WHY FOOTBALL FANS DESPISE FOOTBALL JOURNALISTS
Mickey Blue Eyes
A distant friend brings me news that, "Lukaku and Mirallas want to leave." When asked how he knows this he says, "Because it's in the papers." At which point I move to the smallest room in the house to transmit the "news" onwards.
The fact is only the two players, their families and their agents know the truth of their intentions. All we fans know is it could scarcely have come at a worse time: into the second half of an appalling season when, footy-wise, most of us are feeling as low as a penguin's belly. It is a bad moment to talk of the future when the present needs so much attention. If true - and at the time of writing there is no confirmation or denial - it tells you more about the players characters than anything else. If untrue it merely solidifies our opinion of the hacks who churn out this kind of stuff.
Mirallas, 27, joined us from Olympiakos in August, 2012, his transfer fee reported as £6∙73millions, his current value at about £13millions; Lukaku, 21, joined us from Chelsea in August, 2014, after many fans demanded he be signed permanently after completing a loan spell, his transfer fee reported as our record at £28millions, his current value at about £26millions. Naturally, there are differing opinions of their playing abilities. Mine is that Mirallas is a player capable of quite brilliant moments but who fades from games too readily. Lukaku is potentially a fine player who is not fulfilling his promise, and at the present rate of application and team play never will. Mirallas is too "old" to change; Lukaku could still make it as a big name if the circumstances are right. But that is not the main point of this essay.
My subject is how football journalists deal with the sport from which they make a vicarious living. In my experience most of them are at least held in contempt, at worst openly despised as a gang of free-loading, untalented chauvinist liars and charlatans, some of them even in the pay of corrupt agents or other shysters. Always, cravenly, they are on the side of winners, which is the main cause of fans perfectly justified derision. Often they simply lie in the interests of the club they support or to level malevolence at another individual or club they dislike. Whatever the opinions, few doubt the game is wretchedly served - if it is served at all - by the likes of low-life Murdoch Sun propagandists and other slime. The London gang are the worst corrupt creeps of all. However, the Lukaku-Mirallas "saga" is just one more symptom of how far general football "culture" has fallen.
The main issue is not even what the players actually may or may not have said, but how their words are used. It is now almost a matter of course for such to be completely robbed of context or twisted so far away from the truth they are scarcely recognisable. Journalists, of course, have always sought a "scoop" ahead of their colleagues, an understandable ambition in a highly competitive zero-hours occupation (I refuse to use the term "profession" because it implies vocational decency). But that is a world away from the deliberate creation of a falsehood "controversy," which is now almost the norm, particularly in the twisted and hysterical world of tabloids. It is made yet worse when the perpetrator has an obvious track record of bias. And even worse in an era when the main media focus is not on the good of the game but on the instant cheap appeal of identifiable rich clubs who monopolise the chase for honours. In that respect (and many others) the Premier League disaster has gone mostly uncontested by the jobsworths who continue to promote it willy-nilly, just as crooked accountants certify the affairs of "clients" who are known criminals.
It therefore almost goes without saying the guilty parties are responsible for dumbing down not only the sport but the beautiful English language. Small wonder anti-racist John Amaechi says football is emotionally illiterate. If you want evidence of this all you need do is consult the football pages of any tabloid. Nor is this observation necessarily restricted to that medium; some of the self-styled "quality" newspapers are just as bad. There are exceptions but they are as rare as hen's teeth.
Now, for all I know Mirallas and Lukaku may simply have said they want to play Champions League football. If they did, so what? We want to watch and support the game at that level too, though preferably not in its current cash cow set up. There is nothing wrong with healthy ambition and ego. However, to put it mildly that is several times removed from some of the headline claims that they want to move to a "big" club, claims that are an obvious, cheap and gratuitous insult directed at all of us connected with Everton, one of the great names of the sport. And needless to say it is fodder for weak-willed cynics and tenth rate criers-into-beer. It is, once again, symptomatic of information clerks and propagandists who would scarcely recognise fairness and decency if it stood up and smiled in their faces.
Where the two players are concerned it does seem to me they need intense lessons in how to deal with interviews and how to phrase their answers sensibly. The problem there is English is their second(?) language and they may not understand nuance and how it can be used against them. The journalists who leech off the game at our expense have no interest in nuance or sensitivity or honest translation so Mirallas and Lukaku can expect no help there. But for both of them a hefty dose of common sense would not go amiss.
As for us fans, most of us know the score. None of us would hang a dog on the word of an emotionally illiterate journalist, or, for that matter, a tenth rate whinger scuttling around for a scapegoat, Aston Villa style. All of them are cut from the same cloth.
As for me, I would not buy a newspaper (or its internet equivalent) to use in the smallest room in the house. These days there are plenty of alternatives to the lies and poison they peddle. Their days are numbered. And their end cannot come soon enough.