The games football fans play in an attempt to put their point across

The latest video: A radical new direction for Arsenal


The Athletic, the troll, the errors, the comments: the story so far

by Tony Attwood

I’ve been critical of The Athletic for the way it has presented itself as being “The New Home of Football Writing”.  “New home” seems to imply a centrality and superiority, which I don’t think it can justify – it is in fact in terms of accuracy and bias, it is pretty much the same as the newspapers and broadcasters.   Quite why it is the “home” of anything is hard to see.

What really brought the matter to the fore was the article on which I have already commented in some depth – the article labelled as an exclusive, “Disgruntled Arsenal fans to launch breakaway phoenix club based in Surrey – Dial Square FC”.   Reading the piece it looks very much to me as if they have been given a press release by an Arsenal season ticket holder who wants to set up a new club, and not checked any of the “facts” within the piece.   Not a very clever piece of publishing for a “new home of football writing”.

And that might well be that if it were not for our occasional correspondent “Masterstroke” who chose to post a comment on Untold to the effect that “The Athletic have removed your comment from the article that you’re criticising here. Looks like they’ve got you sussed for the troll that you are.”

Five hours after the appearance of Masterstroke’s point posted above, about my comment on the Athletic’s website being deleted I was contemplating a further article on the Athletic’s lack of accuracy, and so, as I normally try to do with such matters, I thought I would check.

And curiously, Masterstroke’s statement appears to be untrue – my comment on The Athletic’s site is still there.

So I wonder, was Masterstroke just mistaken, or was he simply making things up, and/or was that a deliberate attempt to mislead?  Mistaken I think is unlikely; one simply has to type in my name to see if any comment comes up. No, I’d guess he was making things up and attempting to mislead.

Certainly we have across the years had a number of correspondents who do this sort of thing in order to sway our discussions away from the point we are making while not having to bother with the boring stuff of actually dealing with the facts or issues at hand.

Of course if you have not come across this behaviour you might find it bizarre that a seemingly sane person might spend time deliberately making up untruths not for the sake of entertainment, but rather just to disrupt.  A little like the child who seeing other children having fun playing a game, goes out and steals the ball, just to stop the others enjoying themselves.

The person who wants to criticise even when they have nothing to base the criticism on (such as suggesting here that the comment had been taken down by the Athletic) are known as “emotional vampires” trying to make others upset or angry in order to feel their pain.  They are also known as Walking Selfies, just playing at having personalities, moving from one personality to another just to seek attention.  The danger is that petty attention seeking can lead to criminal behaviour – but let’s hope my diagnosis at a distance (always a dangerous thing to do, I admit) is quite wrong.

In simple terms such a personality is commonly described as a know-all or know-it-all.  These are people who do not know how to celebrate the achievements of others but instead are forever dedicated to the put down.  They have no concept of praise, but need to knock others to avoid any confrontation with their own personality failings.

We find this type of person on Untold from time to time.  Untold makes loads of mistakes – and as the originator, publisher and lead author, I take full responsibility, but against this we have done some good stuff too.  The group (which didn’t include me) who did the 160 games analysis were game changers in my view – and indeed I’m delighted to say we’ve got a new project on its way that will, I hope, take this sort of analysis even further.

I do however take some of the credit for revealing the falsehoods in the standard history of Arsenal concerning Henry Norris – along with the analysis that shows it is the percentage of qualified coaches per 1000 players that is a prime indicator of success in internationals, not the number of players who play in their home league.

There are many more personality types out there which lead to strange posts on a site like this. For example there are the “calm down” personalities they are sometimes called – the people who dismiss an point of view by simply saying one should not get “so worked up” about it.  They try to focus on the personality of the person raising the objection, rather than the issue itself.  It’s a childish game – but very common nonetheless.

Of course Masterstroke is far from being the only person of this type to lurk around the edges of Untold Arsenal – we’ve had many before over the 12 years and no doubt we will get many more in the years to come.  And my friends and I who look after Untold have many a debate about whether people who are here just to destroy or corrupt should be banned at once, or allowed to make their comments.  By and large we leave them alone to play in their little corner, but when they just issue lies which the unwary might believe, then I think sometimes it is time to out them.

As for the Athletic, I would have been surprised if they had removed my comment about factual errors in the piece they published not least because anyone who allows such an inaccurate item to be published in the first place is hardly likely to have installed devices or editorial control to look out for criticism of those errors and then delete the comments.   Besides had they done so, they must have realised that I would probably do another piece about them, involving the issue of their desire to protect their good name above their interest in truth and accuracy.   But I really don’t think what I say if of any particular interest to them.

To me the Athletic is just another publishing venture which misses an opportunity.  It could venture into new fields, and come up with new findings, but instead it seems to be looking at football journalism as it exists, and saying “ah that must be the way to do it”.  It could have published a piece about how a guy with a load of money is wanting to set up a club in the name of Arsenal, but can’t even be arsed to do the basic research, but it didn’t.

As for Masterstroke, if you’ve never run a blog you would probably be amazed at just how many such people there are out there who want to spend their time trying to disrupt rather than create.  As a person who uses psychology in his daily work I do enjoy seeing the manifestation of various classic personality profiles.  It gives us something to talk about down the Toppled Bollard.

But ultimately, even in the Bollard, there are limits past which one has to say, “no, actually, what you are saying is simply not true.”

6 Replies to “The games football fans play in an attempt to put their point across”

  1. “I know that some football Einsteins – football is full of Einsteins – I know that they tried to delete 16 years of my career,” the Portuguese told MUTV. “They tried to delete an unbelievable history of Man United football club and to focus on a bad week with three bad results. But that’s the new football – it’s full of Einsteins.

    Jose Felix Mourinho.

  2. “I know that some football Einsteins – football is full of Einsteins – I know that they tried to delete 16 years of my career,” the Portuguese told MUTV. “They tried to delete an unbelievable history of Man United football club and to focus on a bad week with three bad results. But that’s the new football – it’s full of Einsteins.

    Jose Felix Mourinho

  3. Thanks Gord.

    Yes indeed, welcome to Arsenal Pablo.

    If you thought you knew the laws of the game, think again. Here are a few things you will need to learn as an Arsenal player that may differ slightly from what you are used to:

    1) Do not breath on your opponent. That is a foul at Arsenal.

    2) The first time you do breath on an opponent expect to receive a yellow card.

    3) Learn to jump out of the way. Attempting to break an Arsenal players leg is not a foul in the premier league, it is seen more as a badge of honour.

    4) If you fail to jump and do receive a serious injury it will be your own fault. We have had many players, such as Eduardo, Diaby, Ramsey, Wilshere, who have all received serious injuries in an Arsenal shirt and in each case it was their own fault for not getting out of the way.

    5) Do not expect VAR to be of any help either, as when it comes to Arsenal it is basically used just to confirm how much at fault we were.

    Good luck.

  4. “By and large we leave them alone to play in their little corner”.

    Do you not think that is an incredibly arrogant and disrespectful position?

    Anyone who clicks (repeatedly) on a website, let alone comments on it, is paying the website a compliment. They may not realise it, but they are. (And UA is the only Arsenal blog i bother to click on). Whether their points are worthy or not, they’re taking the time to read and perhaps contribute. Others will decide on the value of their contribution anyway.

    I can imagine that as a moderator you can get hacked off at those who have agendas other than your own, and might wonder why you should give them a platform. But would UA be best served if it were limited to sycophants or a small group of regulars with generally mutually supporting views?

  5. OT: State Aid 0 2 LiVARpool!!

    About 3/4 through. Fouls are 3:4 and cards are 2:0. Moss is the PGMO twit. Moss gifts LiVARpool!! their first goal. Second goal not even mentioned in commentary.

    We want a miracle, State Aid please win this game.

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