Wednesday, June 02, 2010

De-press-ing

We often hear that Alex Salmond is the supreme political mind in the Scottish Parliament. As compliments go this is much like telling me that I'm a world class footballer after watching me play five-and-in with Stephen Hawking.

Still, if Salmond had the guile he's credited with surely we'd preparing for a vote on independence during the World Cup. Before the tournament is out there will be more than a few Scots wondering if we couldn't rebuild Hadrian's Wall to keep the English media out.

I've already stated that this blog will be neither a cheerleader for the England team nor a supporter of the "Anyone But England" squad.

That's not going to stop me joining the "Anyone But England's Media" campaign.

It's almost tempting to think that yesterday was a nadir for English football hackery. But you know it's going to get much, much worse.

England don't play until the 12th of June. The hysteria they generated yesterday suggests some of the press won't last the distance.

The reason for them screeching like recalcitrant toddlers was the announcement of the England squad.

As I see it Fabio Capello and the FA stayed silent until the loose ends - including the satisfactory completion of Gareth Barry's fitness test and informing the unlucky seven that they were staying at home - were tied up.

Amazingly enough they were under no obligation to tell the media anything until they were completely satisfied that everything else had been taken care of.

Not good enough apparently. In a increasingly unhinged series of updates that gave Twitter the high pitched wail of the front row of a Take That concert circa 1994, the FA were accused of presiding over yet another messy PR disaster and Capello's own judgement was being called into question.

Suddenly journalists were bemoaning that there was too much speculation flying around. This complaint was sandwiched between the very same journalists tweeting, well, speculation. It seemed at about 2pm yesterday that the English football press corps was about to eat itself before a ball had even been kicked.

That, of course, is not the only hypocrisy. Had, say, Tom Huddlestone found out from Sky Sports that he had not been included then Sky would have led the pack in crucifying Capello for not having the decency to tell him himself.

What other option did Theo Walcott have but to wish his erstwhile colleagues well? Had he said nothing or shown a hint of anger the very journalists lauding his class would have been haranguing his lack of patriotism.

And they wonder why football clubs and footballers are guarded and distant with the press?

This hysteria will only grow. Wrapping themselves in the flag of St George the English press will slip ever further into this illusion of their own creation, this idea that they are somehow helping the team tapping away at their laptops as part of the great national effort to bring the trophy home.

In reality they are a hindrance, cranking up such pressure that any result but victory will be the ultimate failure. Such pressure that their very presence in South Africa will only be a distraction to the players and manager.

Time for them to calm down and grow up. There's more chance of New Zealand winning the World Cup than that happening.

If, whatever happens in South Africa, Capello walks after the tournament the English press will have the scatter guns out looking for people to blame. Might I suggest they start by looking in the mirror.

In the meantime the English media, far more than the players or manager, offer that increasingly tiresome Anyone But England nonsense its most powerful recruitment advert.