Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson - Not Above The Law

It is without question that the very top football managers manipulate and manoeuvre the media to their advantage whenever possible. This blog has written in the past about the mastery of the likes of Ferguson and Mourinho with seemingly wild and ill considered rants actually being calculated behaviour designed to have a specific reaction and effect. These are men of extreme intelligence and guile, masters of their professions. Arsene Wenger also does much to deflect the blame from his team (and himself) through the media and whilst often annoying, also does it often with great aplomb. As an example, many have not looked past the Van Persie sending off as the reason for Arsenal losing to Barca on Tuesday night. The match stats tell you the real reason but Wenger was quick to push the attention to the red card (which we actually have a lot of sympathy for Arsenal over as it was indeed ludicrous).

Others such as Kevin Keegan are simply victims, their mass popularity and limitless naive eagerness for football leaving them wide open to attacks from a media primed by the likes of Ferguson, Keegan's famous 'I would love it' rant being the culmination of Ferguson's subtle but sustained attack on Keegan during their title run in which Newcastle duly blew. There are also wildcards like Brian Clough who simply say whatever they think but provide such good copy it doesn't matter who they upset or why.

There are other managers who foster popularity in the media by be-friending journalists to receive favourable coverage. Harry Redknapp and Terry Venables are prime examples of this, both with poorer management records than the newspapers would ever have you believe. Ian Holloway has turned himself into a self caricature meaning little negative is ever written about him. This jokey light hearted approach to his job in the public domain has probably excluded himself from any of the bigger jobs he may actually be otherwise qualified to do. This does not mean however that we on this blog wish him anything but the best, he's great to have around.

The last group are those that seem to only ever wish to antagonise the media with bristling answers and put downs. Gordon Strachan went from being witty and entertaining whilst at Southampton to one of the most hateful and spiteful people in football during his time at Celtic. Whilst the goldfish bowl of Glasgow and the Scottish media can certainly bring out the worst in people, Strachan's put downs and ludicrous reactions to reasonable questions belied a man uncomfortable in such an elevated position. It is no coincidence that Strachan is not remember fondly in the poor half of Glasgow in comparison to Martin O'Neil despite having an arguably superior record, few mourned his leaving.

All of this being said, there is clearly a line that can and is crossed. Joe Kinnear's X rated rant during his time at Newcastle was designed to shock and grab attention. Whilst getting him attention for a short period it also reinforced what many thought that he was simply a foul mouthed dinosaur of little intelligence. Ferguson now appears to have crossed a line also. Previously it was a calculated ire that served to protect his players whilst manipulating the media and in turn hopefully the referees and the authorities. Instead the Old Trafford media blackout looks like one almighty temper tantrum and possibly betrays the current lack of faith that Ferguson may be feeling in his current team. Ferguson and ManYoo need to be reminded that it is the the paying public (in many different countries), the global media and press and the sponsors that pay his and every single person's wages in the Premiership. His petulant blanking of all of those contributors in the recent week (not the first offence either) borders on the pathetic and is entirely unacceptable. Whilst Ferguson at nearly seventy years old undoubtedly feels he is above such petty laws and obligations, the simple fact remains that he is and must be subject to the same rules (and sanctions) that everybody else is. His achievements in the game bear no relevance to the rules of the Premiership. If this latest episode does not invoke appropriate sanction from the authorities - especially as he is effectively on probation in the first place - then they are making a mockery of their own system and feeding the belief that ManYoo and Ferguson are treated differently to everybody else. Throw the book at him with a lengthy touchline ban, financial sanction has no meaning to clubs - no nonsense.