Tuesday, 17 May 2011
A word on West Ham... no, not that one
I'm lucky, I guess. I know about a dozen West Ham fans. No, that's not the lucky part. The lucky part is that they're all really nice people: proper football folk with whom you can have an enlightened, entertaining and well-informed discussion about any aspect of the game, even the Olympic Stadium or why we blush to think we only took one point of them this year.
Which means that, whilst I understand Spurs fans' malicious jollity these past few days, I haven't been reveling in the Irons' relegation quite as much as some.
I didn't shed a tear, understand. But neither did I raise a glass. This week, however, listening to 5 Live, I did raise an eyebrow.
Steve Claridge, one of the most successful players, managers and administrators of the modern era, lest we forget, was absolutely caning the club for not changing their manager in January (or whenever it was that the media widely assumed Martin O'Neill was taking over and Avram chucked his claret and blue scarf into the crowd in what was understandably interpreted as a farewell gesture).
He, backed up by Mark Chapman and whoever else was in the studio, then went on to compare (unfavourably) their inertia with the "brave" and "decisive" action taken by West Brom and Newcastle in changing their managers (Roberto Di Matteo and Chris Hughton) mid-stream.
There may be some validity in some of what was said, but it was also hypocrisy and revisionism of the highest (lowest) order. The BBC's party line on any sacking is always, and I mean always, that the board has panicked, not enough patience has been shown and that changing a manager never works.
What's needed, they sanctimoniously intone, is stability. Then they waffle on about Ferguson and Wenger (Who, of course, were both appointed after their predecessors had voluntarily and gracefully stepped aside having put in a solid 25 years at the helm... No! After managers who weren't good enough were sacked).
Now, all of a sudden, the BBC line became: If you don't fire your manager you're a dithering ninny. And if you do, you're a clear-thinking macho man who's not afraid to take tough decisions.
I'm absolutely not saying West Ham were right to hang onto Grant. They clearly weren't. In fact, they almost certainly didn't want to - rather they spivved the whole thing up and lost their replacement before he'd signed as his qualms about working for Daley and Del Boy kicked in. Their fans knew and said this at the time.
But the BCC bloody well didn't. None of their presenters or pundits ever, ever say 'Yeah, the answer here is to sack the manager'. Even when the fans know he's gotta go. They're too close to the game, maybe. Or not close enough to know how it actually feels to be saddled with a manager who might use statistics to skew the truth, but who, the fans know, doesn't have the long-term good of the club at heart.
(Stop it, I'm definitely still talking about West Ham and in no way making a clever and acute allusion to our 'Arry. Seriously).
Clarridge and his accomplices were merely chiming with the completely understandable anger and frustration of the West Ham fans. Populist, opportunistic, hypocritical. I'm still not actually crying for West Ham, but I do sometimes despair at pundits like Steve Claridge.