As an aspiring Sports Journalist I enjoy the work I do. Win, lose or draw, I thrive off the chance to describe a sport that I love, praising the positives and criticising the negatives. Sometimes you have no choice but to criticise players or tactics, but it is always based on facts, or reporting events. If Charlton perform badly, there is no point ignoring the flaws, but the aim of a reporter should be to report what he or she sees, and find constructive criticisms in order to indicate the potential for the forthcoming games.
This last week, it feels like the British press have been on a mission to deliberately disrupt the England players and sabotage the teams’ preparations two days before two huge World Cup qualifiers. From delving into Harry Redknapp’s autobiography to pick out any controversies, to blowing Jack Wilshere’s cigarette photo way out of proportion, once again the press decide that now is an appropriate time to report events that appear to aim only to unsettle the England camp.
This is not the first time this has happened. Robson 1990, Taylor ’93, even as recently as Capello in his spell in charge of the side, the press waited for stories regarding big names like Rooney or Terry until just before important games, before releasing them to the world. What possible motivation could they have, other than to disturb the preparations?
With social media as it is, perhaps it’s the duty of the press to report the stories as soon as they become aware of them. If the information is flowing around the internet anyway, they might as well take their chance to provide their version of events. It’s not as if people didn’t know about Wilshere already for example. Having said this, it seems unnecessary for every press outlet to jump on that story and chose to report it, rather than playing it down, and grabbing a training camp interview with another player in attempt to quash the controversies or ignore them altogether.
Irrespective of the involvement of the press, the release of Redknapp’s book has come at a hugely inconvenient, or cleverly marketed, time. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the release date could have been held. Moreover, the decision to delve straight into it to weasel out any controversies surrounding Hodgson (and more importantly the decision to publish said information) falls firmly at the feet of the press.
Whilst some outlets have reported Gerrard’s interview that dismisses Redknapp’s claims, it’s too little too late from the papers, and simply acts as an excuse when a portion of the blame is aimed their way. The eve of a game is too late to be providing the interviews that football lovers have been craving all week.
This week has seen Wilshere involved in a stormy front and back page extravaganza. Admittedly his timing has been far from ideal, but does anyone really believe that that cigarette is behind his recent poor form? As a professional footballer, he’ll want to improve his form as much as anyone, and blowing this story into front-page news is hardly conducive to a confidence boost ahead of such massive England games.
Ginola (famously) and more recently Berbatov have both admitted to smoking, yet the press don’t decide to pick up on this, so why Wilshere? Building up excuses before the games have already been played? Or unsettling the team to make Hodgson’s task harder than it already is?
Today saw the release of a report entitled State of the Game, which decided to analyse the amount of English players playing in the Premier League. Rather than focus on the talent that we do have at our disposal, it only criticised the results, and their poor comparability with those of Spain or Germany. Again, this is something we’ve known for years. Both nations have spent 20+ years building up their youth systems, and the results have only really begun to show in recent years. Why not focus on the positives of schemes like St George’s Park, instead of laying into what is one of the world’s top club divisions.
The main issue is that these stories sell papers. A portion of the general public want a chance to berate these ‘egotistical, overpaid failures’, and the press gives them that chance. Why not stand up against that? Why not give England fans what they want to hear, team preparation, potential starting 11’s, Hodgson’s feelings ahead of the game? So what if it doesn’t sell as many, it will be read by the people who care, and will gain far more respect than these pathetic apparent attempts to destroy our World Cup campaign before it even begins.
The press love Redknapp because he says what he wants. He’s controversial, he’s frank and honest, and he makes statements that help sell papers. Roy Hodgson on the other hand is a quiet and considered character that wants to talk about football. He wants to discuss the tactics, the decisions, the opponents. The press don’t care about any of this. They don’t care if England get to the World Cup, because if they don’t they can hang Hodgson out to dry and get in a character who will turn England into a circus. Hodgson is a football man. And anyone involved in football would want someone like that as an England manager. Admittedly at times his tactics or formations have been questionable or outdated, but his openness to discuss his decisions makes for fascinating listening/reading for those interested in the sport. For anyone who isn’t, Hodgson might as well be speaking another language, which is why these pieces are craved for the last few column inches in any sports section.
We live in a world where players are constantly criticised for the money they earn, particularly when under-performing, but I don’t envy a single one of those players that have to go out under the Wembley lights tomorrow night. To go out there after the press storms this week and perform at their full potential is a massive ask, but hopefully those players can put the stories behind them and concentrate on their football. Ignore the press, ignore the hyperbole, and let’s as a nation get behind the England team and cheer them on to Rio!
By Tom Wallin