Minnows v Media - A Fair Game?
MINNOWS v MEDIA - A FAIR GAME?
Life seemed so simple in Leagues 1 and 2. You only merited a few column inches (if at all) in the daily newspapers, usually a couple of lines in a divisional summary unless it was an historic or unusual occasion. Even play off finals only merited peripheral interest from the national media and one got the feeling that if the reporters trotted out the usual stuff about Stanley Matthews, Morty, the 1953 Cup Final and Jimmy Armfield, well, that would be adequate coverage. Fair play though, that type of attitude was typical towards pretty much all the lower division sides. So, fair? Overall, yes.
The Championship however, was where I first started to get the feeling that the national media was biased. Suddenly we were in a division where there were 'big' clubs as well. With the advent of 'The Football League Show' after MOTD on a Saturday night we did at least get shown on TV on a regular basis but was it just me who wondered why our games against PNE and Burnley were never the feature matches? The papers again gave us pretty much a token gesture coverage - the Sunday Times certainly had us more often in the 'summary' column rather than any individual report. The shock that must have reverberated around Broadcasting House and Rupert Murdoch's empire must have measured on the Richter Scale when we beat Cardiff at Wembley - Blackpool, Premier League?! Would this mean the press barons would suddenly sit up and take notice?
Since promotion, we have had a lot of coverage. The papers have been full of 'Blackpool Rock' and 'Tangerine Dream' headlines, with reporters obviously enthralled that this small, unfashionable club that is run on a tiny budget has defied all the odds to earn its place in the top tier of English football. We are now every hack's favourite underdog, the bravest David to face the biggest Goliath's on the planet. Some of the more intellectual papers have actually produced more measured pieces and even talked about our history, but in the end it usually comes down to 'fairy story'.
As for TV match reporting, I cannot believe the slating we received from Alan Hansen on MOTD after the Arsenal game - it was totally over the top, almost as if he was offended by these upstarts in tangerine being on the same grass as the Arsenal thoroughbreds. It was the same at Chelsea - no credit to 'Pool for our second half performance, it was just Chelsea 'taking their foot off the gas' - another 'what are they doing in the Premiership?' attitude. To be fair to SKY however, Glenn Hoddle and Jamie Redknapp gave credit to us in their analysis at Stamford Bridge. Anfield certainly made people sit up and take notice although yet again the story was more about Liverpool's decline rather than our achievement.
In a nutshell, if you are one of the 'big boys', the media will be camped at your door because of what you are and the fact that, winning or losing, you are of interest to many people throughout the world. That I cannot argue with. Where I do take issue is the assumption that no-one is interested in the small clubs unless they 'do a Blackpool'. Let's not forget that more fans go and watch lower league and non-league football each weekend than the Premiership.
The problem with the media is that they are obsessed with the superstars of a Premier division which is so overexposed and overhyped because of the money in the game at this level; they seem to fill their front pages more than the back with football related stories, but most are sordid and sensational tales about the private lives of the high profile players. Is this because of the seemingly insatiable appetite from the public at large for scandal and the glamour that surrounds these household names, or are they just creating a demand for intrusive journalism which actually deflects from reporting about the game - and inevitably clubs like Blackpool - itself?
Ian Holloway is not going to replace Roberto Mancini as the darling of the tabloids by his looks or profile, yet what he has achieved at Blackpool surely deserves the acclaim of the media as a whole, not just those seeking to fill a gap with a nice little story about the renaissance of a soccer outpost in Lancashire by a quirky character. Unfortunately, reality isn't like that and no matter what we achieve this season, we will get the patronising 'pat on the head' like Burnley and Hull before us. It is, sadly, the nature of the beast.