THE SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: Why Daily Mail scribe got it wrong about Town and their Football League rivals (From Swindon Advertiser)
Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
THE SAM MORSHEAD COLUMN: Why Daily Mail scribe got it wrong about Town and their Football League rivals
TODAY, dear friends, a rant. A rant on behalf of the men and women who follow, run and write about clubs in the lower echelons of the Football League pyramid.
It was sparked on Wednesday morning by an article in the Daily Mail by Martin Samuel, a writer I have admired for as long as I can remember. But this week I feel he got it horribly wrong.
Samuel is a hugely respected and decorated journalist, a man who has written for three of the top national newspapers and whose job comes with a mandate for sparking debate and discussion.
In essence he has done exactly that, and his piece published by the Mail this week pulled up very real issues Paolo Di Canio is likely to face as he prepares to embark to whatever the next step of his managerial adventure might be.
However, while half Samuel’s article gave an insightful account into the dynamics of football management and the tricky equilibrium Di Canio needs to achieve between club politics and the passionate and explosive nature of his own extrovert character, the way in which he put his thoughts across reeked of hypocrisy and condescension.
If Di Canio’s resignation was indeed the “local news” as he described it, why did he deem it necessary to use 1,500 words in a publication whose circulation is a shade under 1.6million copies a day… across the country?
If Di Canio was “local news” which could be “quickly relegated to the margins”, why did Samuel’s paper decide on Friday that the story of the Italian’s late-night visit to his old office was worthy of the back page in some of its editions?
It was a contradictory and self-defeating exercise, but drawing on conversations I have had this week it was not the content but the tone of his musings which have swelled offence.
The whole piece seemed to address not only Swindon but lower-league football in general with a passing disdain usually reserved for flea-ridden sewer rats or Tory politicians.
He casually dismissed Swindon’s average attendance of a little under 8,500 as making the club “bigger than Doncaster Rovers, but not quite up there with MK Dons”. He made a mockery of Tranmere Rovers by using their identity as the anchor in a put-me-down when comparing Di Canio to Arsene Wenger. He had a chuckle about SN1 having about as much national significance as RH11 or TW8.
What Samuel didn’t realise is that, while we may live in the era of sat nav, there still remains a genuine interest shown by Football League clubs in each other’s practices.
The roubles and dollars being thrown like confetti around the Premier League may be entrancing, but the heart of football still resides at places like Prenton Park, Plainmoor, Vale Park and Home Park.
I’d urge Samuel to look through club’s forums – in Swindon’s case thetownend.com – to see the network of sides whose attendances are modest but whose history is just as credible as Saudi-infested Manchester City and the Liverpool Red Sox.
Look out for fans of club upon club discussing, in earnest, what an extraordinary job Ronnie Moore has done on a state pension-sized budget at Tranmere; read the genuine concern for the health of Torquay manager Martin Ling; discover the supporter-driven investigations of what went wrong under Perry Deakin at Port Vale and see how much support the Football League community offered Plymouth during their time of need.
This is authentic football drama, so often overlooked in favour of John Terry’s latest fling or Geoff Shreeves stating the bleeding obvious. Why does it have to be “local news”?
The answer is sales figures – and perhaps quite rightly so. Premier League sides draw Premier League audiences globally (10 per cent of the world support Manchester United if the club’s recent figures are to be believed). Newspapers have to cater for that. In doing so, however, we neglect the very fabric of what the sport was built upon - a communal love of the game.
Samuel can quite rightly claim that Frank Lampard’s contract is given more significance than the recent winding-up order issued against Notts County or Bristol Rovers’ ongoing attempts to secure permission to build a new ground, but that does not mean that the England midfielder’s future is more important than the financial state of the oldest club in the world or the financial development of another.
In this case significance is an editorial decision, not a tangible quality of the issue at hand.
So when Samuel chose to belittle the events of the past four weeks to four months at the County Ground he was, possibly inadvertently, diminishing the mass appeal of our football world.
He is right when he suggested that I will miss Di Canio – any journalist would. Perhaps there is a hint of jealousy in his voice as he recounts the rollercoaster ride we, as a club and as a paper, have endured and enjoyed these past 21 months.
But I’ll move on, as I’m sure each and every one of you will, until the time comes when we look back and realise this was just the news of the time – like promotion to the Premiership, re-election to the Football League, the financial scandal under Brian Hillier and the miracle of 1969. News, mind you, not “local news”.
Oh and one other thing while we’re at it, Martin, we’re the Swindon Advertiser.