Tuesday, 1 May 2012

How the press have constructed Roy for failure.

Now, for something completely different: a story about Roy Hodgson getting the England job!

Martin Samuel has written a passionate defence of Englishsports journalism, especially with regards to the hounding of England managers. He states that journalists want good results, and it can only ever be 90 minutes on a football pitch that determines the fate of a manager. It almost had me fooled. Until this.
Pinnacle of humour. Honest.

Just harmless fun. Well, it presents Roy Hodgson as an almost comedic character, who shouldn’t be taken seriously. A little nibble at his credibility. It’ll continue as well. Little jibes on the back page; little one-liners; each slowly eroding public confidence and belief in his abilities. Not informed by ‘results’ or 90 minutes on the pitch. Informed simply because the press didn’t get their man. To put it into context; could you imagine the same paper putting a front page story mocking Harry Redknapp’s basic illiteracy? No. Ok, there are no obvious puns to do with an inability to read or write; but there’s also the respectability that the press have created for Redknapp throughout the past decade or so. Roy has always been held as a sort of comedic relief for the press; a pretender. He’s failed at Liverpool and Blackburn, can only win things with small clubs in small leagues. He doesn’t really count. I believe Hodgson has a range of failings (I’m not sure whether he’ll be able to keep into check the egos that currently play for our country, for example); but that has been contributed to by the fact he’s been constructed by the press as a manager who ‘just isn’t good enough’.

Harry modelling West Ham's range of attractive pyjamas outside a housing estate in Peckham

Compare this to Redknapp. I’m not going to carry out a scientific or representative survey; but Redknapp has received mostly positive press attention; and not without merit. His Spurs side have been a joy to watch at times. But since Capello’s resignation, and the subsequent freefall of Spurs; the criticism has been laid at the feet of the players. ‘Distracted’; ‘heads not with it’. The criticism wasn’t laid at Harry’s door; it was the players’ fault. There are some other managers who would find such a slump in form would be their own fault. Redknapp was one of the contenders for the job; but the press clamoured for him as soon as the role was available. If an expert is telling you that Redknapp is the best option; then people will believe that Redknapp is the best option. Similarly, if people are telling you that the moon is made of cheese, well you might just start believing the moon is made of cheese.

Where Charlie Adam's penalty ended up eventually. On a cheese moon

To believe the media have no sway over public opinion on football is naïve at best. The tabloid press have always had the ability to control and frame the discussions surrounding the national game; especially the England managers job. They choose what to report and what not to mention. They choose which rumours merit a discussion, and which are simply thrown to the floor. They determine which angle will become the hegemonic representation churned out and plastered onto the back pages for years to come. A chance to knock someone down always sells more than a chance to build them up.

I’m sure Roy of the (Blackburn) Rovers has grown a thick skin, but it’s not just about him. It’s about the control football journalism holds over the debates surrounding our national game. Redknapp not getting the job isn’t the same as Clough not getting the job. To say the two aren’t in the same ballpark is an understatement. Clough is in the directors box, whilst Redknapp's watching it in the pub 200 miles away. But yet, the press believe it is, and so therefore add a layer of mystique to the already 'constructed' character of Harry Redknapp.

Hodgson could be a terrible choice. But the press should let him ruin it for himself, instead of going out of their way to ruin it for him.

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