by Sir Hardly Anyone
What is it a football journalist wants?
Basically a story that writes itself, that needs no research, no insight, no drawing out of implications, no need to ask the pesky “why?” question, and a story that knocks the clubs they love to hate, while allowing them to heap praise on the clubs they love to love.
And thus these are glorious days for football journalists. Liverpool on the up, Tottenham are on the up, Manchester United on the up, Manchester City protecting their image by simply saying nothing about those pesky stories about having done naughty things as a way of hiding finances. Those stories which the media has found so embarrassing to talk about and so have by and large ignored.
And oh yes, Arsenal on the slide. And a fabulous story about the Leeds boss spying on other teams’ training. Wow, shock horror. Did these journos actually think that clubs don’t spy on each other?
And to beat all that the statement from Leeds that “Following comments made by Marcelo Bielsa the club will look to work with our head coach and his staff to remind them of the integrity and honesty which are the foundations that Leeds United is built on.”
Maybe the journalists (who are not always the brightest of the bunch) failed to think back to the notorious Leeds teams of the 1970s. And maybe they have never studied their football history and don’t know that Leeds were the only club to have been thrown out of the League for ever, for refusing to hand over their financial records. And that to get around this expulsion the directors of the day wound up the club, but retained the ownership of the ground, reformed the club the next day, and applied to rejoin the League the following season, with the same directors at the same ground and much of the same team.
Then just to acknowledge what jolly nice chaps Leeds were the League agreed to all Leeds’ demands, and gave Leeds a place in Division Two (from whence they had been ejected) rather than making them enter in Division Three.
But hang on, what’s that? A mention of refusing to hand over financial records? Isn’t that what Manchester City are doing? Yes Man City have the legal technicality of the data that leads to suspicion having been hacked, but still there is a link and rather than repeat that Leeds statement without a sense of irony they go on their merry way. OK Man C are being investigated by Uefa not the Football League, but the parallels are there for anyone who wants to look. Irony indeed.
Mind you I expect if you asked most football journalists what irony is they would say it is the opposite of wrinkly. (Apologies to readers whose first language is not English, that one might be completely obscure, so we shall move on…)
As for Arsenal: results not so good as recently, internal turmoil, can’t buy any players, defence not fixed, manager says he likes friction, top man in recruitment has had enough and is going… Just as the media can run the Leeds story without looking for precedents so with Arsenal they can just pick up dodgy news and run it all day long, also without thinking.
It is perfection for the press, and for the blogs that see the papers as beacons of light. Rather than pursuers of stories that need investigation they take whatever reality they happen to stumble upon.
And all this is not just because Arsenal has been the club that journalists have loved to knock since the 1930s, but because glorifying Liverpool, Tottenham and Man U seems to be what they love to do. Ignore the fact that neither Liverpool nor Tottenham have ever won the Premier League – they are the big timers while Arsenal who are the third most successful team in PL history, the most successful team in FA Cup history, the team that stayed in the Champions League more seasons than any other Engish team, the most successful team in terms of doubles (equal with Man U)…
No, for the media, history is bunk (as Henry Ford didn’t quite say but almost did). Indeed if you were to look back at The Sun’s article ahead of that last FA Cup triumph of Arsenal’s you’d see in the build up preview the Sun said,
“If Chelsea pile on the misery for Arsenal by winning the FA Cup at Wembley on Saturday Antonio Conte’s side will join a select group who have completed the double…” The piece continues in the same vein throughout, glorious Chelsea up with the elite, Arsenal are already miserable and are going to be made more miserable any time soon.
They could instead have started by saying that if Arsenal beat Chelsea they will be become the most successful side ever in the history of the FA Cup and Arsene Wenger its most successful manager and that if Chelsea win they will compete the Double but still be a long way behind Arsenal. But no.
With football journalism that is not how it goes.
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