Keep your mails coming to firstname.lastname@example.org…
Justice for AWB
I’m not sure if you are talking nonsense by accident or behaving like TalkSport so idiots like me write in and complain but anyways. If you think players like Jayden Bogle, Isaac Hayden, Karlan Grant, George Baldock and Craig Dawson are more likely to earn an England cap than Aaron Wan Bissaka then you must be a troll. For starters, AWB has already earned an England call up (while playing for Man United) but he pulled out due to injury. England have a lot of great options but Lamptey has been injured for half of the season. James is in and out of the Chelsea side. Same with Walker. Trippier has been suspended for a while. Trent has been questionable defensively but brilliant going forward. AWB meanwhile appears to have been rather consistent in the last few months and it wouldn’t be even a slight surprise if he gets another England call up. What would surprised me though is if someone like Jayden Bogle or Karlan Grant manages to get called up before him.
Dion, Arsenal, Donegal
Nothing wrong with glory-hunting
Over the past few weeks there’s been a few mailboxes with the term glory hunter chucked around, with the obvious indication that it is a grave insult for a fan. But is it really such a bad thing? Much like the term plastic I think glory hunter gets thrown around way too much considering a majority of football fans worldwide, and indeed the reason the sport is so marketable, is down to glory supporters.
For starters, if we’re being honest, a considerable proportion of the Mailbox contributors are glory hunters. The London based Man Utd fan, the Irish Liverpool supporter, the American Chelsea fan… In each of these cases it usually boils down to a particular team being on TV and winning a lot during their childhood. Hell, it doesn’t even have to be the current elite sides; technically I’m a glory hunting Newcastle fan, on account of supporting them because they signed Alan Shearer back when they were title challengers. If a large slice of football fandom is plastic or chasing glory can it really be that wrong? I’d say it’s perfectly fine and is only worthy of mockery if you break one of these three rules:
1) Hypocrisy. If you happen to support a Premier League side in Red who have loads of “History” you sound like a bit of a dick when you accuse a fan of a Blue Premier League club of being a glory hunter. You both support your teams for similar reasons, one isn’t inherently superior to the other.
2) Buzzkill. If I was given a pound every time a Lincolnshire based Man Utd fan at school helpfully informed me that I couldn’t tease them about a recent defeat because my team were worse…well, I could probably have bought myself a nice pair of jeans. Every team has different expectations and part of the fun of being a fan is getting to rib each other when things don’t go our way. Likewise it’s tedious when someone tries to undercut an elite team supporter feeling bad after a poor run/result with “it could be worse, we’re getting relegated/in the Championship/midtable League One”. Every club has different expectations.
3) A bit of a contentious one this. Perspective. Please watch the occasional match other than your team. There are few things that make people dismiss your opinion more as a football fan than having zero perspective on other teams because you see the entire sport through the lens of your own club. If you can’t hold a conversation (or submit a mail) about any team bar your own it brings into question your insight as you have few points of reference on which to base your opinion.
Well, I got a little sanctimonious towards the end there. That being said I hope we can stop slinging terms like plastic and glory supporter around. There’s plenty of more creative and funny ways to laugh at each other after all.
Kevin (none of the above was aimed at anyone in particular by the way, all just general observations), Nottingham
Why ARE journos an easy target?
My opinion of John Nicholson has been on the slide, recently. His articles are beginning to resemble water going down the plug, round and round and round finishing with an inane little gurgle.
The latest waffle about journalists is a superb example of that and the comments from a gentleman called Peter Ford below the article are absolutely spot on, “She was asking questions, designed to have players/coaches directly criticise the referee (which is never going to happen) and then reacted badly when people criticised her? I don’t agree with personal abuse, but it is entirely reasonable to point out the double-standard…..she was trying to generate controversy about the referee and Eddie Jones was not biting. Doesn’t make the personal abuse right, but she should have moved on. Journalists in general have lived too long in a world where they dish it out without fear of blowback…..then social media happened and suddenly their perspectives are challenged.”
Journalists have so much to answer for. The lies and deceit from Brexit supporting politicians (especially) were faithfully reported and embellished further and we would never have even reached that point if it wasn’t for journalists twisting the truth and telling bald lies for the 40 years previous to that, either. What has happened to balance and objectivity? As Peter Ford says “…Journalists in general have lived too long in a world where they dish it out without fear of blowback…..then social media happened and suddenly their perspectives are challenged….” and they don’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, personal abuse and threats are waaaaaay off the mark and people behaving like that should be prosecuted and have their social media accounts closed down.
However, this unbalanced reporting is insidious and, frankly, dangerous. In Saturdays’ Daily Heil television preview of the day, the Manchester City game with West Ham was previewed as such, “It is weird that Pep Guardiola proudly wears jumpers with the name of a refugee charity, Open Arms, while presiding over a football club whose success is aided by financial doping from a decidedly icky regime. Anyway, City go for 20 wins in a row here”.
Honestly, where to start with that? Firstly, you’d have to be living on the moon not to know that City were bought by Sheikh Mansour, in 2008. Yes, 2008…..and we’re STILL getting reported on in such terms? Thirteen years after the event? Utterly needless and, as I say, insidious. Whatever your thoughts on City (and by God, do we all know what those thoughts are so please, if you can all refrain from the same tedious old replies…?). Obviously Pep’s support of this refugee charity offends the right wing sensibilities of most of the British Press (remember the spat that Gary Lineker had with the Heil and The S*n about refugees?) so that’s a start but where is the balance? Why didn’t this particular journalist state “Manchester City… meet with West Ham who are owned by a well known pair of pornographers”? Well, why not? Is it ONLY City who are fair game?
I certainly didn’t see a preview of the Chelsea v Man United game that read “Today’s match is between a team who have been built using money stolen from the Russian people and whose owner has been linked to the gangster currently running Russia and who was recently denied British citizenship so has not stepped foot inside his own football club for months now and another team whose arrogance and dismissiveness of others is leading them into talks to potentially shatter the structures of European football whilst, all the time, loading their debt for buying the club ONTO that same club”.
Likewise, I didn’t see a preview of the Sheffield United v Liverpool game that read as “The meeting between a club owned by a Saudi Arabian prince whose country is currently involved in an illegal war in another country and who have just been linked to an international murder and last seasons’ fading Champions whose billionaire American owners were recently caught cheating in the NFL, paid compensation for hacking into another clubs databases, defended a racist who bites other players, instigated and interfered in another clubs business with the games’ ruling bodies, decried other clubs transfer business then broke world records themselves, had to issue a public apology for tapping up other clubs players, declared a world record profit and then furloughed the staff and whose sponsors have recently been fined in the region of a billion dollars for money laundering and breaking international sanctions by dealing with Iran”
Not very snappy, granted, and to all those who I have offended, I apologise but if you ARE offended, why not try putting yourselves in our shoes and see this type of stuff trotted out about YOUR club, on a daily basis and for years?
My whole point is that there is NO balance and NO objectivity. It’s happily trotted out all over the media, ad nauseum, that City have spent an absolute shitload of cash and that’s true. I see fans (Liverpool, in particular) twisting themselves into knots banging on about this and how their club is whiter than white when it comes to spending. Let’s drop the hypocrisy here and acknowledge that ALL the BIG clubs spend BIG money but the fact that Chelsea recently spent £250m and are proposing to spend so much more, is just ignored by the Press. United have been breaking transfer records for decades, etc, etc, etc, but is this acknowledged by the members of the Fifth Estate? No, don’t be bloody silly, of course it isn’t BECAUSE THAT’S OK AS LONG AS IT ISN’T CITY.
All I’m trying to do here is ask for this relentless, unwarranted negativity is wound down to normalised levels. EVERYBODY knows who owns City, EVERYBODY knows that we’ve spent a lot of money but this drip drip drip never EVER stops. Is it because journalists have a hidden agenda against City? Well, they’re fooling nobody because the agenda isn’t so hidden. Piers Morgan stated City fans should boycott games because we are owned by Abu Dhabi but didn’t reply when it was pointed out that Arsenal are very happy to keep taking the money from Emirates, just like the money that the FA receives in FA Cup sponsorship of which EVERY CLUB then receives a part of. Perhaps ALL THOSE CLUBS would like to hand that money back seeing as it is filthy Emirati cash? No? Ah well, it’s different then, isn’t it?
Richard Keys from beIN Sports recently stated that Pep should be sacked for the money that he’s spent on his defence (he does know that City know this money is being spent, doesn’t he?). beIn Sports are based in Qatar and are state owned. The Chairman of beIn Sports is Nasser Al-Khelaifi who is president of Paris Saint-Germain, a delegate of the UEFA executive committee and a member of the organizing committee for the FIFA Club World Cup. There’s a Gulf version of the Cold War being fought by Qatar and the UAE, at the moment. As a journalist, Richard Keys knew full well what he was doing and he is actually only out in Qatar because of sexist comments made whilst working for Sky. His frankly ridiculous comments were gleefully picked up by every news rag going when, in reality, they should be been ignored for the tosh that they are. But, that was never going to happen, was it? Blind, unbalanced reporting and of the type suffered by Raheem Sterling before he rightly called it out. (Nasser Al-Khelaifi will have had no part in the recent attempted stymying of City via Uefa’s FFP rules, of course he won’t).
I’m going to wind this up now because I really could bang on and on about it but then I suppose I’d end up like John Nicolson. All I’m asking for is balance, objectivity and credibility. All I’m asking for is for people to recognise the concerted Press agenda against the club and to realise what’s really going on here.
A nation deserves the Press it has but Manchester City certainly don’t deserve this. Journalists, hang your heads in shame. Just when we all thought that journalism couldn’t get any lower, you continue to try and prove that there is, indeed, another level below.
Just trying to help
Levenshulme Blue, Manchester 19
…I always wonder, when reading a Johnny Nic column, what century he is from. No form of abuse should be tolerated period. So no qualms on that piece. But the idea that journalists or, at least, sports journalists, are receiving abuse over and above what any others might receive is pretty disingenuous in this day and age. Abuse hasn’t been ‘normalized’ to sports reporters. It’s simply been normalized period.
One can’t go to any website, particularly those of the newspapers that many sports journalists work for, and see articles with headlines that have been written specify to create a response. And that have a comments section that will usually entail any manner of trolling, intolerance and deliberate wind ups.
Social media has created a generally toxic approach to point and counter point but the papers and particularly the red tops take this to an art form.
The difference was that in the past there was limited ability for anyone to respond to the ‘journalists’ attack on them before social media. What could you do? Write a letter? They got off scot free. How often did Eamon Dumont say horrendous things about others and was being lauded for being ‘outspoken’ but ‘telling it as it is’? The Suns reporting on Hillsborough. The obscene way anything a black player, especially if he is Raheem Sterling, has his life portrayed.
Let’s face it, most sports journalists are not that great (which doesn’t mean they should get abused) and engage in trite, cliche ridden, articles. You know, writing them one word at a time. The bar has been set incredibly low. We fete commentators/reporters/pundits as being brilliant but in reality are simply okay. And there are soooo many of them.
Unfortunately it isn’t just the pundits, the commentators, the reporters but everyone wants to have their say. Social media has turned the world into the worst kind of pub. People shouting over each other and when they’ve had a few, swearing and being obnoxious. It was great when it was confined to the pub but the genie is out of the box.
So, Saint Nic, you may have your head so buried in ‘sports journalism’ you can’t see the bigger picture, but if you did, you would see it is far uglier.
PS You should read the brilliant Mediawatch, the first thing I dad each day. Warms the cockles.
…Perhaps the most telling thing in Johnny Nicolson’s plea for football journalists to be classified as some form of protected species who should he immune from scrutiny or challenge is what he didn’t say.
Nowhere in the article did he accept or even countenance the possibility that many journalists are themselves responsible for much of the abuse they receive.
Whether in their writing or their social media activity, a great many hacks increasingly seem to delight in what can at best be described as poking the hornets’ nest, and at worst as the most base form of shitposts and trolling. Katie Hopkins with
Johnny says words can hurt. Well that works both ways. Informed and honestly held opinions are one thing, but thinly veiled hostility towards something deeply loved by tens if not hundreds of thousands of people can expect a robust response.
It’s not only fans who engage in open abuse or petty and tribal pile-ons on social media. Many of his colleagues have done exactly the same thing. Sometimes in print, sometimes even in the broadsheets.
There is no group of writers in the world who seem to obviously despise their readers as much the English football press. Until they begin to shoulder some responsibility and accept that their own behaviour is often part of the problem, then they will have to take what they are only too happy to dish out.
After seeing last night’s stats, I started looking back through Everton’s recent games and discovered they have not had more shots than their opponents in a single one of their last 14 games, but still picked up 26 points in that time. Ruthless efficiency or unsustainable good fortune?
Keane on Roy
I like Roy Keane as a pundit because he cuts through the spin and jargon which is commonplace in football punditry on Sky and Bt. It has been established on this website and elsewhere that the Premier League is first and foremost a brand and the purpose of any brand name is marketing. Broadly speaking, the very best players in world football have played outside of England. Certainly, it must be a sore spot for the premier league as a brand that the two most dominate players of recent memory play their football elsewhere. So when Keane lashes out at players for not being world class or great players, it fundementaly goes against the main idea of brand advertising that we have been fed for years. Likewise, Manchester United, the club which the brand was built upon, have fallen aside over the past decade and this, coupled with the decline of the traditional big teams, weakens the brand in terms of the narrative structure of punditry. The Super Sunday brand is surely in disarray at this point in terms of drumming up hype. If Super Sunday was selling bread, it would have gone out of business years ago on the back of a stale and tasteless product. We are constantly fed this idea of greatness and quality when the reality is less spectacular and much closer to the mundane.
Where does Keane come in? He cuts past the adverting and the hype and just calls it as it is. Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher serve as a useful deep dive on a Monday Night and can offer useful statistics to illustrate declines in form or provide tactical ideas, however, must of us have don’t really want these insights in the first instance. What Keane offers is simple truths in a game which is massively overcomplicated by pundits as part of a larger brand.
That is not to say that football is or should be soundbites, however, his insights on Spurs of late may be simple but they are not wrong. Also, his past accomplishments and dissenting voice afford him a greater capacity for sharp critiques. Keane has been there and done it and that just counts for something more. He is like a Gordon Ramsay or Marco Pierre White- a perfectionist. And the tough love he offers is what is needed to truly be great in anything in life. I think maybe we want to believe that winners are nice sweet guys and perhaps we fall for Klopp’s hugs and fist pumps, but let’s face it, he has to be a difficult man to be around when things are not going well.
As a Liverpool fan, I can happily say that I am going to rate the views of United players who played and won with Ferguson a little higher on the list because they were part of a team which dominated English football and reached three champions league finals in four years. Why does this matter? Because they achieved what everybody else watching the games wants for their club or even dreams of for themselves. I think we are lucky to hear his views as they provide a unsavoury but useful insights from a man who has won multiple trophies as the captain of great team.
Chris Bridgeman has a point about Lee Mason’s ‘episode’ at the weekend, for which I do have a huge degree of sympathy for a fellow human being who just made a mistake in the heat of the match and is now desperately waiting for the ground to open up and swallow him whole.
VAR is a shambles at this, but, as always, it is partly induced by the whole etiquette or unspoken ‘rules’ surrounding football. A free-kick given just outside the box you say? Stopping a magnificent breakaway move in full flow? Let’s stop the game completely and give the defending team time to construct a human shield in front of their goal, enable all other defenders to revert to their shape and mark attackers and allow the goalkeeper to get set on his line, why not?!
There is absolutely no reason why an attacking team cannot take a free-kick straightaway after the infringement (assuming it doesn’t involve booking or otherwise an offending player). The sole reason for allowing the defending team time to set themselves up is so the referee has the opportunity to spot further infringements as the move progresses.
But this is madness. Surely advantage should be played and an attacking move can progress from a quick free-kick? If a defender blocks the quickly taken restart then woe betide them! Give them a booking and award another free-kick from where the latest offence takes place.
It is a growing problem that is not addressed by refs. Any free-kick anywhere on the pitch (especially in the middle) will regularly have a defending player stopping a quick free kick. I notice no attackers take the free-kick and therefore risk their opponent offending but they really should do that more often. But probably don’t because the referees wouldn’t book them for it.
So really, this whole fiasco is self-induced by those little unwritten ‘rules’ about how we play the game (like fouls in the box, penalty takers being the devils spawn if they hesitate in their run up, etc, etc). If they did away with the need to halt the game for such instances then it will not only stop it happening but also create even more fun and chaos as teams scramble to score/stop quickly taken free kicks on the edge of the box.
Rob (weeping for our season), Leicester
The real problem with the handball rule is not the rule itself, it is the penalty. Imagine you were trying to develop the rules of football from scratch. Would you think that a handball such as Hudson-Odoi committed would be worthy of a 90% chance of a goal? Let’s think this through, it was an inadvertent or at the most a fairly innocuous handball in the furthest corner of the penalty box, moving away from goal. No advantage was gained, no scoring chance denied, he didn’t “handle” the ball. But as the rule is being interpreted by many, that is enough for Manchester United to be practically awarded a goal.
Now I am not arguing as to whether that is the right interpretation. My concern is more about the fundamental notion of the penalty box itself. And I am not talking about the fact that it is a box and not a semi-circle (the far corner is 25 meters away from the nearest goalpost, while the ones on the touchline are just 18 meters). It is that it leads to incredible inconsistency, referees are not eager to call fouls in the box that they wouldn’t hesitate to call anywhere else on the field and everyone pretty much agrees. Except now with VAR there are all sorts of debates and those standards are much muddier. Letter of the law and all that. In no other sport is the actual scoring as rare as it is in football, yet it has codified a situation that practically awards a goal on even what can only be described as extremely innocuous circumstances.
Do I have a solution, yes and no. I feel like some discretion should be given to the referee. If the rule had allowed the referee to award an indirect free-kick, would anyone have thought it was unfair? As mentioned before the dimensions of the penalty box could be improved. I realize giving discretion to the referee is not always ideal. And messing with something like the penalty box that has been the same for more than a century would not go over well, either. These are just some thoughts, they may be awful ideas, but I do believe it is time to think about whether or not there are ways to make this aspect of the game better.
David from California ()
So VAR officials have gotten together to form a conspiracy against Liverpool and Man U? That makes sense, why would the Premier League not want to screw over the two teams with largest global fanbases? Makes perfect sense.
And, in response to Michael saying that VAR cost Man U points against West Brom and Sheffield United, if you have to blame marginal decisions for dropping points to the two teams that are bang on assured to get relegated, maybe you should be looking at other issues with your team.
Ryan, MCFC (VAR screws everyone equally, so I would say that makes it pretty fair)
…It is delicious that the same Man Utd fans telling Liverpool fans that it’s not VAR it’s us are getting the same treatment and crying over it. Maybe if Maguire, Fernandes and Martial weren’t all such serial cheats you might get more decisions…? For what it’s worth I don’t think it’s a penalty anyway; Hudson-Odoi is clearly anticipating contact with Greenwood (and vice versa) so their arms are raised to brace themselves. It’s a totally natural position for anyone who has played football.
I think Man Utd fans prefer to focus on the penalty that wasn’t because they don’t want to admit that the kid they were calling the new Cantona has scored 1 goal and got 0 assists in games against the top 6 this season. That goal was the penalty in the loss to Spurs so broadly it was as irrelevant as his presence was on the pitch yesterday. The other truth is that the minute Man Utd fans and OGS declared themselves to be in the title race the team completely bottled it. Man Utd fans laugh at Klopp’s “mentality monsters” claim now but must’ve forgotten that we won the European cup, European Super Cup, Club World Cup and premier league when he was calling us that. OGS said you were in the title race and the entire team shat the collective bed.
How refs think
This is always how I imagined refs deal with a mistake…
“I made a mistake by giving that team a penalty they didn’t deserve. So what I’ll do right, is the next time I officiate a game for that team, I will deny a stonewall penalty. Two wrongs make a right! People always say that.”
I think this is exacerbated by the fact that referees can see a table of how teams have fared in referee/VAR calls, to the point where they are adjusting for other referees’ mistakes now too.
“That team is on +1 when it comes to overturned decisions, so if I disallow this stonewall penalty, they will be on 0 overturned decisions as all the bad decisions equal out.”
This is why socialism fails btw.