Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sniping at the gutter press?

When I heard that Celtic were considering legal action against a news outlet for they what considered to be an erroneous story concerning Scott Brown I immediately trawled through Google News.

I was amazed by the sheer volume of stories concerning young Scotty that seemed to tip over into fantasy:


Now he's a good player and we all hope his recovery can spark a return to his best. But, seriously, the Nobel Peace Laureate and leader of the free world?

Or this:


I'm not qualified to judge such things. But I've got a feeling most women who chose to voice an opinion on such things would judge Scott to be more ugly politician material than contender for what I believe The Sun used to call "Page 8 Mate."

Thankfully the indefatigable Scotzine came to my rescue. Seems that Keith Jackson and the Daily Record wrote:

Tony Mowbray has stunned star man Scott Brown by telling him he has no future at Celtic.

Record Sport understands the Scotland midfielder was given the bombshell news during a showdown meeting with Mowbray before Christmas - and that the manager made it clear he hoped to sell him during the January transfer window.

Brown is believed to be devastated by Mowbray's decision to ditch him - and by the fact his one-time mentor at Hibs, a man he had huge respect for, chose to jettison him during his long slog back to fitness after botched ankle surgery last summer.

As ever we know not where these stories come from. Journalistic arrogance, stupidity, mischief making, wishful thinking? A previously trusted source who has a grievance against reporter, player, manager or club? Or, perhaps, it's true and Celtic are making a hollow threat to remove the public gaze from a crucial bit of January business?

Any of us who have ever had any reason to read media pages or study the history of newspapers know that any of these could be reason enough for the ensuing stramash.

We've all been around football long enough to know that these stories appear all the time especially in a January transfer window when much to-ing and fro-ing is being discussed but very little is actually happening.

What surprises me about this is how swiftly Celtic have threatened legal action. This is a bit of tittle tattle like the hundreds of other gossip articles that appear all across the backpages and the internet every day. What makes this different? If Celtic react like this to everything that is printed there's going to be a libel lawyer in Glasgow rubbing his hands with glee. Football is surrounded by these tales but what clubs resort to legal action?

So again, why now? Is it because it misrepresents a meeting between manager and player? Fair enough but there are no direct quotes from the meeting and surely Tony Mowbray will have experienced this kind of thing in the past. There is what we might term a reaction quote from Brown:
I believe these things should remain private. Maybe you should ask him what was said. I have nothing more to add.
That amounts to a no comment rather than a denial. Are Celtic claiming Keith Jackson made this quote up? Unpopular as journalists are, I find that unlikely. And it would make Jackson an idiot but surely not the first journalist to make up a quote by a footballer.

Might we not, in fact, be justified in remembering the saga that Brown was instrumental in engineering when he left Easter Road?

I've got a feeling that this story is not yet fully played out but I've little doubt that there's more chance of Gary Caldwell marrying George W Bush than there is of it reaching the law courts.

Whatever the truth of "Jacksongate" (as it shall never again be referred to) I think Celtic's reaction is further evidence of a circling of the wagons inside Celtic Park. On Monday we had the normally amiable Mark Venus give a "hysterically" straight faced press conference including gems such as:
I am no expert on football
And:
I don’t know what a banana skin is, I think it’s something that’s left after you have a banana, isn’t it? Do you know what I mean?
Amid this display of comic genius he also found time to contradict Mowbray on the availability or otherwise of Aiden McGeady and deny any knowledge of a "grand plan" for the Mowbray revolution (although this did raise similarities with a Josh Lyman press conference from The West Wing which deserves some credit).

Mowbray and Venus have been stung by their early experiences at Celtic. The reasoned, articulate approach to describing their plans and aspirations doesn't really cut it in Glasgow football. So it's time for the siege mentality so favoured by Gordon Strachan. Being obstructive at a press conference, threating legal action. It all amounts to telling the media to "get tae..."

Fair enough. Maybe it's what they need to start turning things around. But all this, like tabloid transfer tales, is just froth. If the results don't change then no amount of legal grandstanding or surly press conferences will offer any respite.