I hope it’s not the end Frank.

Published: Monday, 25 January 2021
We all do it. I’ve been guilty as well. When things aren’t going well at a club the answer always seems to be to call for the coach to be sacked.

You can usually sniff trouble. Once rot sets in it’s really hard to cut away. Often the end is inevitable. That’s the way it’s been at Chelsea for the past few weeks now. Somebody always knows something. Rumours start. Players take their foot off the gas. Then the axe falls.

I’m sorry it ended like that for Frank Lampard at Chelsea. He’s a good guy - bright, forward thinking, but most of all English. We haven’t got enough ‘bright young things’. He’s had my support from day one and he’ll continue to have it. I hope he takes time out and then has another go. Our game needs high profile young English/British coaches. It’s why we set up St. George’s Park.

There’s obviously trouble at The Toon as well - but when hasn’t there been? Another tell-tale sign is when a manager starts biting back at the press. Lampard did recently. Bruce has as well. The big difference is that Bruce retains the support of the owner at Newcastle. Mike Ashley likes him - and he likes the way that Bruce gets on with the job without constantly causing waves - as Benitez did.

But that’s not to say that Bruce is solid. I can’t imagine any way that Ashley would invite Benitez back - but he’s a businessman. Remember, he brought Keegan back. He gave Shearer a go - and he didn’t want to make either appointment, but he knew both would play well with Geordies. If he thought it was good for business to take Benitez back I suspect he would.

Guillem Balague says Benitez wouldn’t fancy either Newcastle or Celtic. He’s his mate. But Balague went after me when I announced that Benitez was going to Chelsea. He was caught out and didn’t know. He frantically tweeted denials but was wrong. On that basis - don’t rule either out!

Fair play to the former manager of relegated Cardiff and Molde. He’s taken a kicking at different times but it’s beginning to look as though Ed Woodward’s faith is going to be rewarded. I hope so. We need a strong United.

I’m sorry - but I’ve got to mention this. It’s six games now since Utd last got a pen. That’s the longest run of games without one since the start of last season. It seems as though we changed something - although Cavani did his best at the weekend. He was a yard or two out when he went over with the usual murderous scream. I agree with Ian Wright - it wasn’t a foul, so they’re still at it. It wouldn’t have been a goal either if Tiago hadn’t ducked under the ball.

I write on the 10th anniversary (Monday Jan 25th) of Keys and Gray’s departure from Sky. Jack Pitt-Brooke wrote a piece for The Athletic Sunday. I like it. It’s a throw back. They do proper journalistic work without interference from the news pages. I’m often asked ‘why do you keep bringing the Sky incident up?’ I don’t. Jack said he was doing a piece so it struck me I might as well help him get it right - although he still managed to regurgitate a few myths. I followed up with a text to that end. He accepted the points I made. Sian Massey-Ellis never said ‘you should’ve known better’.  

Anyway. The Daily Mail inevitably jumped on it with a headline along the lines of ‘Keys again claims he was the victim’. They do make me laugh. I’m flattered that they still want to talk about me.

The truth is - we were. It was a set-up. I’ve got all the evidence I need to prove that and I’ve promised that I’ll share it. I will at some point.

To keep you going I’m happy to tell this story - only because I told Jack, but he didn’t write it.

Sky tried like mad to stop us working again - for TalkSPORT - or anybody else. Their big error was not putting us on gardening leave for a couple of years. They under-estimated my drive to get going again. And I was pleased that Andy eventually realised we had to get back at it.

The Friday of the week the story broke a senior executive from Talk was summoned to a meeting with three Sky execs and told ‘we sponsor a whole raft of your programmes. We don’t want this. We’ll have to withdraw our sponsorship if you do it. We thought we’d buried them’. To his eternal credit he got up and left the meeting.

I didn’t know this until some time later. I was at home discussing how I thought we could recover from being labelled sexists (incorrectly) when the phone rang. ‘There’s another video out’ said the caller - another Talk exec. ‘Now you’re a racist as well’. He was referring to what I would later find out was another carefully edited tape that wasn’t very helpful. I repeat - again - carefully edited. ‘What are we going to do?’ I said. The reply was the best news I’d had in weeks ‘we’re going to do exactly as we planned’ he said. ‘See you tomorrow’.

Every word of our first show was published on line by The Mail and The Guardian. What nobody noticed was the stand taken by two very good mates. Our first two guests were Dion Dublin and Paul Ince - both of whom knew me well and knew what nonsense the allegations were.

There’s so much more - but that will do for now. Jack’s got a lot of it. Tweet and ask him what else there is!

It’s all worked out ok - thanks to a few very good people. The two years at TalkSPORT were special and I love working in Doha. The guys here are a delight and have given us remarkable support. The lifestyle is amazing. And at our Group, whether at beIN or Paris St-Germain F.C. or Miramax, we're also at the beating heart of the global sports & entertainment agenda - shaping debate and the future of the industry, with the most incredible relationships across the world; it's a real privilege. Only last week, we had Guy Ritchie and a range of Hollywood actors in Doha directing one of our new films - I can only assume Jason Statham was cast as Andy.

Anyway, back to The Athletic's well-researched and judicious piece which is so rare these days - I suppose that’s what annoys me when I talk of how news interference dictates what good sports journalists can and can’t say. I’ve offered a number of mates the chance to come here and see the truth. See and experience Doha and Qatar with their own eyes - but the reply is always the same ‘we can’t Keysie, that would run against the papers policy’. It’s such a shame - because there’s a whole lot to admire about this pocket-battleship of a power-house nation - yes, it got some things wrong at the beginning, like every nation that's maturing, learning and developing. But the pace of positive change has been utterly amazing, and I do wonder if the critics think to apply their same yard-sticks closer to home. Anyway - you’ll see for yourselves in 2022 when Qatar stages what will become the best WC of all time. And again, we'll be at the heart of it.