The Right Way...?

Published: Monday, 13 January 2020

I exchanged messages with a PL manager last week. We were discussing the smoke and mirrors which the modern game exists behind. It ended with him saying ‘there’s so much fake news these days’. He’s right, but it’s how it is now. Football has evolved. The media has changed. It’s life - nothing is forever - it’s how it should be, but it is still quite hard to get your head round sometimes.

Here’s an example. I read today (Monday) that ‘Inter Milan have made Christian Eriksson’s agent an offer....’. Amazing. Clubs used to make each other offers - then agents were involved in the process! Not anymore, as Mourinho might say. 

Everybody has an opinion that can be expressed now. Again, nothing wrong with that. It should never be the case that the man/woman that shouts the loudest should be lauded and regarded as the only person fit to pass a judgement. Noise doesn’t equate to quality.

When Andy and I started working at TalkSPORT I was told ‘we want to hear what you think’. That flew in the face of everything I’d been doing previously. But it was liberating. I enjoyed it. I’ve continued to grow opinions ever since - I like shaping this blog, returning to a form of journalism and communication that remains king, despite all the changes - the written word.

But I’m always conscious that no matter what I believe I will bow to experience. I didn’t play. Andy did. I’ve always been grateful that I can turn to him and ask - ‘what’s it like to win the title? What’s it like to score the winning goal in a cup final? What’s it like to score in a European final - in fact, every final you played in?’ I can also ask ‘what’s it like to be relegated?’ 😂😂.

My point is that no matter what we believe - and I repeat - of course we can all have an opinion, only when you’ve been there and done it can you express a view with the confidence of experience.

When I started out journalists would report on the match they’d watched  - a young pup like me would provide the ‘quotes’ after scuffling about in and around the tunnel after games. The ‘desk’ would weave the report and quotes together. Simple stuff. Factual stuff.

Now journalists are experts in everything. I read a piece in The Mirror last week which explained the genius behind Arsenal’s win over Manchester United. I read that ‘Arteta’s tactics - pointedly similar to Guardiola’s possession-centric, high pressing aesthetic at Manchester City - were too complex for the United players to get to grips with’. Really? What exactly does that mean? Are Arsenal’s ‘group’ all members of Mensa? Are United so thick as a collective that they don’t know how to do their boots up? I read about ‘inverted right-backs’ and ‘flat threes in the middle’. I won’t bore you with the rest of it. I was bamboozled reading it so no wonder United couldn’t play against it. I did wonder what happened to this cutting edge science in Arsenal’s 1-1 draws against Bournemouth and Palace and in the defeat to Chelsea before I text Andy and asked him to try and give me some idea of what it all meant.

Seriously. What nonsense, but it’s how it’s gone. There’s no reason at all as to why the author shouldn’t express his view, but he must accept that he’s also open to analysis.

The article’s conclusion was that Arteta tries to play football ‘the right way’. What exactly is that? At Bournemouth, playing ‘the right way’ has seen Eddie Howe’s team lose nine of their last 11. They’re in big trouble four and a half years after breaking financial fair play regulations to get into the PL - and after spending £234m in their time in the big league.

Graham Potter’s brave new world at Brighton saw him rewarded with a contract extension after half a dozen games. What a relief it was to see Brighton shrug off the suffocating cloak that Chris Hughton had imposed. Potter plays football ‘the right way’. Just one thing - at this same stage last season Brighton were two points better off and one place higher - although they had scored a goal less. They’ve conceded exactly the same number of goals. Smoke and mirrors. And why the contract extension? I’ll tell you why - so that Dan Ashworth could justify the decision he made to get rid of Hughton. #fakenews.

Times change, but let’s not get too carried away with the belief that football was invented by Pep Guardiola and the way he enjoys watching the game played is the only way that it should be. There is no ‘right way’. There are ‘different ways’ thank goodness. There always has been. There always will be.

What has evolved is how we absorb it. How we’re fed it. But let’s not take that too seriously either. Only my late Mum stopped watching TV-am and Sky Sports when I left their employment. Nobody switched off 5-live because Pougers wasn’t presenting Sports Report last weekend. Change is necessary and can’t be stopped. We should do all we can to encourage today’s Vloggers/Bloggers/writers - but remember that you can’t buy experience and someone that’s done it - been there as it were - will always have a more valid opinion than the rest of us amateurs.