Remember when Kevin Keegan showed how cross he was at something Old Red Nose said? He was wearing a pair of seventies headphones and started to echo the thoughts of most football supporters in the land by saying he would love to beat the red Mancs, love it. Nothing particularly exciting about that, at the time we would have loved it if anyone beat them. I in fact still enjoy seeing or hearing that they have been defeated, it’s one of life’s little joys.
Sadly for all people with a scintilla of sense and decency the media took that moment as their cue to start praising the purple veined old coot for his deft employment of psychology to unsettle his managerial opponents. Or in their lazy shorthand, mind games. In fact Keegan’s little show of passion was only notable because someone in football had just told the unvarnished truth, and had done so in a way that made it transparently apparent that they in fact meant what they were saying. I don’t think it had much impact on the outcome of the title. We all know that in a tight race the more experienced, settled team (with the weight of the football establishment behind them) will often succeed and Keegan’s Newcastle just didn’t quite have enough to stave off the vested interests and the red mancs.
What’s always struck me is the way we have since been told to view Keegan’s barely suppressed anger as an outburst or a rant. Who really used mind games here? I suggest it was the media. Repeat a lie often enough and everyone will accept it. The interview is passionate, honest and relatively mild by any reasonable measure. And yet the media felt the need to over react and do everything possible to destabilise the rival to their favourite. It’s not much to me, a meh moment really, they have an agenda, big deal, so what? That’s not news. But last week they were at it again.
I read on the BBC news feed that Rafa Benitez had ‘ranted’ and been guilty of an ‘outburst’. The BBC. An organisation which used to be rightly famed for some degree of journalistic integrity. Not a tabloid, not a Fregie fawning satellite channel but Aunty Beeb herself. Intrigued despite myself, I looked up and found a video of this drooling, wild eyed, ill advised crazy harangue to which the poor unsuspecting journalists had been subjected. And surprise surprise, what did I find? A rather diffident, polite gentleman calmly and rationally explaining that he was working for a shamelessly non-supportive organisation and that football fans have a role and that role is to get behind their team. Their role was absolutely not to make defamatory banners nor to chant abuse at the club they purport to follow. I say the club and not the manager advisedly. These buffoons at Chelsea will always claim they have the long term good of their club at heart and are in fact merely ‘having a go’ at an inept manager.
You shout abuse at your manager and you are shouting abuse at your club. As George would say, simples.
We of course at Arsenal are familiar with what is happening at Chelsea. Not the manager go round nor the ownership model, I don’t mean that, but rather the unrepresentative berks getting their names checked by an all too willing and complicit media and claiming to speak for all of the fans. The prats who think they know more about tactics and player selection than a man who clearly has more experience and professional acumen than they have acne blocked pores. I don’t have much sympathy for Rafa – he knew precisely what kind of horrible organisation he was walking into. But I do think he was absolutely 100% correct in everything he said. And more than that he did not rant and it wasn’t an outburst but the media have decided that we must all think it was.
Here’s my question. And I expect an answer so sit up straight at the back. What do the print journos, the radio and TV people gain from raising up these revolting little men (who I refuse to name here) that claim (wrongly) to represent fan unrest? Who benefits? Beats the hell out of me. A conspiracy needs a clear aim before it makes sense to simpletons like me. So maybe they just like stirring the shit. Maybe it makes life more interesting.
One thing watching Rafa reminded me is how wise Arsene is to treat the press with such gently smiling benign contempt. I am astounded when supporters think it is they who are on the end of his subtle dissembling, that he aims his careful political double speak at the humble football fan. It is a duel with the media and one he conducts with a cautious dignity, choosing when to swat them aside and when to dangle a tidbit. Mind games? Compared with the oafish clumsiness of the sot from the North Arsene is like the child of Gary Kasparov and Machiavelli. When he blithely states that he makes no plans for Gareth Bale on Sunday do people really seriously start screaming that he’s a fool and he’s lost it? Or do they think he ought to tell those press hounds all of his plans and just hope no one from the Lane gets wind of them.
Given the enormous task Arsene has faced over the last few years and the revolting way he is treated it is quite incredible that a genuine rant or outburst has never happened. He should be instantly forgiven it it did, but instead he tolerates the imbecility of the press pack with an avuncular patience and a patronising indifference which you nor I would have little hope of maintaining. Just one more thing he does rather well in my opinion.
And with that I’m off to try to fill a football free Saturday.