Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am a long time Arsenal supporter, having first stood on the Highbury terraces over 50 years ago, a time when seats were basically for the well to do and, as they would have it in those far off days, the bosses.
The workingman stood on the terraces; this was his place, and his fiefdom. Here he exorcised the frustrations of having to kowtow to those same bosses all week. Probably also working Saturday morning, before clocking out on the stroke of midday and rushing off to the North bank at Highbury, the Kop at Anfield or any of hundreds of other league and non league grounds scattered around the country for the statutory 3 O’clock kick off.
There to shout, swear, curse, cheer, sing and bond with mates who stood shoulder to shoulder with him at the same place on the terraces every week, watching their heroes, who had quite likely travelled to the game on the same bus or tube as the fan himself, before running out to perform on the hallowed turf which, if the truth were told, was the ultimate dream of the vast majority of fans massed in swaying ranks above them.
Dads took sons, who as the grounds filled and took on a swaying surging dangerous life of their own were lifted and passed hand to hand overhead by the adults and placed in a prime position close to the pitch.
What, you might well ask, has all this to do with today’s sanitised game?
Well for a start, women were generally conspicuous by their absence from these gatherings. Yet, it is from this point that despite, disasters, violence and hooliganism over the years, football has evolved into the all seater, health and safety obsessed, politically correct, female inclusive game that exists today. All brought about by massive investment as the game has grown and become the number one TV sport worldwide. Despite this investment, somehow tribalism and bigotry has survived, and although women have joined the brotherhood. Some brothers have not yet cottoned on.
It is this fact that has led inexorably to what will undoubtedly become known as the Keys and Gray affair as the unsuspecting broadcasters were cast on the altar of political correctness, with the usual suspects and rent-a-gobs queuing to gleefully castrate the hapless pair.
For what, you may ask? An unfortunate conversation deemed sexist and broadcast across a microphone left open unknown to the smug Keys and his footballing Guru by some careless engineer. A conversation in which they suggested the female referee’s assistant was unlikely to understand the intricacies of the offside law and followed by a disparaging remark concerning a newspaper article about sexism penned by Ms Brady of Birmingham and West Ham fame, these comments were made in what they believed to be a private conversation.
Of course, given the animosity between the various arms of the media, it was seized upon by a rival in the printed press who obtained a recording from a willing punter and triumphantly trumpeted its existence in large type across their pages before, in a fit of splendid self-indulgence, despatching a copy in righteous disgust to Sky TV asking for answers.
Do we believe that this mass outpouring from the purveyors of the written word, was solely driven by a genuine distaste of the boundaries they alleged had been crossed? Could it be that after years of dealing with yesterday’s news on the back pages, whilst trying to compete with the immediacy of sky they had finally been handed a scoop of sorts or at least a chance to get even? The paper concerned is, of course, famous in its own right among football fans for its accuracy and impartiality. (I wish)
Who was it then waiting in the wings, who had access to this material as well as other previously recorded salacious titbits ready to be uploaded to Utube, Thus ensuring the twenty-year reign of the unfortunate pair would be terminated. The old cliché Careful who you damage on the way up, less they get you on the way down seems relevant and points perhaps to a crew member, probably emboldened by the whistle blowing antics on-line and in print of recent times.
From Sky’s point of view a combined salary of £2.2 million will undoubtedly entice whatever pairing they consider appropriate. A revamp after twenty years is probably seen as a gift from heaven in this fast changing technical world. Whilst at the same time enabling them to come out as White knights in the cause of Political Correctness just as they did with Ron Atkinson’s demise.
Now I have no love for the long-term red top TV front men, in fact I can think of many good football based reasons to replace the gruesome twosome, not least among them the deliberate and constant striving to create controversy rather than celebrate excellence.
Their treatment of our own Eduardo is a case in point. A gifted striker who had his leg so savagely broken that he will never be the same player again. Indeed so horrific was the incident that Sky themselves decided the tackle should not be broadcast again. Notwithstanding that decision, had poor Eduardo been in any condition to listen to the end of the match discussion, he would have heard the deadly duo blithely passing it off as an accident, as the player whose flying tackle caused the damage, ”wasn’t that kind of player”. I suspect some would dispute that.
A year later on his return, Eduardo then finds himself being crucified for supposedly diving, which whether true or not on that occasion, is universally acknowledged as being rife among most premier league players. Witness Rooney’s double somersault with twist against Sol Campbell to end the Invincible’s unbeaten run, which was again watched, replayed and then forgotten.
So perhaps the result can be perceived as a kind of poetic justice for football. But for me there is the smell of hypocrisy in the air, an unholy alliance of expediency within sky, coupled to the frenzied baying of the press hounds both in the written word and in their headlong rush for guest appearances on air. thereby swelling their bank balances at the table of opportunity and who knows, maybe convincing the powers that be, that a journalist and not an ex-player should get the pundits job
Written by dandan