The Football journalists education programme. A public service commentary.

By Fear N Panick

There was a very strange comment made during Sky’s programme covering Sunderland v Arsenal. Niall Quinn told us, “It’s not the fan’s fault.”  An interesting perspective, not because I think Sunderland’s predicament at having appointed a man who a week before his appointment said “the jury is still out on Ozil”, but rather that anyone could think it was the fan’s fault.

But of course like all comments made by TV pundits these days, it must be greeted with nods of the head as if something reasonable has been said.  Because that is what you have to do if you are on TV.

David Moyes, also said, “we’ve been in all the games.”  Literally that was true – a team of players representing the Wonderloaf team have been at the games in which they played, but metaphorically, no I don’t think that statement is quite right.  And Moyes seemed to grasp the enormity of what he had just said, when he then added, “There are only a few games we haven’t been in this season.”

He might also have said that since the satellite TV channel Drama, is now re-running “Waking the Dead” he might also study that as a way of considering what to do with Sunderland.  Or maybe this could be a reality TV show:

Eleven men who have never met each other before attempt to acquire super powers while exploring a grassy field.   But their friendship is soon put to the test when events take a nasty turn.

That sounds about right for reality TV these days.

As matters progressed what was becoming a surreal day in the studio suddenly got stranger as Alan Smith (who recently wrote a whole column bleating that Arsenal FC don’t like him since he abused his position as the man who did player interviews for the club magazine by writing a tirade against them following a bit of handbags at 40 paces at Man U) said of Arsenal’s third goal “I think that’s goodnight nurse”.

Which made me wonder why a grown man should quote either a New Zealand punk band or a Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton silent movie.  But the media (and Smith) move in mysterious ways and no one was allowed to question him.

Part of the problem for the media of course is that there is the list of Things That Football Journalists Must Never Mention – an important document given to all football reporters, correspondents and editors when they sign up to cover football for the media.

For example – that there might be something wrong with PGMO.

So when Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew raised the question of why Andre Marriner was the referee for his team’s 4-2 home defeat by Liverpool (a valid question given the way her behaved at the same fixture last season) no one was able to raise any sort of answer.

Yet one answer was obvious and could be that money changed hands.  But also it could more likely be that the bizarre and eccentric decision making of PGMO which results in a highly restricted list of referees being licensed to run Premier League games, meant that they had simply run out of referees.

But no, the rule is “Don’t Mention the PGMO” so no one could offer any explanation.

Pardew was quite clever when he said, “I’m not questioning the integrity of the referee, I’m questioning why he was given the game. It was a really contentious decision last year and then he has four penalty claims today, three of them for us. It’s added pressure on him and I didn’t think he needed that.”  It will be interesting to see if the FA now lock him in the Tower.

Of course journalists and their employers are rarely able to see inside football with a lot of insight, and it is a profound embarrassment to them that a lot of their comments now remain on the internet ready to be looked at again.

Take for example, “Alexis Sánchez has never appeared comfortable when played as a central striker”.  Matt Law of the Telegraph wrote that in August this year, and it is still on the internet, although strangely, doesn’t seem to be so easy to find if you search for it via Google.  I wonder, have they found a way of covering their embarrassment at stupid things that are said?  Here’s the link if you really want to see it.

But we do know, because the Guardian told us, that it is incredibly commonplace for every club except Arsenal to have multiple players who score ten or more goals a season.   (Actually only a quarter of clubs managed it last season, but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good anti-Wenger tale).

Here’s the current list of the top scorers – everyone who has scored five or more in the PL this season, and thus is likely to head towards the Guardian’s magic “double figures”.

  • Diegoa Costa — Chelsea — 9 games, 7 goals
  • Sergio Aguero — Man City — 8 games 7 goals
  • Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal — 10 games 6 goals
  • Romelu Lukaku – Everton — 8 games 6 goals
  • Theo Walcott – Arsenal — 9 games 5 goals
  • Jermain Defoe — Wonderloaf — 10 games 5 goals
  • Michail Antonio — State Aid Utd — 9 games 5 goals

Extraordinary – Arsenal is the only team represented with two players who have scored five or more!

Let’s do another one.  The Daily Star is running a list of which teams have the most academy “products” (would you like to be called a product???) in their first team squad.  Southampton (one of the media’s favourites at the moment) are top of the tree with six, while Arsenal have five (for some reason listed in third place, rather than second, but let’s pass that one by).

These are listed as Akpom, Bellerin, Coquelin, Gibbs, Iwobi.   Which raises the question of why Walcott and Ramsey are not there, since they came in as youngsters, rather like Bellerin did.  Or come to that Martinez (who is certainly a youth team “product” and is in the squad and plays in the league cup games), or Macey, his deputy.  Or indeed Jenkinson who joined aged 19 as a youth prospect.  Maybe there is a coherent set of definitions behind the list, but they are not made apparent.

It is a bit like the Telegraph camera crew taking old pics of empty seats at the Emirates during an Emirates Cup match not involving Arsenal and running the headline “Arsenal urged to consider banning season tickets of fans who fail to show up” – a particularly perfidious form of manipulation given that season tickets are, of course, not usable for Emirates Cup matches.

They are incidentally still running that picture and that headline on the home page of their football coverage on the internet, which shows, I suppose, they have no shame.

But that is what we might expect.

In anniversaries today: The Tottenham loving media, winning the league after a terrible start and Bob Wilson’s birthday.  All on the home page.

Recent tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

Sunderland – Arsenal: 1-4, Welcome back Giroud and Ramsey

Wonderloaf v Arsenal. The preview, the teams, the stats, the score and the bland bread.

Arsenal to change the line up for Sunderland game: the tactical preview.

Sunderland v Arsenal Saturday October 29th – The Match Officials. Expect serious fouls to go unpunished.

Why CIES data ranking clubs by the average age of their signings is not all it seems

Reasons to be cheerful parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

Reading in the library: watching the EFL cup from the posh seats




17 Replies to “The Football journalists education programme. A public service commentary.”

  1. Media’s role in how we’re reffed was nicely illustrated by Motd’s edit of yesterday’s game.

    The non-booking of Pienar was extraordinary, and it may well be that some angles would have shown Atkinson to be a ridiculous liar if there was any view of him watching Pienar’s leg as he deliberately tripped the player. Mind you that wasn’t even needed as the player was running directly behind our man so Atkinson’s claim it was a ‘crossing over’ was always bogus.

    That’s all it would take to ramp up the pressure-show it, note how bad a call that was, and that the player only went and got himself one of those amber yellows before the half was out.

    But no mention, nor any discussion of the pen we should have had.

    Contrast this with any occasion when they can suggest we benefit from a generous or wrong referee decision- lots of replays, lots of discussion, upset Shearer and co.

    We all saw what a terrible performance it was from Atkinson but, thanks to the media ignoring it, he is free to be just as bad next time.

    Smith meanwhile seems about the sneakiest of the lot to me. Always leaps instantly to the defence of anyone who fouls us and tries to play it down, including the Smith challenge on Diaby, and always shows his disappointment if we do well by constantly asking why the opposition aren’t getting in our faces more and being more aggressive.

    You’d think listening to him yesterday that Sunderland made no challenges/fouls on us, missed numerous legitimate opportunities to contest for the ball, etc; that was’t the case- Sanchez alone was in a constant physical battle, fair and foul- at all so what he was really asking for was them to kick us more and be rasher in their challenges.

    This from him in the same week we lost a player for 8 weeks to a stupid unpunished foul, just the latest casualty in a decade or so of teams ‘getting closer’ to us which Smith fully supports.

    I’ll try keep a listen out for it but my impression is that when other teams win well the media are unlikely to attribute this to the opposition not being aggressive enough, while with us they invariably give that as the main cause. Over the years, that is bound to have a big impact on how we are seen, played against and,sadly, refereed (naive and easy to ref, according to one Howard Webb)

  2. I know Alan Smith does a newspaper column, but I would never think of him as a journalist (who might be more measured), so his off the cuff “goodnight nurse” reference seems reasonable enough given the circumstances of Arsenal looking to be clear winners at the time he said it. It’s in common use and not just as a sporting quote, as is paraphrasing a famous British sit-com by a widely read blogger.
    Can’t think what Nail Quinn had in mind with his “not the fan’s fault”.

  3. A good Post, and interesting responses this morning, but what caught the eye was an incidental line in that I think offence was taken by Smith saying ‘that’s good night nurse’ after the third Arsenal goal, which is either the name of a kiwi band (which it is) or a term meaning ‘it’s all over’ first coined in a 1918 film starring the notorious Fatty Arbuckle.

    I cannot work out why it was deemed offensive – not that it matters.

  4. Rantetta

    Cheers. And keep a listen out if you can to see if the same thing happens with other teams when they win/lose convincingly.

    I could easily be missing a lot of it, but I think/hope at least some of it would have registered with me over the years.

    Instead I think it’s all part of the same thing, directly or indirectly pushing the idea we are different and will be more affected by aggression than other top teams; a special approach, so to speak.

    What Smith and co omit to mention is that the success of those tactics, given that they are really talking about foul play, depend almost entirely on weak or bad refereeing- special refereeing for a special approach.

    Webb made the mistake of commenting half-honestly about it all by bringing up a load of nonsense about our naivety and how easy we became to referee. Statements which basically make no sense whatsoever if a ref’s job is simply to follow the rules of the game, punishing foul play and rewarding the cleaner team. A reminder of why saying nothing is the sensible approach for Pgmol and one they’ll presumably fight for till the death.

    Webb came fairly close to admitting they used special refereeing for the special approach. He couldn’t come up with a coherent or plausible justification for it- there really isn’t one- so just talked some shite which was actually strangely like the garbage the media push. Should have been torn apart for it, but there’s no one interested in doing so (apart form us!)

    Shouldn’t it be a case of ‘fool me once, shame on you…twice, shame on me’ if teams gain an advantage by Not Being naive?

  5. Rantetta/Mick(Mick)Hazel

    So what do you find objectionable about my comment?
    If you’re going to troll me make it worth while.

  6. The more managers comment on PGMO – either it’s administration or it’s match officials, the more stupid the media look for not commenting or investigating properly.

    The response of the FA of managers questioning referees and PGMOL is to banish the complainer to the stands. Mourhino, already on a charge, can just about book a holiday with his wife and family for his sins of complaining about TWO referees. Pardew, whilst not complaining about the referee, but about the administration at PGMOL, and Riley specifically, will be an interesting case, and something any sports journalist worth their salt should be following it closely.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have any suitably interested, investigative sports journalists in the UK, so the status quo will once again, be maintained.

    That MP’s, asking questions of the FA Chairman, over allegations of “potential” corruption over the Allardyce affair, failed to question the role of PGMOL shows just how deep the rot is set.

  7. I guess that the esteemed plundit and scribbler Mr. Law must have missed or forgotten the distant 2015 FA cup final? No clues there, eh?

    Or that Sanchez played alongside the legendary striker Di Natale for years? And years. We were lucky enough to see him play for the Udines once in n5 just before the end of his career. Incredible movement and timing, not so different to what we saw in Sanchez’s first goal yesterday…

    It’s shame that the football hacks continuously forget about the actual football. I suppose when you aspire to follow the career path of Alan Partdridge (please refer to Keys etc. “truth is stranger fiction” and Steve Coogan is a genius…) that the football is not so important?

    As for Alan Smith. We know his ‘style’. What’s interesting is that this former ‘target man’ has for me never been able to hide in his tone his admiration for the big sexy lump who is his rightful heir at AFC, the best ‘target man’ in Europe these past few seasons.
    And that when compared to his incredulous “GET IN THEIR FACES” gibberish when anyone as in anyone watching the actual football can see that they are being allowed to pull back AFC players in the pelanty area etc. it is all: quite weird.

    Almost as if he is getting paid to say one thing, but thinks another.

  8. Leon
    I didn’t find your comment objectionable I was merely commenting that you can’t be Rhys and Rupert (whom you have been compared to before by me and others) and it was a possibly poor attempt by me to be jocular. Sorry if it offended you.

  9. In all fields of life we see the arse kissers , the apologists and the sycophants bending over backwards at very impossible angles until their target are reached !
    Sometime they are so well stuck , that only a crowbar could split them apart !You may not be able to differentiate between arse and mouth. Both stink to high heaven of course !

  10. MickHazel
    Yes I’m being regularly compared to the notorious Rupert, which is more boring than annoying. I’m not offended of course, but haven’t got a clue who Rhys Jagger is and why Rantetta thinks I’m him.
    I suppose it’s a bit too much to expect such an opinionated type to be big enough to give an explanation.

  11. The ladies finished up their home games this season with a 2-0 win over Doncaster. One game remaining, away to Liverpool

    Congratulations Ladies.

  12. MickHazel,
    You’re right, mainly, he can’t be Rhys and Rupert. Or can he?
    I did laugh though.

    An opiniated guffaw, no less.

    Thanks for your post re: Alexis. I’d forgotten his previous performance at the Ems.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *