Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve ever booed a player apart from Gary Neville, and he loved it. Football’s not a pantomime, but each to their own, you pay your money and all that. That’s rather besides the point anyway, I’m not here to talk about whether booing James Milner was acceptable or not.
I’m here to talk about something else – journalism via opinion pieces that distort the truth.
You know the sort of journalism, you’ve seen it a million times before – misinterpreting booing a referee at half-time as booing the team off. Commenting on fans leaving the stadium after 35 minutes when they’re clearly going to the bar or for a pee. You only have to look at the wilful misinterpretation of Pep’s comments about being proud of his team to understand why so many managers make no pretence of their distrust of (some) football journalists, and refuse to engage with them.
More specifically, I’d like to discuss a certain piece by The Mirror’s David McDonnell attacking the booing of James Milner during Sunday’s match after Milner had some more “things to say” in the lead-up to the match.
Now don’t get me wrong, I thought his comments were typical for those players who join the Liverpool “family” and seem to undergo the necessary indoctrination about history, size and class. I found them amusing, but there’s really little reason to get offended, or to sit at a football match booing his every move. It was pretty generic on the whole, the sort of stuff clubs’ PR departments churn out every week. But I digress, that’s subjective after all – as I have already mentioned, some had had enough of the sniping.
What clearly isn’t acceptable to me is a distortion of the events on Sunday by someone paid to write about them and represent football in the region – which is precisely what McDonnell proceeded to do, naturally throwing in the usual garbage about Raheem Sterling’s treatment for good measure.
But first, let’s not forget that what James Milner did in swapping Manchester for Liverpool was every bit as bad, if not worse, than what Raheem Sterling did to get his move to City (if such things can even be considered “bad” in the first place). The only difference is that Liverpool got a stonking transfer fee for Sterling, that they diligently reinvested much of in Benteke, whilst Milner dallied and dithered, let his contract run down, and City got nothing.
Now I don’t mind players letting their contracts run down, they can use the system as they see fit, it’s a job and we would all do things to better ourselves financially in our respective careers if the opportunity arose. Compare and contrast though how both moves were portrayed in the media. Milner was given a million metaphorical pats on the back when he left City, thanked for his service and we wished him the best. After all, we really liked him as a City player, we stuck up for him when he was vilified in England colours, we appreciated what he brought to the team. We even applauded him on his return to the Etihad.
Sterling? Vilified, booed and mocked by fans of all clubs, especially Liverpool fans of course who could not comprehend why he would want such a move except for financial reasons, he was hung out to dry as an England player and stalked by the media every time he spent more than ten pounds on something. More to the point, since the move he has kept his head down, ignored the abuse and bettered himself, whilst Milner just couldn’t keep his mouth shut when the club that made him what he was and provided him with the most successful period of his career, rolled into town. Why is mystifying, but perhaps the chips on those shoulders are getting bigger by the week – let’s be honest, that central midfield berth was never tied down by him, those trophies never won. But I don’t really care. He’s gone, we all move on.
And so to the latest example, and the Mirror’s David McDonnell’s attack on the minority of City fans who gave Milner a piece of their mind. In an article of fake news, straw man arguments and general tomfoolery, David places his ignorance on the line from the go.
Manchester City fans have short memories these days.
Really? What, all of us? Or did you just lazily lump us all into the same basket because a tiny minority of our fans did something you disapprove of?
David plods on with the ultimate strawman/filler argument by commenting in detail on what a good, wholehearted player Milner is, despite the fact this is utterly irrelevant to why he was booed so does not advance his argument one iota. David seals the deal with a distortion and then an outright lie.
Firstly, he claims Milner only left because he was out of contract – true of course, but it rather overlooks the pertinent point that he was out of contract because he had run his previous one down and refused to sign a new one, one that the club were desperate for him to commit to. He wasn’t left in limbo, as implied, and forced to move elsewhere – he was totally in control of the whole situation.
Next McDonnell claims he switched clubs through lack of game time, a reason generally accepted in football for him leaving, McDonnell claiming he had become football’s equivalent of a supply teacher, filling in when required.
Strange then that in his final season at City, he made 45 appearances for City, more than any of his previous seasons at the club. His 32 league appearances are four more than he would make in his debut season at Anfield.
Still, small points.
Because the subsequent lines are where the stupidity really kicks in. As David explains: “City fans chose to turn on Milner on Sunday, booing him every time he was in possession, the decision to target him a likely response to Liverpool fans’ jeering of one of their own former players, Raheem Sterling.”
We both know this is not true McDonnell – I mean you can’t be THAT thick, surely?! Can you?!
So, David, tell me this. You’re presumably aware that this was not James Milner’s first game in Liverpool colours against Manchester City (nor Sterling’s v Liverpool)? You’ll also be aware that you have not written an article decrying City fans for booing him before? So, presumably, we must deduce that since you have not written such an article previously, there was no booing.
So, and this is the crazy bit, it’s almost as if something has changed since he last lined up against City, something that might have angered a few City fans! It’s almost as if quotes attributed to him have been widely circulated in the media this week that may help us solve this devilish conundrum, that forced some fans to say enough is enough, and after all the little snipes, there was to be no shrug of the shoulders, but instead the intent to show him what we thought.
And here’s the thing: David McDonnell is the Manchester correspondent for the Mirror, so it seems pretty unlikely he was not unaware of Milner’s recent comments, and it would only take a few brain cells in a person’s head to put two and two together and work out what was happening here. So either McDonnell is so amateurish he cannot even fathom the reason for the booing, or he knows full well and decided to deride the City fan base instead. Either way it’s pretty pathetic.
The worst is yet to come, because McDonnell seems to then equate how both players left the club, as detailed earlier, as an indictment on them as human beings, rather than having just the one atom of perception to realise that one player had to deal with the Liverpool “cabal” trying to destroy his character at every opportunity, whilst the other player did not, so was allowed to leave without death threats or stories of how much his new car costs. Somehow, somehow, McDonnell equates the hounding of Sterling as a mark against the player’s character. It’s an argument weaker than Rio Ferdinand’s delayed urine sample.
So with that in mind, it would be remiss of me not to quote his final eulogy to the perfect character that is James Milner.
“Such accusations could never be levelled at Milner, 31, a grafter and one of the most inoffensive players in the money-saturated modern game, which throws up far more deserving targets for abuse.”
Except they could David, because they both swapped clubs in similar circumstances. There was little difference, they made a career decision and the rest is history. The only difference is that one of the most inoffensive players in the money-saturated modern game got a nice little signing on fee as reward, the other player is branded a snake. But McDonnell would probably have you believe that Milner plays for Liverpool for free. You’d have to be pretty gullible to be taken in by the likes of Phil Thompson, John Aldridge, John Barnes et al to believe that Milner has handled himself any better than Sterling over the past couple of years. Or a little bit racist.
Bizarrely, McDonnell then suggests that “rather than booing Milner, City fans would have been better served turning their ire on their own left-back, Gael Clichy.”
So he seems to suggest booing one of our own players would have been acceptable instead. Even Paul Merson would think twice about coming out with that.
It’s probably pointless dissecting the regular volumes of drivel like this served up to us by so-called journalists and their fake news agenda, but such drivel drives perceptions as we have seen with Raheem, and it does matter. The perception perpetuated by the likes of McDonnell of Milner as your hard-working decent family man who lets his football do the talking and Sterling as the brash, bling-obsessed, trouble-causing young (black) upstart.
McDonnell has since tweeted that if Milner’s comments are what caused the booing, City fans should grow a thicker skin. Fair enough, but maybe you should write about the Liverpool fans booing Sterling for 18 months solid doing likewise. I won’t hold my breath. Or perhaps consider doing research before writing articles on events to which you know no context. Again, I shall continue to inhale and exhale.
City fans have short memories was the headline for McDonnell’s story. But clearly not as short as yours though, eh David?