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Sports news, commentary and scores with wit and added value. We compare and contrast the best and worst sports reporting in the mainstream press, blogs, TV and online. We love the English Premier League (Arsenal, Liverpool, Spurs, Manchester United and Manchester City) and all things football but we cover cricket, rugby, the Olympics, tennis, golf, F1 and highlights of the sporting year.

Manchester United cheat Zlatan Ibrahimovich adopts the classic non-denial denial

More on cheating footballers in the form of Zlatan Ibramovich, who in Manchester United’s Premier League match at Crystal Palace handled the ball in the build up to the visitors’ first goal. Having pushed the ball towards Paul Pogba in the Palace box, who duly scored with the next touch, the Swede said post-match: “I think it touched my hand a little bit, then my stomach.”

As with Robert Snodgrass, the Hull City player who dived to win a penalty against the luckless Palace, Zlatan is at pains to construct a sympathetic back story for his offence. We see his hand move towards the ball, but Zlatan presents his body as the benign victim of a molesting force, which only touched his hand a little.

“The situation went fast,” he continues. “I tried to forward the ball to Paul because I saw he was free.”

This plea for understanding can make you hanker for the days of the straightforward denial. But Zlatan’s use of the dramatic-reconstruction-admission is very much in vogue. As Chis Ayres notes, “This uses Hollywood plotting techniques to combine a low-level acceptance of guilt with a backstory and a motive — thus making the acceptance of guilt look unnecessary, and therefore needlessly gracious.”

And just like in Hollywood, Zlatan has his people to protect him. Compare and contrast these match reports.

Crystal Palace FC official website :

Matta clipped it into the area where Ibrahimovic, with a hint of handball, used his torso to nudge the ball onto Pogba, who despite being slightly offside was allowed to continue his celebrations after he poked it past Hennessey from close-range.

Manchester United FC official website:

With just seconds remaining before the break, the Reds’ patience finally paid off, as Ibrahimovic chested Mata’s free-kick into Pogba’s path, allowing the Frenchman the easiest of finishes from six yards.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 16th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Key Posts, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Manchester United pundits antagonise Liverpool

More on the news that when a Manchester United fan who hates Liverpool lays into a Liverpool player as part of his job as a Sky TV pundit, the Liverpool manager might get a tad miffed. And so it is that Jurgen Klopp thinks Gary Neville is a bit of a wally in his harsh criticism of Reds’ goalkeeper Loris Karius. For good measure, Gary’s brother Phil opined from the BBC sofas that Karius, who had spoken to the Press about Gary’s criticism, should “keep his mouth shut and do his job”.

“I don’t care what Gary Neville says,” said Karius in reply to a question from Mail journalist Ian Ladyman. “He was a top player, then was a manager for a short bit and now he is back to being an expert again.” Karius was making reference to Gary Neville’s failure as manager of Valencia, a team owned by the former Manchester United man’s mate.

Ladyman says Karius was “not animated or emotional”. He was “just being gown up”. Agreed. He came across well, refusing to hide after his howler had given Bournemouth victory over his side. Phil Neville was not neither measured nor insightful in his response. He simply told Karius to “shut up”. As punditry goes, Phil is very much in Gary’s shadow. Working in the media is about taking part in a conversation. Phil is advised to keep the chat alive rather than putting it in a bland box and sitting on the lid.

Says Klopp, “[Gary Neville] is not interested in helping a Liverpool player, I can imagine, but that makes the things he says not make more sense. He showed he struggled with the job to judge players when he was manager, so why do we let him talk about players on television? I don’t listen to them. Obviously the Neville brothers don’t like Liverpool, I have no problem with that and if they can cause bigger problems than we have already they have tried.”

The Press laps it up, making the row the lead sports story. “YOU FAILED SO SHUT IT,” thunders the Mirror’s back page. “KLOPP has POP,” puns the Mail’s. “Klopp has launched a double-blast at the Neville brothers,” says the Sun. “Angry Klopp blasts Neville,” says the Star.

And all the while the BBC and Sky celebrate good old fashioned journalism. “I am absolutely not interested in creating headlines so you can write what you want,” said Klopp. He isn’t. But Gary Neville is. And he’s making a grand job of it.

 

Posted: 13th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Manchester United’s Gary Neville enjoys piling the pressure on Liverpool’s Karius

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville  – “I suppose it came from jealousy through my childhood – jealousy, hatred, passion for your own club. You don’t want them [Liverpool] to win anything” – has been criticising Loris Karius, the Liverpool goalkeeper. Neville – “I can’t stand Liverpool and everything to do with them” – says Karius “transmits anxiety”. According to Neville – in October 2006, he celebrated a Man United goal against Liverpool at Old Trafford by running up towards the away fans to celebrate wildly on his own –  Karius is untrustworthy and unreliable. “Karius] isn’t good enough,” says Gary Neville.

Karius heard the attack and thought it unfair. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Karius said of Neville: “He was a top player, then he was a manager for a short bit and now he is back to being an expert again… But he is always very critical. I think he does it to everyone. I just hope that when I do well he will comment on that. We will see in the future.”

Compared to Neville’s diatribe, Karius comes across as sober. But Neville can’t leave it there. He tweets: “‪My sincere apologies Karius. You’re right. A failed manager hasn’t a clue. I won’t copy your great fan, pundit and club legend again. ”

The “club legend” is Liverpool’s Jamie Carragher, who has also been critical of Karius, albeit in more measured tones. The difference between Carragher and Neville is that one pundit wants the best for Liverpool and one does not.

Karius’s errors are inevitable. The trick is to focus on what went wrong and seek to improve. Neville’s criticism comes across as kneejerk. It offers no scope for improvement only a wall of negativity. Neville has been a fine pundit, but might his dislike of Liverpool have clouded his view of the Liverpool goalkeeper to a degree that rather than investigating the cause he’s simply taking pleasure in the player’s mistakes and nerves? His sarcastic response to Karius’ response suggests as much.

Posted: 12th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Hull City’s Snodgrass cheats Crystal Palace and issues classic non-apologetic apology

Cheating footballers are the gift that keeps on giving. The latest is Robert Snodgrass, a nominatively determined snide Dickens would thought a little too figurative. Having thrown himself to the ground and taken the resulting penalty, opting to score and celebrate with gusto, rather than hoof the ball into the stands or pass it to the Crystal Palace goalkeeper, Snodgrass took to twitter.

“Apologies from my end, it was never a penalty,” tweeted Snodgrass after the match. “But I genuinely thought the defender was going to slide, so I tried to ride the tackle”.

It’s a terrific non-denial denial, with a sympathetic back story and neat non-apology apology. Snodgrass was already on a yellow when he dived, sorry, used his tingling 6th sense to anticipate a tackle that never came and fell over as if the non tackle was a foul.

Laughably, the Hull Daily Mail is as monocular as the referee, saying of Snodgrass’s tweet, “Such honesty is admirable.” And apart from the parts about Snodgass being honest and admirable, it’s 100% spot on.

But for really biased reporting it’s blinkers on to the Hull City website. Having praised Snodgrass for his fouling – “Snodgrass picked up a yellow card for deliberately bringing down Benteke midway inside the Tigers’ half in the 21st minute, a foul which did at least halt a promising Palace attack” – the club reports:

Livermore’s long diagonal ball out to the left wing was brilliantly controlled on the run by Robertson, who passed low inside for Snodgrass who went down under Scott Dann’s challenge. The referee pointed to the spot and Snodgrass stepped up to send Hennessey the wrong way with a perfect penalty kick. Dann picked up a booking for his protests.

Admirable stuff it isn’t.

Posted: 11th, December 2016 | In: Sports | Comments (2)


Media balls: Xhaka’s missing elbow costs Arsenal against Stoke

Media Balls – a look at biased football reporting. Arsenal beat Stoke City 3-1 in the Premier League. Stoke’s goal, the first of the match, came via the penalty spot. Should it have been a given? Should the Arsenal player have been sent off? Let’s see what the media says:

Terry Butcher (BBC Radio 5 Live): “Joe Allen’s touch was a little heavy, but he nicked the ball before the challenge. It was a very soft penalty to give away.”

Butcher says it was definitely a foul.

But might it have been worse? The BBC’s Kevin Killbane says “Granit Xhaka goes over the top on Joe Allen.” Other news sources see an elbow.

Daily Mail: “Joe Allen and Granit Xhaka both went for the ball, both missed it and the Arsenal man caught Allen near the eye with his elbow. No hesitation from the referee but looked a bit soft.”

Did Xhaka mean to use his elbow?

Daily Telegraph: “Allen runs into the box and takes a poor touch and IT’S A PENALTY! Xhaka leaves his elbow up as he tackles and absolutely clatters Allen in the face.”

Stoke Sentinel: “Penalty to Stoke in the 27th minute. Xhaka’s clumsy swipe caught Joe Allen. It was also an elbow.”

The Stoke City website: “TV replays appeared to show Xhaka catch Allen with an elbow as he clattered into him.”

Both Stoke sources ask questions of Xhaka, who wasn’t booked. Maybe the referee missed the elbow?

Let’s see what the local Arsenal newspaper said.

The Islington Gazette: “It was a reckless challenge that also left Allen needing treatment on an eye injury. Despite the boos from the home support it was a clear penalty.”

And now for the Arsenal website. Was Allen clattered? Was there an elbow? Did Xhaka go over the top and take a ‘swipe’ at Allen with his elbow? Says Arsenal’s man in the know: “The penalty was awarded after Joe Allen collided with Granit Xhaka in the area.”

It was a simple collision, says the Arsenal website, “an accident that happens when two players hit each other with force.

The last words are with the managers.

Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal boss: “We got a very unlucky penalty against us because it is not even a foul in my opinion.”

Mark Hughes, the Stoke boss: “I’ve not seen the incident again, but at the time I thought there was a collision and Joe spilt blood as a consequence, so clearly there has been a collision, but I can’t say if it was a penalty. A little bit of fortune maybe if it was a bit dubious.”

Looks like the Arsenal website was right. Maybe:

 

 

Posted: 10th, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp should thank Cook for revealing Bournemouth plot to attack Karius

When Bournemouth beat Liverpool 4-3 in the Premier League, the winning goal came via the slippery hands of Reds’ goalkeeper Loris Karius, who spilled the ball into the path of a grateful Nathan Aké.

Speaking to TalkSport, Bournemouth’s Steve Cook was asked if the home side has targeted Karius. “I’ve got to be honest, we did,” said Cook. “We felt he was under a lot of pressure – obviously, playing for Liverpool you’ve got to be a very strong character. We did target him, we tried to pressure him and get as many shots at him as possible. Obviously, we didn’t get that many shots off in the game but we did target him as a weakness in the Liverpool side.”

Sounds entirely sensible. Bournemouth identified a weakness and with skill and purpose exposed it. They sought signs where the underdog could beat the bigger, richer team. But Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is aghast. He says Cook’s comments ahow a lack of “respect”.

“Actually, that’s one of the worst things I ever heard in my life,” he said. “I am really looking forward to playing Bournemouth again because of this.”

And so a great rivalry is born: Liverpool and Bournemouth.

Of course, Klopp knows Karius is not the finished product. Liverpool coaches will be analysing weaknesses and attempting to turn them into strengths. It won’t happen overnight. It will happen little by little. The errors will stop occurring, or at least become less frequent. From failure, Karius can learn and work hard to improve his performance.

Rather than grow prickly over Cook’s words, Klopp might thank him for helping Karius and Liverpool develop a strategy for doing things better.

But Klopp hasn’t stopped talking. He has more to say of the ‘keeper he bought from Mainz and promoted to Liverpool’s first choice. “If they thought before the game that Loris Karius is a weakness then I don’t know which game they were looking at,” he says.

Perhaps he should ask Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, whose analysis seems so astute.

Posted: 10th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


One Watch: Mouinho is ‘The Frozen One’

One Watch: a look at media corruptions of Jose Mourinho’s self-billing as The Special One. Yesterday, Mourinho’s Manchester United were in Ukraine for a Europe League match they won 2-0.

Chris Wheeler begins his report for the Daily Mail: “On a night when Jose Mourinho became the ‘Frozen One’.”

Later we lean that Mourinho wasn’t all that cold, “beating the chill by being lively on the touchline.”

Anyhow, add ‘The Frozen One’ to the list.

 

Posted: 9th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Media balls: soft Manchester United players get it in the neck

Manchester United players show Daily Mirror readers “the most modern football thing you’ll see today”. More modern than Atletico Madrid’s new stadium being named after a chain of Chinese cinemas? The new gin bar at Fulham? The clickbait balls that mean all newspapers now look the same?

No. The most modern football thing you’ll see today are, as the Daily Mail exclaims, “Manchester United’s tired stars arrive back from Ukraine at 2.30am… with their own club-branded neck pillows!”

Is this a “a step too far?” wonders the Mirror.

No. It’s a pillow. It suggests the onboard flight is not as comfortable as it might be for elite athletes returning from a Europa League match. It was different back then, of course, when United players rested their heads on blocks of wood and coal dust.

 

Posted: 9th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports | Comment


Arsenal balls: Ozil and Sanchez are ‘completely committed’ as agents and tabloids talk up their worth

Arsenal transfer news is all over the tabloids. With just 18 months remaining on there respective contracts, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Oil are haggling for new deals and lots more cash. Are they going or staying? The media knows nothing, of course. The media had no clue either player was on Arsenal’s radar before they arrived and has no clue if they will sign a new deal.

The Mail says “YOU’RE STAYING”. Daily Star leads with “You’re Gunner stay”. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says the club will not be “held to ransom” by the players. Wenger says, “these players have 18 months left. They will stay for 18 months and hopefully much longer.”

The Mirror twists those words and leads with “Sanchez and Ozil WILL stay (but only for 18 months)”. Wenger “claims his £100m duo…will be allowed to leave Arsenal on free transfers at the end of their contracts rather than being sold next summer.”

That’s only right if you take half of what he said and ignore that bit about him wanting them to stay for longer and the 18 months being the only agreed element of the deal. Six pages inside the paper, readers get a fuller quote. They also learn that Ozil has been offered £200,000 a week, a hug increase on his current £140,000-a-week deal.

The Express has a fuller version of Wenger’s words, which the Mirror declined to report. “Eighteen months is long time in football.” says Wenger.” I can’t give  any assurances. But they have 18 months and are completely committed. Beyond that they will try to extend their  contracts. That’s a normal part of negotiating.”

The Mirror, of course, knows precisely what is going to happen, it having told us that at the end of this season, Wenger is leaving the club on June 30 2017.

 

wenger quits sack resigns arsenal

 

Over in the Sun, it’s “FLY EMIRATES”. Wenger “admits he cannot guarantee” Ozil and Sanchez will stay at the club.

Neil Ashton uses his column to tell readers Ozil and Sanchez’s agents are “running rings around Arsenal’s deal maker Dick Law”. They are doing this, says Ashton, by comparing notes. Yeah, agents talk to one another and do their research. Who knew they were so professional? “If Ozil is offered £300,000-a-week or more for the next five years, Sanchez’s men get to hear about it first hand,” he adds: “With the form their clients are in, they hold all the aces.”

Not quite. They play for Arsenal, and must continue to preform at the highest level to prove their value.

Football’s not about contracts. It’s about teams. Football is not a means to an end. Top sport isn’t. It’s about doing your best and enjoying yourself. The incessant tabloid guff about money and contracts in football creates an impression that all footballers are disloyal and driven by money. To think Ozil and Sanchez think of bonuses when they score win or lose is to do them a disservice.

We get stories that Sanchez could earn £400,000-a-week playing in China. No word on whether he wants to or sees a new challenge in the Far East. Just the money.

“I believe personally, and maybe I am a bit naive, that it’s more about getting to meet the player’s needs. That’s more about the way the club has values, the way the club has ambition, the way the club respects the players,” says Wenger. “So I think, for me, that is more important nowadays and an important ingredient for every player to consider. The money is good everywhere for everybody. You know, nowadays, you negotiate with the agents more than with the player. We are in negotiations, yes. The players [Sánchez and Mesut Özil] are 18 months away from the end of their contracts, so it’s normal to be talking. But the players always come in at the end, when it’s a renewal, because with the first contract you need the players present. But after that, when you renew, 90% of the contracts are negotiated with the agents.”

Do they want to play for you? Would they enjoy it?

Agents are employed to maximise their clients’ earnings. But they also know that a happy client is a retained client. The agents don’t hold all the cards. It’s a balance. If Ozil and Sanchez’s agents are the top of the game they will strive not only for money but for their clients’ futures. Are they better off at Arsenal, where they are thriving and earning a fortune, or should they head o China, Chelsea or wherever else will give them more money?

The last words is from Ozil, who told the Times only last week:

“This is what I love about football…Even as a youngster playing against my older brother and his friends, I was never selfish. I didn’t want to be in focus. Even if people wanted to put me in the spotlight, I didn’t want it. I am not jealous if people are more successful than me. My passion on the pitch is to be successful not as an individual, but as a team. Often, it is my contribution that decides the game…

“You have to go for it, believe in yourselves, always have fun.”

Still think he’ll leave? No. Me neither.

Posted: 9th, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Transfer balls: Arsenal trigger bidding war as Chelsea and China chase Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal forwards Alexis Sanchez is on his way to Chelsea. Maybe. The Mirror leads with news that should Arsenal fails to give Sanchez the massive pay hike he wants, Chelsea will dip him, his dog, his mum and his house in Russian gold.

The root of this story is not guessology, but something close to it. The Mirror says Chelsea manager Antonio Conte really likes Sanchez, arguably the Premier League’s best player. And, er, that’s it.

 

Alexis Sanchez chelsea arsenal

 

This ‘news’ follows yesterday’s ‘news’ that Chinese investors are willing to spirit Sanchez to the Far East an pay him £400,000-a-week to kick a ball. You’d imagine that any club willing to pay that much will also pay an enormous transfer fee.

As Arsenal wonder what Sanchez is worth if someone is willing to pay him £50m a year, the rest of the media slavishly follow the Mirror’s fact-free scoop:

“Arsenal and Chelsea fans lose their minds on Twitter as Sanchez is linked with Blues move” – Express

“Chelsea prepare swoop for Alexis Sanchez amid contract stalemate” – IBTimes

“Chelsea chase Gunners superstar Alexis” – The Sun

Of course, we only know about the Chinese interest because Sanchez’s people have dropped it into conversation with Arsenal over a new deal. It’s a bit desperate from them. If he fancies it, he’d already have agreed to go and Arsenal would be talking about that massive transfer fee.

So Sanchez won’t head to China. He’ll stay in Europe, and if he and Arsenal are smart he’ll stay at the Emirates and earn closer to the £200,000 a week he wants.

 

Posted: 8th, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Chelsea, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Making an ‘ordeal’ over Matt Le Tissier’s naked massage

Former Southampton FC “legend” Matt Le Tissier is the latest name linked to the stories of historical sexual abuse in football. Le Tissier claims he was given a “naked massage” by former youth team coach Bob Higgins. The Sun says “at least six Southampton starlets” have made complaints about former Saints youth team coach Bob Higgins.

The Mail leads with “LE TISSIER: MY NAKED ORDEAL”. Says Le Tissier to the BBC: “Everyone was kind of naked and getting thrown on this bed…and a very quick  massage. It was uncomfortable.” He adds: “You look back and it was wrong.”

It does sound odd and unnerving. But to put it in the same bracket as the horrors endured by victims of people like child abuser and former football coach Barry Bennell is also odd. Le Tissier never says he was abused. He tweets: “For the record, I’ve never felt like I’ve been abused. Still don’t… I’m all good just state what happened.”

The moment has not defined his life. Was it an ordeal? The papers all agree with the Mail that it was.

 

le-tissier-ordeal daily mail th esun

 

The Daily Star’s front-page headline yells “Matt nude ‘rub’ anger”. Inside we read, “Le Tiss Ordeal Fury.”

Does Le Tissier sound angry or furious? Not at all. He sounds measured and thoughtful.  “It’s pretty disgusting,” he says. “What went on is not normal behaviour. When you hear the stories of naked soapy massages, hairy bum competitions… you look back at it now and think ‘hang on, what was going on?’. Obviously boys talk at that age, they take the Mickey, it kind of gets covered up as a bit of banter at that stage. But as you grow into an adult, you look at it and think ‘that’s not right’.”

The Sun leads with: “Matt Le Tissier BombShell – Youth coach gave me disgusting naked massage.”

Over pages 54 and 55, readers are told of the “SAINTS LEGEND’S ORDEAL”.

The media all agree: it was an ordeal.

On the Mirror’s front page we see Le Tissier. On Page 11, down in paragraph 5, we read: “Le Tissier said he never felt like he’d been abused.” He’s a victim but unaware he was one? The Sun goes further: “Le Tissier  said he was not abused.”

 

le-tissier-ordeal daily mail th esun

 

Having read of Le Tissier’s “ordeal”, over pages 74 and 75, the Mail says, “90 minutes in dark room with coach still haunts me.” We hear from former Southampton youth team player Les Cleevely. What happened to him in that room should be the matter for the police, not for our titillation? “Les Cleevely does not elaborate greatly on what happened during one and a half hours in a darkened room with… Bob Higgins, but the affect it had on his life is profound,” says the paper.

It’s not until paragraph twelve that we get to know about Higgins’ alleged crimes. In 1992, he was “cleared of sexual abuse charges”. The Mail says he has “declined to comment on the latest claims surrounding paedophilia in football, but denies all allegations of abuse”.

We are told that at age 13, Cleevely claims he was given “a soapy massage by Higgins”. Les Cleevely then says: “My hour-and-a-half experience in a dark room was horrendous in itself but to have anything else happen is the stuff of nightmares.”

We are left fearing and imagining, but not knowing.

And the fear is fanned and spread by Harry Redknapp. “Rumours were going round at that time and there was a programme I watched where this young guy spoke about Bob Higgins and the type of stuff he was dong with kids at Southampton and I thought that would be the end of him,” says Redknapp. The paper then adds, ‘Redknapp was adamant there “must have been people at Saints who heard rumours about Higgins”.’

But through the fog of suspicion settling on everyone at Southampton FC, Redknapp then adds: “But until you can actually prove something or there’s a bit of evidence, it’s very difficult.”

Well, yes. Claims need to be investigated. Barriers to justice, charges, trials and verdicts navigated. What we have is suspicion. We are being invited to mistrust everyone. What happened in those 90 minutes should be in the hands of the police.

What we want is to get to the truth and for justice to be done and seen to be done – not for everyone who has ever worked in football to be a suspect.

Posted: 7th, December 2016 | In: Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Media balls: Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino to Arsenal for £82m plus £1

Hard cheese, Arsenal. The Mirror leads not with the Gunners’ terrific 4-1 win over Basel, a win that means Arsenal top their Champions’ League group, but with news that Liverpool have inserted an “anti-Arsenal clause” in Roberto Firmino’s new contract.

Why Arsenal would want the Brazilian is moot. The Mirror just says that if they do, they need to pay more than any other club. Any club coughing up the absurd sum of £82m for Firmino can have him – “BUT NOT YOU ARSENAL.” The story is that Firmino’s release clause can be trigged by any club except Arsenal.

 

roberto firmino contract

 

Should Arsenal be mad enough to off £82m for Firmino, Liverpool will point to player’s contract and tell them to come back with bigger offer. Maybe they can add a quid. Firmino’s contract, reasons the paper, is “revenge” for when Arsenal triggered Luis Suarez’s release clause with a bid of £40m and one pound. The Mirror adds that the Arsenal bid was made in the “mistaken belief that it would activate his release clause”.

Not quite. It did trigger the clause. But Liverpool didn’t honour it.

“I don’t know to what degree I should go into this – but [Suarez] had a buy-out clause of £40m,” said Liverpool owner John Henry. “But what we’ve found over the years is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot in England – actually not in England, in world football. It doesn’t matter how long a player’s contract is, he can decide he’s leaving. We sold Fernando Torres for £50m. We didn’t want to sell but we were forced to. For the first time [with Suarez] we took the position that we weren’t selling.”

So Firmino’s release clause is utter balls, then.

Such are the facts.

Posted: 7th, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Key Posts, Liverpool, Sports | Comment


Media balls: BBC blamed for Manchester United and Manchester City hype

In “MANCS FOR NOTHING”, the Mirror’s Dave Kidd looks at how Manchester United and Manchester City have failed to live up to the hype.

“Remember all that Pep Guardiola v Jose Mourinho hype,” he begins. We do.

“Remember how Manchester became the undisputed centre of the football universe?” We do.

Kidd then tells us who we can blame for all that balls. “Maybe we were all sucked in by the famously agenda-driven Manchester-centric media, led by Salford- based BBC Sport, who persuaded us to ignore poor unfashionable London”.

Kidd tell us that the biased media ignored Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, whose side are top of the Premier League.

To which we ask one question of our own: is the Mirror part of the Manchester-centric media?

September 5 2016: The Mirror asked: “Jose and Pep are set to renew acquaintances… but is the Manchester derby the world’s biggest?

September 8: “It’s his first Manchester derby, and even at this early stage it’s a game that could have a bearing on the outcome of the Premier League.”

September 8: “Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have made Manchester derby even bigger.”

September 9: “Clash of the titans: Pep vs Mou XVII.”

With just over 24 hours now until kick-off, Mourinho and Guardiola clash once again in one of modern football’s most engrossing rivalries in recent times.

Throughout the rest of the day we will be reminding you of the past encounters between the Special One and the master of tiki-taka as they bid for supremacy in both Manchester and the Premier League.

September 10: “Manchester City’s derby display proved why we are so lucky to have bewitching Pep Guardiola in English football.”

September 16: “I believe City are English football’s best hope of winning the Champions League this season – that’s mainly because of the Pep factor.”

 

manchester-daily-mirror MAnchester United Manchester City

manchester city manchester united daily mirror

What no Conte?

 

Expect more hype as soon as City and United start winning matches again.

Posted: 6th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Manchester City, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


One Jose Mourinho: every variation of ‘The Special One’

On June 2 2004, Jose Mourinho arrived at Cheslea FC. “Please don’t call me arrogant,” he told the Press, “but I’m European champion and I think I’m a special one.”

And so he became The Specual One. And where that led other ‘Ones’ followed. Jose Mourinho has been:

The Gifted One

The Nervous One.

The Generous One

The Right One 

The Impatient One 

The Serious One

The Hungry One

The Happy One

The Obsessed One

The Tamer One

The Different One

The Frozen One

Posted: 5th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Media balls: diving Dele Alli’s dying swan routine gives Spurs victory

“Pochettino defends Alli’s diving,” says the Times in its report on Spurs’ 5-0 hammering of Swansea City. The first goal came from the penalty spot after Tottenham’s Dele Alli fell to the ground. Elsewhere in the paper, former referee Howard Webb tells readers: “It was a dive and Dele Alli needs to be careful he doesn’t get a reputation.”

Spurs’ Argentinean manager Mauricio Pochettino was invited to consider the incident. Did Alli dive?

Pochettino recalls the time England’s Michael Owen collapsed under his challenge at the World Cup. “David Beckham scored the resulting penalty, effectively ending Argentina’s tournament and, in turn, Pochettino’s international career,” says the Times. “Don’t believe that English football is fair play always because Owen jumped like [he was] in a swimming pool,” Pochettino tells us. “Maybe he [Alli] will say, ‘OK I fell down but I didn’t mean to dive but the referee believed it was a penalty,’ or it wasn’t his intention.”

An accidental dive is a nice take on the non-denial denial.

Lest you think Swansea would have lost anyhow, the paper says the penalty was the game’s defining moment: “The penalty effectively ended Swansea’s afternoon. For the first 39 minutes, they had held on with all they had, but after going behind they crumbled.”

Does everyone agree with the Times and think Alli dived? The Spurs website says Alli was fouled:

Dele latched onto a ball down the left-hand side of the area and was clipped by Naughton, with referee Jon Moss pointing the spot after a moment of consideration.

The Swansea website says:

The Swans were level at the Lane until Spurs won a highly contentious penalty

The South Wales Evening Post – Swansea’s local newspaper – tells its readers:

Stuart Pearce – ‘No doubt in my mind Dele Alli dived for controversial penalty against Swansea City’

The paper’s match report is clear:

The game was goalless when Dele Alli induced referee Jon Moss into giving a penalty when the Spurs midfielder appeared to go over with no contact from Kyle Naughton.

The Tottenham Independent saw contact:

Spurs finally took the lead on 38 minutes. Kyle Naughton caught Deli Alli’s [sic] trailing leg in the box and referee Jonathan Moss awarded a penalty.

Such are the facts in the biased media.

Posted: 5th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comments (3)


Arsenal put West Ham boss on the ‘brink’ of getting chairman’s understanding

bilic-west-ham-united

 

Arsenal tonked West Ham united 5-1 at the Hammers’ soulless Olympic Stadium – hear the Arsenal fans singing “Is this the Emirates?” – and the tabloids are full of speculation. Is West Ham manager Slaven Bilic soon to be sacked?

“Bilic on the brink,” says the Mirror. “His job is understood to be hanging by a thread.”

“Slaven’s still safe,” counters the Star. “Slaven Bilic is safe at West Ham”, says the paper. “It is understood West Ham’s owners are ready to keep faith with him as they still believe the Croat can turn things around.”

“Bilic’s job is not under any immediate threat,” adds the Mail.

In short: nothing has changed. Bilic is the West Ham manager.

 

Posted: 5th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment


Jose Mourinho’s tax problems shame Manchester United and Chelsea

Jose Mourinho is “the rich one” in the Sunday Times’ look at the Manchester United manger’s financial affairs. The allegation is that “a complex offshore structure” has allowed Mourinho “to dodge tax on his image rights income”.

Is it all legal? We should suppose it is. But after the words “criminal investigation”, the paper looks at the cash – pots of it. The paper says since arriving in the UK in 2004 Mourinho has been paid – get his – £120m in salary. Much of that cash came from Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea. Perhaps the paper would be best served looking at the owner’s sources of income. In 2015, the Times Matthew Syed was scathing of the Russian:

The money that has bankrolled Chelsea these past 12 years, which has brought multiple trophies while sanitising the image of one of the most dubious individuals ever associated with British sport, was corruptly amassed

Back to the Mourinho, then, and his cash:

An investigation by The Sunday Times has found evidence suggesting that the Manchester United boss’s advisers misled the tax authorities in Britain and Spain during inquiries into more than £10m in earnings hidden through a Caribbean tax haven.

In an attempt to reduce his tax bill, Mourinho’s advisers appear to have fabricated more than £1m in costs run up by a British Virgin Islands shell company with no employees.

They also withheld from the tax inspectors the fact that Mourinho’s family were the true owners of the shell company.

The story is based on a “1.9-terabyte cache of data was originally handed to Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, by a whistleblower who does not wish to be named”. We are told why he’s leaked the data. “It is time to finally clean up football,” he says. “The fans have to understand that with every ticket, every jersey they buy and with every television subscription, they are feeding an extremely corrupt system that is only in it for itself.”

As is the way with big scoops of the past years – politicians’ expenses; the US embassy cables;  Hillary Clinton’ emails – the source is huge wad of data dropped on the media’s mat. It;s quickly packaged up as story of bad versus good. But how many of us see the Tax Man as a force for righteousness?

The paper notes:

It shows how the super-rich can employ highly paid advisers and lawyers to shield them from the tax laws that apply to everyone else. The public rarely gets a glimpse into this world. Until now.

Of course it all boils down to one thing: greed. But let’s not too be hard on Mourinho. Football relies on talent. The more talented the football name the more more they get. Revenues run to the workers. Jeremy Corbyn should enjoy that.

Whether or not Mourinho is overpaid or underpaid is neither here nor there. You could defend Mourinho by looking at the vast amounts of tax he has paid. You could say that a foreigner deciding to spend and invest his cash overseas is to be expected. You could see the taxman as an arbitrary force of state power.

What makes us curious is the power Mourinho enjoys. If the man who was indulged at Chelsea so long as he was winning – witness his hideous treatment of referees and Dr Eva Carneiro – is mired, it is not so much down to him as it is the clubs that stuck him on a pedestal and ignored and deflected criticism of odious behaviour that in any other industry would get him sectioned.

Mourinho’s people say they and he have done nothing wrong. But if he has cheated, the clubs that poo-pooed criticism of his antics and in so doing encouraged belief that he is free to exist outside the laws of acceptable behaviour, need to answer questions, too.

 

Posted: 4th, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Chelsea, manchester united, Money, Sports | Comment


Spurs cave in and agree to Harry Kane’s massive loyalty bonus

Spurs striker Harry Kane secured a huge pay rise because the club “caved in” to his demands. So says the Times, which calculates Kane’s Tottenham at around £150,000-a-week, based on a base salary of £120,000-a-week plus bonuses.

The new contract, which runs until 2022, contains no buy-out clause should Spurs fail to reach the Champions’ League.

Kane’s manager Mauricio Pochettino tells media, “If you ask him he is sure that is not about the money.” He then says he was always sure Kane would remain at the club.

Yeah, right. Kane bleeds for Spurs. He’s one of their own. Nonsense. It’s always about the money. He’s more than doubled his money from the £60,000-a-week deal that had four years to run. Give it a year of good form and he’ll be asking for more.

Feel the love.

To secure Kane, Spurs had to obliterate their wage structure. The club wanted Kane to sign a new deal in September, but he wouldn’t. The paper talk was of him wanting £100,000 a week. Then it was parity with Jamie Vardy’s £120,000 a week. Now Kane earns the same as Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez.

The Times says it wasn’t until last week that Kane and Spurs talked about the contract – and the club “caved into his wage demands and completed the deal in the space of two days”.

Below Kane, the club’s top earner is Hugo Lloris – and you can expect the captain’s agent to be knocking on the chairman’s door very soon. He’ll be in a queue behind Dele Alli’s agent. The young Englishman earns £50,000-a-week.

Spurs’ wage bill is set to rocket.

Posted: 3rd, December 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports, Spurs | Comment (1)


Arsenal balls: Ralph Hasenhuttl has not replaced Arsene Wenger

As headlines go, the Sun’s is unequivocal: “RALPH HAS THE JOB”. The paper reports that Arsene Wenger is to replaced as Arsenal manager by Ralph Hasenhuttl. Reading on, we get more facts: “Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to be replaced by RB Leipzig coach Ralph Hasenhuttl.”

Wow! Wenger’s finally been given the heave-ho.

As Gunners fans look up Hasenhuttl, the Sun whispers, “Austrian sensationally confirms he could takeover the Gunners.”

Could?

The Sun adds: “Austrian chief, who has led his side to the top of the Bundesliga table, claims he may take over at the Emirates next season.”

May?

The facts that had Arsenal fans excited are now less than factual.

So how did the Sun gets the story? Well, the Austrian appears to have seen q story in the Sun that he’s bene linked to the Arsenal job and responded:

“It was a well-researched story. There was a lot of truth to it. I have heard of worse fates than succeeding the longest-serving manager in England. It’s not damaging my reputation, is it? We don’t have to put too much thought into [the Arsenal job]. I have found my luck here.”

Which bits contained truth and which bits contained non-truths, Hasenhuttl didn’t say.

Posted: 2nd, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Chelsea embroiled in football abuse story short on facts

The Mirror leads with the “FOOTY Paedophile Scandal”. We hear from former Chelsea player Gary Johnson, who says he was paid £50,000 last year to keep quiet about the abuse he suffered at the hands of a club scout in the 1970s.

Over pages 4,5,6, and 7, Gary Johnson claims he was sexually assaulted by Chelsea scout Eddie Heath “hundreds of times in three years”.

Eddie Heath is dead.

Says Johnson of Chelsea: “I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this.” If they did, will Chelsea be asking for their money back? Johnson says Chelsea “asked him to sign a gagging order”. “They may have paid others for their silence,” he adds. We then learn that Chelsea “waived the clause in Gary’s settlement banning him from speaking about abuse after details of his claim were leaked to the media.”

Did Chelsea know Johnson was being abused in 1973 when he was a 13-year-old at the club, continuing until Gary was “around 16 or 17 and happened two or three times a week”, as he says?

Gary Johnson says Heath got him to perform in threesomes with other boys, “so I know there are mother victims out there.” He adds: “it is now up to them if they come forward”.

Do we expect them to?

Brendan O’Neill writes:

In these post-Savile times, we’ve come to think that all former victims of child abuse have some kind of responsibility to parade their wounds. We have come to expect, somewhat greedily, even perversely, that the abuse of decades ago must be relived, as publicly as possibly, in order to ‘raise awareness’. I’m sorry, but I think it’s possible there’s an element of moral titillation to all this. And I think it’s possible that it makes abuse victims even less likely to get over their experiences by making them go through it all again for our viewing or reading pleasure.

We learn that in 2014, Gary Johnson contacted the Met Police’s Operation Yewtree. He says he was “advised to go back to Chelsea with his case”. The police palmed him off to the club? If so, that’s abhorrent. Did they investigate? We’re not told. Mr Johnson says the “Professional Footballers’ Association did not return his calls”. So he contacted lawyers, who asked Chelsea for compensation.

Says Gary Johnson: “What makes me so angry is that I went to them to say I had been abused an they basically said, ‘prove it’,” Was that wrong of them? Chelsea are no longer owned by the Mears family, as they were in the 1970s. Why should the new owners take anything on face value alone when a man is asking for money and claiming to have been the victim of heinous crimes by a former employee? Gary Johnson says Chelsea’s “attitude when I came forward was to sweep it under the carpet”.

His claim was supported by Roger Kennedy, who says: “Mr Johnson has been haunted by the abuse for most of his life, but the intensity of the flashbacks have increased since he has become more aware of the nature of what happened due to the publicity around Jimmy Savile.”

 

chelsea-abuse-football

 

The Mirror is quick to blame the club, saying Chelsea used its “financial might to cover up abuse”. It is the “tip of the iceberg”. Did Chelsea behave badly? All we know of the money and the deal is that Mr Johnson says: “I think that they were paying me to keep a lid on this.”

The Mirror says the story “implies they [Chelsea] cared more about commercial rights and sponsorship deals than helping survivors cope with the torment of abuse”. The paper says Chelsea are “morally questionable”.

What of the police, then, and the PFA, two institutions Mr Johnson says failed him? What of the lawyers who accepted an worked on the deal?

Writing in the Mail, Martin Samuel confronts the matter of a club’s role. He says the current Chelsea owners are part of the club’s heritage.

Yes, the sport is different now. Yes, stricter protocols and procedures are in place, and those in charge of youth development may protest that the past is a foreign country. But it isn’t.

Modern clubs must assume responsibility, be the custodians for all those years. Everything, from the fanbase, to the location, to modern revenue streams, and items in glass cases that directors view with pride, they owe to those ancient dates and what followed. And much of it may have been good.

But what isn’t, what is almost too poisonous to contemplate, cannot be disowned.

When you buy a club, you buy the heritage, the good and the bad.

It’s a shame we don’t know the full terms of Mr Johnson’s deal and how the £50,000 sum was agreed upon. Chelsea are investigating. Hopefully, Chelsea will be transparent and we will know more soon. Dare they be anything but? The Mail leads with the headline: “FA VOW TO HIT CHELSEA HARD.” Any club “who have given a child abuse victim hush money will be punished”. Chelsea are “in the dock”, says the paper. The club may well ask, “On what charge?”

By way of a footnote, the Mirror says Eddie Heath trained Barry Bennell, the convicted paedophile, when he was a 14-year-old at Chelsea. The Mirror says there is “no suggestion” Bennell was a victim of Heath’s.

Heath is dead. Also dead is Frank Roper, a man who former footballer Paul Stewart says abused him “every day for four years”. Gary Johnson says Paul Stewart encouraged him to tell his story.

We can expert to hear others.

Posted: 2nd, December 2016 | In: Chelsea, Reviews, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Media balls: Southampton beaten by Wenger’s Arsenal flops

Southampton fans looking for reports on their team’s 0-2 victory away to Arsenal in the League Cup will disappointed to see their team get second or ever third billing to the Gunners boss Arsene Wenger. The crux of the match report is that Southampton less won the match than Arsenal lost it.

Arsenal’s Wenger made 10 changes to the team that beat Bournemouth last weekend. Southampton’s Claude Puel made eight changes to the team that beat Everton.

Given that the Gunners could still  all upon a wealth of experience in the expensive legs of Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel, Lucas Perez, Xhaka and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, a player signed from Southampton’s prodigious academy for £17m, Southampton deserve more plaudits. They did not defeat Arsenal’s “kids”. They beat a wealthier team on their home patch. For the Sun to says on its lead sports page, “Arsenal didn’t turn up” is absurd.

wenger arsenal wenger arsenal southampton wenger arsenal southampton wenger

Posted: 1st, December 2016 | In: Arsenal, Back pages, Sports | Comment


No, the football sex abuse scandal is not bigger than Hillsborough

IT’S “FOOTBALL’s BIGGEST EVER CRISIS,” says the Daily Mirror as it continues to lead with the sex abuse story. Is it? Is it bigger than the Hillsborough disaster that saw 96 people lose their lives and be branded criminals by the State’s lying police force? Barry Bennell, the awful man at the epicentre of the story, is a convicted paedophile. He’s now been charged with eight sexual assaults involving a boy under 14 dating between 1981 and 1985.

 

football-abuse-barry-bennell

 

Bennell has been living as a free man in Milton Keynes. Is that justice? Eric Bristow thought it not. He said he’d have smashed the “poof” Bennell’s face in, as “real men” should. The men who did not confront their abuser are “wimps”. For expressing his crass opinion on twitter, Bristow has been sacked as a pundit on Sky Sports and paraded throughout the media as a pariah, an enemy of any right-minded human being.

You could compare Bristow to Eamonn Holmes, the Sky News presenter who earlier this year said an attack by West Ham fans on the Manchester United team bus was like Hillsborough.  “Now this is going back to the 70s and to the 80s to everything you were seeing that was bad about Hillsborough for instance,” opined Holmes on the TV. Unlike Bristow, he wasn’t shunned, and sacked.

Does the media operate a hierarchy of outrage, with being ‘unlawfully killed’ and branded a killer – and do consider 10-year-old Jon-Paul Gilhooley, the youngest to die in the horror (the coroner ordered a sample of his blood to be checked for signs of alcohol), Phillip Hammond (14), Victoria Jane Hicks (15), Peter Andrew Harrison (15), Lee Nicol (14), Philip John Steele (15) and Kevin Tyrrell (15) – lower in the table than child abuse, the horror that can be a useful way to showcase your own sound morals?

Holmes apologised and kept his job. Bristow deleted his tweets, apologised and lost his.

 

 hillsborough the sun the truth

Hillsborough-daily-star

 

When 96 people died at the football in 1989, the media blamed the victims, the State stomped on their relatives and presented all football fans as suspects. It took an arduous 26 year fight for the Hillsborough campaigners to be told the blameless dead had been unlawfully killed.

The story of sexual abuse in football is grim. Child sex abuse is an evil. But to say it is a worse football scandal than the horrors of Hillsborough is a cop out. Bennell is alive. Bennell’s victims are speaking out and being heard. They could have spoken out earlier. They might be heard in court yet. Bennell appears to have attempted suicide. He’s thought to be in the Lister Hospital, Stevenage.

The story of sex abuse in football has faces to attack, blame and shun.

The victims of Hillsborough could not speak. The coppers who lied to make killers of the victims all escaped court. They still await justice. Maybe the bereaved and abused should do as Bristow advises, take the law into their own hands and crack skulls. But that’s not easy when the weight of the State is against you. Where do you begin?

 

Posted: 30th, November 2016 | In: Key Posts, Reviews, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Manchester United balls: Why everything’s ‘wrong’ at Old Trafford (it’s not Mourinho)

“What wrong at Old Trafford,” asks the Sun’s Neil Curtis? Nothing. Manchester United are in great shape. This we know because on 6th September 2016 Neil Curtis told us about the “RED-OLUTION” at Old Trafford. “Jose Mourinho has turned Manchester United around to become the force of old in just three months,” said Curtis. Mourinho has “lifted the clouds” at United. “Mourinho is trusting the players abilities, letting them breathe.”

 

the sun mourinho jose Manchester United Neil Curtis

 

Today Curtis tells us that Manchester United have had their “worst start to a season in 27 years”. Why? Well, it’s not because Jose Mourinho is failing. It’s about him “unpicking Louis Van Gaal’s philosophy”. That would be Van Gaal who unpicked David Moyes’ philosophy. (You can read more about Jose’s philosophy here.)

Curtis adds that United have “NO TOP-CLASS STRIKER”. Really. Because Curtis wrote:

In his £250m splurge, LVG made two that excited but could not get the best out of either in Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay. Mourinho has made four and so far Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly have been immediate hits.

And:

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has got his Manchester United career off to a blistering start

Another reasons: “NEW SIGNINGS STRUGGLING.” So much for Mourinho’s “immediate hits”.

And finally, lest you think Curtis will blame Mourinho, he asks himself: “Have they got the right manager?” “In my opinion,” says Curtis, “most definitely they have.”

Next question is one of ours: Would Manchester United fans prefer to have signed Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola instead of the chippy Mourinho?

Over in the Mail, you can read: “Inside the troubled World of Mourinho – An obsessive man at odds with himself and his players.” So much for the RED-VOLUTION.

 

Posted: 29th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, manchester united, Sports, Tabloids | Comment


Tony Pulis: Crystal Palace spank West Bromwich Albion manager

Tony Pulis, manager of West Bromwich Albion, is a “LIAR”. So says the Sun, which leads its sports coverage with news that Pulis has been told to pay Crystal Palace £3.7m – but his total bill following defeat in a High Court fight is closer to £6m. The Mirror and Express say it’s around £5m.

 

Crystal Palace the sun pulis

 

The story goes that Pulis was paid a £2m bonus for saving Crystal Palace from the drop when he managed the team in 2014. Palace said he was due the money if he stayed at the club until August 31 2014 – after the season had kicked off on August 16. Pulis asked for the bonus early, saying he had an “urgent” need for the cash to buy land for his children. He got the cash on August 12. On August 13, Pulis told Palace he wanted to leave, says the Express. Pulis left the club on August 14.

The matter went before an independent tribunal in March 2016, which ruled in Palace’s favour, saying Pulis had created a “false impression” that he would remain at the club. Pulis took the case to he High Court. And lost again.

The Sun says the case hinged on the date of a “fiery meeting”. Pulis, reportedly, claimed his loyalty to the club was damaged following a “heated player meeting” on August 12. But Palace were able to prove that that meeting occurred on August 8.

Pulis was undone.

High Court judge Sir Michael Burton said the Tribunal found Pulis had “deliberately sought to deceive with his claims about needing the bonus early”. The Sun quotes the Premier League Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal report which brands Pulis’s conduct “disgraceful”. His case was “untrue”. “It was must more likely he intended to seek more lucrative employment with another club and that is the real reason he sought early payment.”

Pulis must repay the £2m bonus plus £1.5m as he was “already in employment with another club”.

The Mail says Pulis has been “branded a fraudster”. He “deliberately mislead” Palace chairman Steve Parrish over his intention to stay at the club.

The Mirror says Pulis’ “reputation is in tatters”.

The rest of us marvel at how much money and greed there is in football.

Posted: 29th, November 2016 | In: Back pages, Sports | Comment (1)


Eric Bristow is a willing wally in the football sex abuse panic

eric bristowThe hideous story of sexual abuse in football rides high on the news cycle. The grim testimony from victims of an evil has taken on a life of its own. It’s become a good way to prove the country’s morals. In directionless times it’s useful to have a cause to rally round. We don’t know what we are but we know what we’re not: paedophiles.

Barry Bennell, a convicted paedophile, has been billed as football’s Jimmy Savile. He’s not. Bennell has been tried and found guilty. Sir Jimmy Savile died a national treasure, feted by the great and good. What both men do share is an eagerness to portray them as part of institutional failure. For Savile it’s the BBC, the NHS and children’s homes (but not the police, the Royal family and politicians); for Bennell it’s the FA and the nation’s favourite sport.

Everyone involved in football is now a suspect. If you are not suspicious of adults you are a fool or worse. Trust is for victims.

So the NSPCC opens a hotline, the police trawl for corruption and Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, says people “must come forward… Come and give your story, you will be listened to, you will be believed”. The media plays along, looking for someone on the wrong side of the panic to update the story. And today it finds Eric Bristow, aka ‘The Crafty Cockney’, five times World darts Champion in the 1980s, an MBE holder and last seen eating kangaroo gonads on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! with Limahl from Kajagoogoo.

As such his views are, er, entirely relevant to the horrific crime child sex abuse. And – irony of ironies for a man who walks to the oche to Rabbit by Chas and Dave (“With your incessant talkin’, You’re becoming a pest”) – Bristow’s chat has attracted ire.

The BBC says Bristow has been “condemned on social media” for suggesting football abuse victims are not “proper men” – and asking why they did not “sort out” their abusers “when they got older and fitter”. Not only on social media (see BBC). The Mail sees fit to repeat Bristow’s tweets for those readers not following the man: “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i (sic) got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out. Dart players tough guys footballers wimps. Bet the rugby boys are ok ha ha.”

He went on: “U got to sought him out when u get older or dont look in the mirror glad i am a dart player proper men. Trouble is nowadays u cant tell the truth what do u feel out there tweet me. Everybody that works on tv is frightened to say the truth because they are frightened to lose their job, life shouldnt be like that.”

Katie Hopkins, that jobbing to-deadline Aunt Sally, must be gutted. Used to seeing unattractive people from the 1980s telly unearthed to help police with their enquiries, it’s a novelty to see one helping the media in its narrative.

Having seen and very possibly enjoyed the shitstorm, Bristow backtracks a little on twitter:

 

eric bristow poofs twitter

 

Britsow’s language update shows he’s a man can move with the times. If he carries on like this, there’s a job as a tabloid columnist heading his way.

Update: Sky have sacked him as a darts pundit.

Posted: 29th, November 2016 | In: Key Posts, Reviews, Sports | Comment