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Football history is (more or less) bunk as long as you ignore the bits you don’t like

By Tony Attwood

My thesis, if you have had the staying power to follow my rambles through its tortuous evolution, is that most of the football related “information” we are given day by day through the mass media, the blogs and the bloggettas (those tiny blogs that have two lines of unverified information sandwiched between a very brief summary of what has been said elsewhere in the last few days) is bunk.

It is opinion masquerading as fact, and invention masquerading as the truth.  And because there is so much of it, and so many “outlets” as the bloggettas love to call them (although “drainpipes” might be a better description), the sheer weight of the inventions means the nonsense starts being taken as fact.

It is not a popular thesis, not least because it takes two paragraphs to set out whereas most contemporary football reporting likes to deliver its point in five words (although I note that there are serious attempts to get this down to four.)

But it is important, in my view, because the sheer weight of the reportage with its gross inaccuracies, its omissions and its simplistic summaries of complex affairs means that for quite a few people, the notion of what is happening in football, what has happened in football and what impact it is having becomes totally warped.  A new, wholly false reality is born.

Two issues brought this to my focus this morning.

One is the headline from the Daily Star which reads “Arsenal Torn To Shreds By Sky Sports Pundit Jamie Carragher: ‘They Are Cowards’”

His point in the article is “Arsenal are actually getting worse, they aren’t getting better.   If you go back to Crystal Palace last season, I called them “cowards” and sometimes when you look back you can think it’s a bit strong. But those (away form) stats back me up.”

So what Carragher is saying is that a poor away form and the fact that Arsenal are highly unlikely to make the top four is proof of cowardly behaviour.  But no context is given here, and in terms of context we might consider the fact that Chelsea, another club expected to be in the top four regularly, were 10th in 2015/16, and 6th in 2011/12.   So it would be interesting to compare the “cowardly” behaviour of both teams – and particularly note Chelsea’s team which sank to 10th.

But no, there is none of this.  No history.

Perhaps Carragher is afraid of history.  After all, it was he who in 2002 at Highbury, threw a coin into the crowd.  All coin throwing awful and should be punished, in my view, but throwing a coin into a crowd (where it has a very high chance of hitting someone on the head) is far, far worse than throwing a coin onto the pitch (which I do not condone in the slightest).

That sort of thing (for which Carragher was not punished beyond the statutory three match ban for being sent off, despite his action being not just hugely dangerous but also a criminal offence) was cowardly in the extreme in my view.  Far, far more cowardly than losing some away games.

However history is not, as I say, football’s strong suit.  And at this point I am reminded of the phrase “history is bunk”.  What is so interesting about that phrase is that as far as I can tell (and I do have quite a fascination with 20th century history, as you may have noticed) Henry Ford never said it, thus in effect proving it.  In fact Ford was making a PR statement in support on his new design of car to the Chicago Tribune in 1916 when he said, “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition.”  Similar but not the same words, and as a result quite a different meaning.

All this was brought home to me yesterday in my attempts to clarify Arsenal’s history – particularly the issue of the promotion in 1919.  The full story is published in a series of eight articles (which you can find here) and these give a lot of evidence to show that most other reports you will read of the events of the spring of 1919 when the 1st Division was increased by two clubs are based not on misunderstanding but on wholly invented facts.

What brought this to my mind was that by chance, yesterday, I tried to add a note to the Wikipedia article on the election of Arsenal in 1919, which is wholly inaccurate in every regard, quoting speeches that never happened, and substituting invention for fact.  Within a day my short addition to the piece was removed because, among other things (so a Wiki editor said)  my piece suggested that an argument placed in Wikipedia was wrong.   So it seems Wiki’s editors would sooner stay with the fantasy.

It is a strange world where these made up stories begin to get far more weight than any attempt to sort out the truth.  It is almost as if we are returning to the era of myths and legends.

Arsenal have won three away games this season and we’ve still got a few to go.  Chelsea won five home games in 2015/16 and finished way below the position Arsenal are likely to end up this season.  And that makes Arsenal cowards?

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8 comments to Football history is (more or less) bunk as long as you ignore the bits you don’t like

  • Mike T

    Not quite sure why you bring Chelsea into the point that Carragher is trying to make but as you say context is critical
    In 2012 Chelea won the CL and qualified for the next seasons competition and yes in 2015/16 they did finish 10th but either side of that terrible season they were league champions
    I am far far from a fan of Carragher and don’t agree with a lot of his comments but his view is an opinion and the attempt to attack his character because you don’t agree with what he is saying is classic
    As to the coin throwing incident the irony was he was hit and there is no evidence whatsoever that he hit anyone when he lobbed the coin back in to the crowd.

  • rupert cook

    It’s extremely worrying. Not only in the football world but just take Brexit. How many lies did we have to listen to about that? And it still goes on with our current poor excuse of a government continually claiming we’ll get free trade with the EU based on what? Their desperate desire. Whilst the EU keep saying that free trade won’t happen without free movement and other stipulations. The NI border is another problem which this government keeps saying will be positively resolved with no recourse to actual facts for this egregious statement.

    Sorry went off topic there.

    But yes unfortunately we live in an era where people repeatedly say things in isolation and forget any historical context. To be a little fair to Carragher he may have said those Chelsea teams were cowardly at the time but what does that statement mean anyway? Cowardly in what way, that our players didn’t lunge recklessly at the opposition? Our team didn’t run up to the ref and beg him to abandon the game did they?

    I read a few Arsenal blogs and yes there’s wildly inaccurate statements in most. Probably my favourite is Arseblog as it seems the most balanced and is often quite funny.

    As for Wikipedia I wouldn’t trust it at all. My uncle, Richard Whittington-Egan, has his own page and I’ll be checking it later for mistakes.

  • Menace

    It is obvious that Carragher needs elocution lessons. That Jamie is how to speak not how to improve intelligence. Sadly you’ve missed the boat on intelligence – it left the harbour some years ago. Courage to you comes in pint glasses, besides, the teams you commentate on were playing a football game while you were tossing ………………….. a coin back into the crowd.

  • MickHazel

    Callagher is an expert on being cowardly.
    If I recall Callagher took the cowards way out when he retired from international football. He wasn’t 1st choice with Capello so rather than fight and show some balls to try to improve himself and force his way back into the team he retreated back to the safe house of Liverpool saying that international football wasn’t as important to him as club football anyway.
    Now that really is cowardly.

  • Josif

    Carragher’s mark is probably a consequence of the fact that new Beatles – Owen, Fowler, Carragher, Collymore, Gerrard – have failed to win Premier League whilst Arsenal have done it three times (four times since the last Liverpool league title). In their head, only club that should be allowed to battle Manchester United is Liverpool. They can live with losing titles to Chelsea and Manchester City due to obvious financial advantages those two clubs have had over the years but Arsenal – the club that had a nerve to win the league at Anfield in 1989 and probably caused a life-long trauma to all Liverpool fans – should have let Liverpool win the league. Add Arsene’s titles to Liverpool tally and Man United wouldn’t have knocked Liverpool out of their perch.

    That being said, whatever happened with the Arsenal away form since that game against Everton in December 2016 when we were robbed by Clattenburg is absolutely shocking. I’ve seen the stat that we have won 66 points at home (3rd best in the league) in the same period we have won 26 points away from home. That’s a 40 point swing with 36 goals conceded in 26 games. If I recall well, our worst defensive tally was 49 conceded goals in 2011-12 (which included 14 goals conceded in the opening five games and 10 of those before Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta joined us) but that was back in time when we couldn’t sign a 35 million pound defender.

    Top 6 mini-league table this season, unfortunately, reflects the quality of football shown by Top 6 clubs:

    1.Manchester City P6 W5 D0 L1 15
    2.Liverpool P8 W2 D4 L2 10
    2.Tottenham P8 W3 D1 L4 10
    4.Chelsea P6 W2 D3 L1 9
    5.Manchester United P6 W2 D1 L3 7
    6.Arsenal P8 W1 D3 L4 6

    Anyway, last season we responded to Carragher’s comments by winning 9 out of last 10 games and winning FA Cup. Let’s use his dirty mouth as a spur again and make a superb finish we are capable of. We still have a lot to play for.

  • Ferg

    Let’s hope we start revival in Sweden.
    Absolutely crucial not to lose.
    Show plenty of respect, they won’t be mugs, and with an English coach ,will be well aware of our recent collapses away from home.

  • Chris

    @ Mike T.

    And calling a whole football team, the manager, the organisation ‘cowards’ is not an attack on their character ?!? You’ve got zo be kidding !

    As far as I am concerned, it is an insult and this bloke would never have the balls to go into the Arsenal dressing room and tell all the guys : hey, don’t take it personnaly, but as far as I am concerned you are all cowards.

    This idiot is using the media as others are using Twitter, Facebook and other social media : just trolling.

    And he does it because he knows there is no risk involved, the true mark of a coward.

    I’d bet you that upon entering the Arsenal dressing room he’d walk up to Mesut Ozil and ask for a selfie so at least he’d once be real close to someone who has actually won something : what 23 guys can win every 4 years : a World Cup.

    And he’d be salivating to get an interview with Mr Wenger because it would put him in a nice light and get ratings.

    There an old saying in french : the one who say, is

    He is the one using the term coward. It applies perfectly to him and the coin anecdote fits perfectly.

    Just a stupid coward trolling via (so-called) press, and not being contradicted because it fits the wider narrative.

    Why was he not calling Liverpool!! cowards all these years when they did not qualify for the CL and not win anything ? And what about himslf and his track record ?

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I’m sure with his latest outburst , Carragher must have caught the eye of chairmen of some of the big clubs, especially those languishing at the bottom of the EPL .

    And am sure that they will soon move to get him into club management and save their teams from relegation. I’m assuming that they all are suitably impressed with the depth of his knowledge, his incisive comments and the firmness of his convictions.

    What do you think ? Wouldn’t you love this guy to be managing your team ? After all he seems to know a thing or two , despite never ever wining the PL title. He would be still better than the Harry Redknaps , Mark Hughes ,Tony Pulis , Tim Sherwoods etc , who still don’t seem to get it right !

    So I say , support the JAMIE CARRAGHER FOR MANAGER movement ! He may be your next dream manager .
    Think about that .