By Jonnie Baker
1 January 2010
I’m not convinced I know much about football. No, what I mean is, I’m not convinced I understand much about football. Certainly I boast a reasonable knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the game – that the Saddlers are Walsall and Josimar scored a screamer for Brazil while Careca and Casagrande were waiting in the middle. Standard football stuff.
What gives me pause, and this is a fairly new phenomenon, is a growing belief that I am simply not grasping the more esoteric elements of the soccerball. And there is a single reason for this nascent insecurity. Podcasts. And more specifically, the Guardian’s ‘Football Weekly’, ‘The Game’ from The Times and the podcasty version of Sky’s ‘Sunday Supplement’.
I love them, Lord alone knows how I love them, but I tell you, they’re breaking me.
Let’s examine The Guardian’s offering. It’s witty, knockabout gallivanting in a confidently informed football vein and I very rarely agree with a single word they say. And that suggests to me that I simply must be in the wrong. These are, after all, full-time football men – camel-coated, press-passed warriors with a Mac Book and a smile for every turnstile operator in Lancashire. Let’s ignore for the time being that most of them are about my age and have a similar soccering experience on which to draw in times of chat. They simply seem, I don’t know, wiser.
Barry Glendenning for example, the Guardian’s totemic curmudgeon who insists, swears blind, that Sunderland are a decent side and should be beating teams like Tottenham away if they expect to finish in the top four. I mean to say, where’s that come from? What are you seeing there, Barry? Sunderland are the veritable poster boys for ordinariness, spectacularly banal in their mid-table trundling, enlivened only by the occasional win against your accepted big guns. But still, still Barry persists to my utter bafflement.
Andy Reid, Steed Malbranque, Kieran Richardson, NYRON NOSWORTHY: these are not the names of Champions League contenders. But the football man is unshakeable in his contention and so I must conclude that I am missing something.
‘The Game’, the Times’s own shiny competitor to ‘Football Weekly’, is variously hosted by Phil Jupitus and Gabriele Marcotti and is similarly crushing to my self-esteem. If we accept that Marcotti’s presentation technique of snapping at his guests in the manner of a pre-menstrual Taggart is little more than a quirk, there remains the fact that many of the views expressed are, to my more liberal mindset, a little unacceptable. I’m sure I heard Paddy Barclay calling for the authorities to turn a blind eye to any punishment beatings handed out to the Liverpool fan who threw a beachball on the pitch at the Stadium of Light. Certainly, he laid the blame for such behaviour on the declining moral standards of the nation and we need only look at the rash of beachball punching that punctuated the decline of the Roman Empire to realise how much truth he speaks.
‘The Game’ is nothing when compared to ‘Sunday Supplement’. Granted it’s an edited version of Sky’s Sunday-morning talking horror, but it’s still dangerously mental. There seems to me something almost agonising about journalists pussyfooting around each other’s stories bravely resisting the urge to call one another a liar and descend into a croissant crumb-coated brawl; a brawl, I am quite confident, Martin Samuel would win.
The participants seem to be involved in a constant battle to be the most chummy in their veiled hatred for one another and consequently trot out accepted truths with a blitheness which utterly overwhelms any qualms I may have about their veracity. Fernando Torres is the best striker in the world, it’s just unfortunate he never plays. Frank Lampard, and his bumper pay cheque, is ever so ruddy brave. And John Terry is a decent defender. They hold these truths to be self evident and it makes me scream in my ignorance.
Which brings me to the reason for today’s lecture. Everything I may or may not say is my own opinion. And consequently, utterly wrong.
More as it breaks.
And if you can bear the babble, then The Guardian’s ‘Football Weekly’ is here, The Times’s ‘The Game’ is here, and Sky’s ‘Sunday Supplement’ is here. Oh, and Josimar scoring a screamer for Brazil while Careca and Casagrande were waiting in the middle is here.