Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sniping at the gutter press, Part II

Tony MowbraySo, it seems the Scott Brown story won't go away.

Speaking on Celtic's Channel 67 (online) Tony Mowbray said:
The story of Scottish football really isn't big enough for the newspapers that are out there and they try to create an agenda that can run for a few days and can cause a bit of unrest.

It gets reaction from supporters, it gets letters pages going, it gets the back page the following day because there's reaction.

It doesn't affect me but I know it affects our supporters.

Why do I speak to the press? Really to talk to our fans - that's the only reason that I talk to the media.

If it were down to me solely, I would probably end up doing all our media stuff to our supporters through mediums like yourself (Channel 67) and Celtic View (the club's official magazine).

Maybe there's a proportion of our fans who don't have access to Channel 67 or have the opportunity to buy the View, and their only knowledge of Celtic Football Club is through the daily newspapers.

That, in my mind, is why I give the courtesy to talk to the newspapers.

I've spoken to the last two Celtic managers, who tell me, 'don't get over-concerned about it because it's never personal - every Celtic manager gets that'.

I do get to hear these stories - the Scott Brown story this week, which did need addressing of course because it was a total untruth and had no substance to that whatsoever.

People just can't make stories up and write them: it should be allowed to happen, which is why the club are taking action, I think.
A fairly clear indication that he thinks the tale was entirely fabricated. Also a fairly major hint that his views on the free media wouldn't be out of place in a meeting of the Politburo in Khruschev's Kremlin.

But in the Record it's a different story:
Scott Brown continued to insist yesterday that he was told he can leave Celtic.

The SPL club went public to deny Record Sport's story that revealed Tony Mowbray informed the midfield player he could be sold during the January transfer window.

But information given to us made it clear Brown believes his days at Celtic Park are numbered.

We stand by that information and our source, who is well known to Celtic.

Yet, on the Parkhead club's official website yesterday they branded our story as "erroneous and without foundation."

The truth is that before printing the story it was read out to Brown.

And there is no question, no doubt at all, Record Sport's piece was endorsed by him and his reaction included.

He knows we reported accurately a story which has been the talk of his Celtic team-mates at their Lennoxtown base.

In fact, even yesterday afternoon Brown was still adamant he'd been told he could leave.

Someone has been economical with the truth, but Record Sport's conscience is clear. It's now a matter for Brown and Celtic.
I still think this has no chance of ending up in court. I still, for what it's worth, think that there's more to it than meets the eye. Certainly there's more to it than Keith Jackson plucking quotes and stories from thin air. And I'm far from his biggest fan or the biggest fan of his newspaper.

But there was a couple more hints from Mowbray that this is a hardening of his attitude. He noted that his experience of the media was completely different with Hibs. If he was naive enough not to realise that Glasgow was going to be a little different then he's found out now.

Secondly, I wrote yesterday that there was a circling of the wagons inside Celtic Park. Mowbray has run with that theme today. Note also how he tries to pull the fans into the conspiracy. "It's us and them," he seems to be saying, "are you for me or against me."

There are problems with this tactic. For a start some of the fans have been as, if not more, critical of the manager than the press. And, no matter how much we'd all like to think they might, the press are not going to disappear. Speak to them, don't speak to them but they'll still be watching you.

The most telling quote of all is that Mowbray has spoken to his predecessors. Press and fans alike may not welcome the guiding hand of Gordon Strachan making a return. But the new man has found out very quickly the lesson that seemed to dismay Strachan so much: a great job, yes, but you've got to put up with a lot of crap to get anything done.

So where are we? Still no court case likely. And confirmation of my conclusion yesterday that there's going to be no more Mr Nice Guy from Mowbray. An attitude that still needs results to be anything but a snarling mess.

Oh, and I wouldn't bet on Scott Brown or Tony Mowbray still being around this time next year.