season. To join the season after is at a 20% premium, the season after that a (compounded) 20% premium, and so on.

    While Arsenal (or at least Arsenal supporters on this blog) likes to get on Chelsea and ManCity cases about many things, both Chelsea and ManCity seem to be doing the right thing as far as womens football goes. I think Liverpool are the leaders, but that entire organization doesn’t seem to be stably funded. They want a new stadium, and they want 4th place (or better). Sure, they sold the striker for 49 million; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they have spent more than that bringing in other people already. Nor would I be surprised if they do more in the transfer market in the rest of the silly season.

    I am hoping it isn’t too long before we see an article at the Arsenal web site, saying that some young lady has been signed from elsewhere in Europe to work out of London Colney, or that Hale End (or other Arsenal facilities for youth) have N female players in the system.

    Quite a while ago, I was hoping that Arsenal would notice Kara Lang (she’s Canadian), but that didn’t happen. Something about these women who grow up with ice hockey on the agenda all the time.

  28. I want Sir Hardly Anyone along with his first cousin Dame Diddly Squat to be permanently instutionalized as honorary figureheads of the good ship UA…..anything less and I’ll write my congressman or my MP or whatever I have!

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