THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Fans deserve better than the tripe spouted by commentators and managers

The football season usually begins with a clampdown of some sort, whether it's on dangerous tackles, player dissent or managers’ post-match criticism of referees. But a variety of comments made in relation to the game escape censure every year and it’s high time that their perpetrators were brought to book. There should be a moratorium on public whinging about there being "too many foreigners in the game", an observation especially popular among club chairmen whose own teams are packed with players from outside the UK.

All managers could spend more time in quiet contemplation of their faults, but Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce in particular should resist the temptation to offer a forthright opinion whenever a microphone is thrust in front of them. Indeed, Spurs ought to have points deducted if Redknapp ever again expresses admiration for a contracted employee of another club, especially if it’s to point out that he is "a good player", as though that might be news to anyone.

It would be for the greater good if Mark Lawrenson refrained from sprinkling his punditry with witless jokes in the mistaken assumption that they are comedy gold. Anyone who hoped that he’d somehow flushed the pun toxins out of his system during the World Cup will have been dismayed by the BBC’s first live match of the season, Leeds v Derby on August 7, when Ben Pringle’s appearance as a sub for the visitors was followed by an enquiry as to whether he was “a crisp passer”. He’ll keep doing it until a commentator responds in the right manner, that is by wordlessly putting down his microphone and going off to seek refuge in the nearest bar or drop-in centre.

Let’s see an end to pundits saying that “All the fans care about is results” in relation to things like the anti-Glazer protests at Man Utd. Either the likes of Alan Hansen have never met any fans or they are just inventing an excuse for not talking about issues beyond “two banks of four” and the need for “passion”. If any of the bigger teams start badly we will be reminded by a furiously nodding Alan Shearer that: “You can’t win the league in August, but you can certainly lose it.” Whereas if they don’t lose their first five games they can expect to be “there or thereabouts” come the end of the season. Football folk have developed an obsession with the word “business” with Mark Hughes a persistent offender, forever announcing he’s “happy about the way we’ve gone about our business” or that he likes to “keep our business behind closed doors”. But he’s also painfully aware that being a football manager has put him “in the results business”.

We'd be abundantly thankful to hear and read less about "Stevie G" and "JT" from reporters who feel compelled to reveal, although it may simply be personal fantasy, that they are on matey terms with the bearers of those nicknames. The extollers of England "golden generation" (there’s another one) might also spend less time expressing bafflement that such globally fêted players are somehow unable to replicate their club form at international level. Especially if blame for this is placed squarely on the current England manager who is unfairly hanging on to a job that should have been given to, God help us, Sam or Harry.

There are a couple of other expressions widely popular in match reports that should be punishable by community service, extending to imprisonment for repeat offenders. One is that "these fans deserve better" whenever a certain club is having a lean time. "TFDB" is invoked for a variety of reasons, some of which are understandable, such as when a club is taken to the brink of ruin by incompetent or criminally negligent owners. Mostly, though, it’s simply cranked out during a bad run of form implying that the fans involved have suffered uniquely.

Linked to this is that a club needs to "get back to where they belong" which is always a place considerably higher than their current league position, and conjures up a world in which half the clubs in the league are somehow simultaneously in the hunt for major honours. The Leeds v Derby Championship match previously referred to, for example, used to be a major fixture, the equivalent 40 years ago of Chelsea v Man Utd. Finally, Chelsea scored seven goals four times last season and only lost once at home, but, incredibly, we'll still be told through 2010-11 that "there are no easy games at this level". Now that’s just a lie.

From WSC 283 September 2010

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