- Why one particular club is finding it hard to buy or sell this summer.
- What Arsenal need to do to get to third next season.
by Tony Attwood
Several readers recently commented on the contemptuous way in which journalists and sub-editors (the people who write the headlines) treat footballers.
The particular word that sparked the comments was “deadwood” with journalists regularly speaking of the need for clubs such as Arsenal to “clear out the deadwood”.
Not only is this highly disrespectful of the players who in terms of football are infinitely more talented than these journalists, the fact is that if anyone in the world of football deserved to be called “deadwood” it is surely the journalists themselves.
Just consider their approach to transfers – an item covered in the last post in which we listed the 106 players that these journalists have said Arsenal are seeking to sign.
Clearly this is arrant nonsense – this is just an ever-growing list of players that supposedly Arsenal are interested in, but which for the most part they are not. The list is invented by football journalists who are too lazy to do any proper research and investigate which players the club might seriously be interested in. In this regard every single journalist who is engaged in this activity is the real deadwood, and if I can find the time I think I might publish a list of who they are. “The Deadwood Journalists” to be listed by name and by newspaper or website.
But the deadwood journalists don’t only make up transfers, 97% of which (most years) are completely wrong. They also make up reasons why Arsenal don’t bring in the players that they (the deadwood journalists) think they should.
Those reasons never include the notion that the club was never interested in the player in the first place, but rather because the club dithered in its negotiating, didn’t offer enough to the selling club, didn’t offer enough to the player, and were generally beaten by the much more adept and able negotiating team in every other club in the league.
But there is more that makes these journalists worthy of the name of deadwood journalists. It is because they avoid a lot of the serious stories – real stories that can be verified, rather than fantasies about transfers that never happen. Reports on bias toward home or away teams, clubs getting away with ludicrous levels of tackling etc etc.
However back with the notion of deadwood. In all clubs, there are players who don’t fit in, for one of several reasons. For example:
- The player loses form. Yes it happens. Players can be brilliant at one club or in one country, but then need to be able to carry that form forward. It happens in all walks of life in which the individual is delivering something creative. Creativity is not a tap to be turned on or off, but an attribute that is rare and needs to be nurtured. Generally speaking, calling a creative person who has lost some of his creative flair “deadwood” does not make things better.
- Because of the make-up of the team the player is asked to play in a different position or in a different way, and finds it hard. A bit like a composer of film music being asked to write a hit song or a Shakesperian actor being asked to play a 1930s gangster in a movie. It can work, but not always.
- The player has problems outside of football. He might find it hard to fit in, in his new city. Or his family might find it hard to make friends and fit in. It is a simple fact of life – it is difficult to be at your creative best when there are problems at home. And I am not just considering problems of the individual’s own making. If a parent gets cancer, if one’s partner feels the relationship has run its course, if a son or daughter is feared to be getting involved with drugs… it can be very hard to go into work and put on a show. Especially if all around there are idiots booing or shouting that the player is rubbish.
- The stress of playing. It might seem to us that playing football for money is a perfect life, but not necessarily with the demand always to be on top form, the crowd on your back, the journalists making up nonsense.
Now consider the long term. A problem of the type listed above affects a player. In many workplaces the management would be sympathetic and help the individual through the problem, not least because they want the individual back to his creative best.
But in football, we have a range of deadwood journalists criticising the player all the time, and then a group of moronic “supporters” who copy the journalists and start attacking the player.
Let me end my little diatribe with a memory concerning Thierry Henry. He was the club’s record signing. A world cup winner. And there to score goals. He didn’t score in his first four games, and was then dropped to the bench. He was booed and heavily criticised for playing as a winger when he was supposed to be a centre-forward. Yet he was living in a strange country, was not conversant with the language, and according to his own comments made later, was totally unsure of what he was doing in this style of football that was quite different from anything he was used to. He felt the move had been a mistake and was contemplating leaving. And just to help him along there were Arsenal fans booing him.
Of course he did get it together, but no thanks to the 1999 equivalent of AFTV and the like. He ended the season with 17 goals that first season – the only Arsenal player to make double figures.
Yes we need to deal with the deadwood. But generally speaking that does not mean the players. It means journalists and their fellow travelling “supporters”.