All football columnists are self-important; but some are more self-important than others. Ian Plenderleith investigates
Big names, big opinions. Emerging as a person of public repute causes media top cats to assume you have something of importance to say. This is particularly true in football, where the juxtaposition of crass thought and a famous face has in recent years spawned more drivel-strewn column inches than the collected journalistic offerings of Frank Leboeuf laid end to end. Inevitably, this cankerous trend has spread to the internet.
Voice of Football is, to its credit, perhaps attempting to cram as much celebrity cliche on to one site as possible, in the hope that it will cease to infest the rest of the web. And who better to bear the King of Controversy crown than Alan Green? No mere commentator, he is the self-appointed guardian of the game’s morals who can stagger us with incisive rhetorical questions such as: “Who isn’t lifted by playing in front of the Twin Towers?” No one, Alan! Apart perhaps from every Cup final team for the past decade, not to mention an England line-up or two.
Both shallow and sanctimonious, he peddles self-righteous eyewash from his lofted gantry seat as if the name Green were bigger than the game itself. Joe Royle “acts like a big baby”, he pouts. When some Man City fans complain about this, the nappy-waving really starts. “On Joe Royle,” blusters Green. “HE started this business. HE was the one who was slagging me off.” So there.
Celeb columnists also love to tell us how popular they are. “Robbie Earle is a valued friend of mine, a super guy and great company,” Green purrs. His stable-mate Uri Geller, renowned for using his psychic powers to propel Reading to the top of the Premiership, relates the fascinating story of how he failed to recognise Juninho in New York one day, mistaking him for Gianfranco Zola. This serves as a good excuse to print a picture of Geller with his arms chummily thrown around the shoulders of both Zola and Roberto Di Matteo.
As if determined to carve a niche for itself as the cesspit of populist punditry, Voice of Football generously donates a platform to Tony Banks. “What’s so outrageous about allowing footballers who live, play and earn their money in a country, being eligible to play for that country’s national team?” queries a man untalented enough to be eased out of the blandest cabinet in living memory. Well, what about it, eh? And another pint while we’re talking about it, please. Penned-in columnists for the new season’s full launch include Laurence Marks, author of the worst football book ever (see WSC 157), and noted sage Sir Harfield Harris.
Trumpeted at the gates of FootballNews is the signing of fab new writer Desmond Lynam. Nice work, although after an initial spurt of one column in early February, Des’s muse seems to have eloped with Bob Wilson’s long-lost personality. But what a corker that one column is. Read Des ponder upon “the old Wembley Stadium, scene of so many dramatic scenarios over the years”. Hear him ramble about which matches ITV will cover during the coming months, wittily advising ahead of the England v Germany game at Euro 2000: “If your daughter is getting married that day – get her to postpone it.” See him get a transfer to codgerjokes.com.
And where would a piece on celebrity-scribed, bumptious bilge be without mention of the repugnant bullfrog Mellor, whose customary twaddle now appears to have been expunged from the otherwise commendable Soccernet site? No need to reiterate his ill-considered, barmpot bigotry here, but a fair reflection of its quality was his comment on Tottenham’s signing of Sergei Rebrov: “Just as two swallows don’t make a summer, one Russian does not make a team.” Or even one Ukrainian. But you can’t expect a busy man like Mellor to worry about mere details.
From WSC 161 July 2000. What was happening this month