Category Archives: Media

Tell It Like It Is

prawn sandwich

Whilst the esteemed editor of this organ donned his #5 cap to mix it up with the D-list shitterati at Rio Ferdinand’s book launch (see last month’s issue), I was handed the task of reporting back from Roy Keane’s gig at LCCC where he was appearing ‘in conversation’ with ghostwriter Roddy Doyle and Jim White of The Telegraph to promote his latest opus, The Second Half (Orion Publishing, £20).

The last one of these things I attended was Fergie’s appearance at The Lowry a year ago where he was publicising his recently released autobiography. This promised to be a similar setup – a free signed copy of the book was on offer alongside the possibility of picking up some interesting tidbits that hadn’t previously been made public. Unfortunately that night at the Lowry didn’t really deviate from the carefully managed script, as Fergie didn’t let his guard drop once under a very gentle grilling from the BBC’s Dan Walker. An evening with Roy Keane, I was pleased to discover, proved to be far more interesting and enlightening.

Shortly after the publicised start time of 7pm, there he was. Looking as trim as he did in his playing days, with no discernible middle-aged paunch and remarkably fresh faced since the terrifying beard he’d been sporting in recent months had been removed. Jim White then did the introductions, throwing in the somewhat outlandish claim that Keane and Doyle were the authors of “not only the finest football book, but the finest book you’ll read this year.”

White then proceeded to ask the first question, “what was your motive for writing the book?”, which in truth was his last meaningful input all evening as Keane needed little encouragement to talk….and talk and talk. He’s passionate, forthright and a great storyteller – one was left with the impression that Roddy Doyle’s task of transcribing Keane’s thoughts into written form was fairly straightforward one, given the fact he’s such a relaxed and candid interviewee.

The reason the book was so newsworthy, of course, was that it presented Keane with the opportunity to give a full and frank account of the events leading up to his departure from United. As anticipated, he doesn’t shy away from giving his version of the facts. There were disagreements with Carlos Queiroz along the way, but things came to a head with the infamous, never aired MUTV interview and the subsequent ‘airing of the grievances’ meeting with the entire first team squad and coaching staff in attendance. Keane (sort of) accepts that he played a part in his own downfall, his main beef is that “stuff said afterwards irritated me” and his belief that Ferguson and David Gill “should have done better by me.”

If Keane is bitter about anything, it’s about the way he was portrayed as a single-minded, loose cannon who needed reining in. If he was so unprofessional and unapproachable, he argues, how could he have survived at a club like United for over 12 years? “Yes, there were personality clashes like in any workplace, but it was no big deal.” It’s hard not to have sympathy with his reasoning here. United/Ferguson, after all, were the beneficiaries of Keane’s insane-level drive and will-to-win for many years. Put it this way: I very much doubt he’d have seen his contract terminated if the post-Boro blow-up had happened a few years earlier when he was in his prime as a player, and not the battle scarred veteran he’d become by 2005.

In spite of the acrimonious ending to his United career, Keane spoke very fondly about his time at the club and still has a lot of respect for Ferguson, describing him as a “great manager”. He clearly has a lot of time for his former teammates, “top quality players”, sharing a dressing room ethos where “there was no messing about… we wanted to win the match and to train properly”. Understated, perhaps… but from the mouth of Roy Keane, this is high praise indeed.

roy keane roddy doyle

Keane conceded that he made numerous mistakes during his time at the club, admitting when he first arrived in Manchester he was anything but the über-serious professional he was renowned as later in his career. He recalled a big fall out with Brian Kidd in the days between winning the league at Middlesborough and the ’96 Cup Final, partaking in a week-long bender which resulted in him reporting for training each morning still suffering the effects of the night before. Then, after being named MOTM on the Saturday, greeting a disbelieving Kiddo at the bar during the post match celebrations whilst getting stuck into the Bacardi.

There are regrets too, particularly some of the things he said in the heat of the moment. “Maybe this team needs to be broken up” post-Bayern in 2001 was, on reflection, a misguided attempt to elicit a response from the team following another disappointing defeat. The ‘prawn sandwich’ comment too, a dig against United fans that was manna from heaven for the ABU nation was merely him sounding off, “looking for an angle, to get a response off people… trying to get Old Trafford rocking.”

After an hour of listening to Keane, and a few minutes worth of Roddy Doyle who described his reasons for getting involved and the process of writing the book, the microphone was then passed to the floor as the audience were invited to ask questions. This led to another hour of recollections as Keane (now fully warmed up) answered everything thrown at him with complete candour and a total disregard for the fact there were a few hundred people present.

Some of his comments led to a couple of news stories later in the week after details reached journalists’ hands, but in truth nothing was said that was particularly inflammatory when taken in context. There were a slight digs at Bryan Robson and Paddy Crerand, as Keane made the point that club employees don’t make the most unbiased of pundits – he jokingly described the MUTV ex-players cabal as “like the Mafia or something.”

Another question led to a telling insight to how United approached games under Ferguson, or more to the point, how we didn’t approach them. “We wouldn’t be analysing teams too much. That was one of our strengths… we kept it unbelievably simple.” He only recalled Fergie getting senior players together for a pre-match meeting on a handful of occasions. Once, when the subject of dealing with the specific threat of Steve McManaman arose, Keane’s surprise and confusion about even being asked for his input was priceless, “umm… we’ll deal with him… he’s not Pele!”

All in all it was a great night. Keane was on top form and anything but the scowling, embittered figure he’s often portrayed as in the media. The book itself? Even if it’s not, as Jim White claims, the finest thing you’ll read this year, it’s still worth a couple of hours of your time ploughing through it. The motivation behind doing it, he explained, was simply “giving my opinion”, rather than “slagging everybody off” as has been claimed.

That’s essentially the crux of Roy Keane – it’s what made him a great leader on the pitch, and latterly, great value as a studio pundit. If someone asks him a question, he will answer it. Truthfully. Football is full of anodyne, media trained monkeys trotting out bland platitudes which you just know don’t truly reflect their private thoughts. Keane is different in that he actually says what he thinks. There’s no agenda there, everything he says is packed with truthiness. You don’t agree with him? That’s no problem, you’re entitled to your opinion too.

Copyright Red News – November 2014

Corpses In Their Mouths

bbc commentary

By recent standards, the build up to this year’s World Cup was relatively low key. The national team’s abysmal showing at the last few tournaments, where the so-called golden generation were outplayed by the opposition and outshone by their own wives and girlfriends, resulted in a situation where both the media and the publics’ expectations were closely aligned to reality for once. The country at large seemed to accept the indisputable truth: England are a rubbish team and had absolutely no chance of winning the World Cup.

Which was fine, of course. Sanity looked like it might prevail and instead, we could all focus on enjoying the competition, spared of any national outpouring of jingoistic fervour and the self-indulgent cycle of chest beating, wailing and navel-gazing that greets every England tournament flop.

Unfortunately, the minute the squad touched down in Brazil, the old ‘World Cup fever’ quickly took hold and as a consequence, every good patriot felt obliged to re-assess the England team’s chances. The logic seemed to be that as England hadn’t done anything at previous tournaments as one of the favourites, perhaps they’d do better now they were relieved of that tag. A slightly flimsy pretence, perhaps – but one that many pundits and commentators were happy to run with. Sigh.

Cheerleader in chief was Adrian Chiles, doing his avuncular everyman schtick as ITV’s main anchor (yes, anchor). Chiles gets the gig, presumably, because focus groups and think tanks have reached the conclusion that of all potential candidates for the position, he’s the least likely to cause anyone great offence. He’s not posh enough to alienate the Sun readers and he’s not Northern enough to turn-off vast swathes of Middle England. Chiles is a human version of Marks and Spencer jeans. Completely non-threatening and minus controversy, he’s a Volvo estate driving at 69mph in the middle lane of the M6… tuned to Radio 2.

Alongside a revolving panel of 3 studio guests, Chiles’ main brief appeared to be ‘if in doubt, steer conversation back to England’. It didn’t matter what game was being previewed or what action we’d just witnessed, everything was geared towards shoehorning in references to ‘what Roy Hodgson might be thinking’ or ‘getting the latest from Gabriel Clarke at the England camp’ every 15 minutes.

To be fair to Chiles, he didn’t have an awful lot to work with. There must have been panic all-round when Roy Keane bailed from his duties on the eve of the tournament, leaving ITV woefully short in terms of actual personalities to pass comment on proceedings. Instead we were left with Glenn Hoddle, veering between complete nonsense and interminably dull recollections of France ’98, the ultra smug, charisma void that is Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro, on whom Chiles’ developed a painfully unfunny man crush that was duly referenced each time they appeared on screen together.

(Un)fortunately, Ian Wright had to return home after a week due to opportunist thieves/exasperated viewers breaking into his house and threatening his wife and children. I’m not condoning what was no doubt a horrific ordeal – although it did at least spare us a repeat of the lamentable spectacle of ‘Wrighty’ conducting live interviews with bemused, German surfers on Copacabana Beach…. “Yes! Copacabana Beach. This is hot! What’s your name, man?”

Listening to him amongst this bunch actually had the remarkable effect of making Lee Dixon seem both tolerable and knowledgable, though genuine salvation was to occur for ITV viewers during the second week of the tournament, following Martin O’Neill’s arrival. O’Neill is great – tetchy, inquisitive, and opinionated – it only took him about 5 minutes to upset the cosy bonhomie that was in place (even throughout an opening night bricking from Brazilian protesters). First O’Neill took offence to Chiles suggesting he might have cowered in defensive walls during his playing days, “I actually didn’t wear glasses when I played”, he explained – before reminding the sniggering Cannavaro and Vieira that he was the one on the panel with two European Cup winners’ medals. Have a look at his little outburst on YouTube, it was quality.

In Clarke Carlisle, ITV must have assumed they possessed the most boring co-commentator at the World Cup. That looked a shoe-in until the BBC, for England’s opening game versus Italy, decided to unleash Phil Neville on the viewing public. It was a mesmeric commentary debut from Neville, as his Bury monotone filled every millisecond of potential dead air with a non-stop stream of banalities. Actually, that’s a guess based on Phil’s twitter persona – because his voice was pitched at such a level, that it was difficult to make out any actual words. What was emitted wasn’t what could accurately be described as speech, it was more of a drone – reminiscent of a demoralised bumblebee, repeatedly crashing against the window pane of an otherwise silent, spare bedroom.

The BBC’s line-up is a mixture of familiar MOTD stalwarts (Lineker, Hansen, Lawrenson, Shearer) and a handful of newcomers (Lennon, Ferdinand, Henry, Seedorf and Juninho). Compared to the debacle of the last World Cup where the Beeb pundits seemed to revel in their collective cluelessness (“Seen much of Slovenia, Alan?”, “Haven’t a clue, Gary.”), they appeared to have arrived with a few pages of notes this time out, determined to at least give the impression of being well-informed.

Rio has given a decent account of himself so far, appearing genuinely enthused about the opportunity he’s been given and expertly straddling the fine line between capital bantz and serious analysis. Henry too is a natural at the punditry game – instead of guffawing at each cringeworthy Lineker pun, instead he’s taken to bowing his head – a gesture that manages to convey both his own embarrassment and a degree of pity for his colleague. Clarence Seedorf says very little and smiles a lot; Robbie Savage talks utter rubbish.

The biggest clown of the BBC crew has been Jonathan Pearce, who managed to make a complete tit of himself during France v Honduras. After Karim Benzema’s shot hit the post (wasn’t a goal) and was then spilled over the line by the goalkeeper (was a goal), Pearce was utterly befuddled by the resultant goal line technology replays. “THEY’VE CHANGED THEIR MIND!”, he bellowed, as the nation back home collectively began to wet themselves. “WHICH REPLAY ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE?!”, he then implored, as Martin Keown quietly tried explaining that as there were two replays shown in sequence, perhaps it might be an idea to believe both of them.

Oh and the football? Yeah, it’s been goals and entertainment all round so far – the best World Cup in years. Fair play to the England team as well, and Steven Gerrard in particular, for delivering in terms of all our pre-tournament expectations for once. It’s about time.

Copyright Red News – June 2014

Do It Better


Up until recently, a weekend without football was one of those awful anomalies of the fixture calendar – something you had to endure a handful of times per season in the knowledge things would soon be back to normal. Due to being knocked of of the cups we’ve had 2 or 3 in recent weeks and all things considered, they’ve actually proven fairly enjoyable. Mainly this is due to the fact that things can’t get any worse if we’re not actually playing, can they?

The Olympiakos away game could prove to be the tipping point as regards Moyes’ reign at United. Unless there’s an unforgettable night at Old Trafford on Wednesday we’ll soon be out of Europe too, meaning the last couple of months of the season look set to provide as much appeal and excitement as the last 6 months or so have. It’s pointless pretending otherwise… we’re a shambles at present. It’s all a bit of a mess.

The performance in Greece followed the Palace away game which led certain commentators to suggest we might have turned a corner of sorts. We hadn’t. Merely keeping a clean sheet and beating relegation fodder is cause for an outbreak of unconfined positivity these days, especially as it was done without the utterly execrable pairing of Young and Valencia – fast becoming the least threatening pair of wingers in United history.

Other than a brief 6 week spell after he signed, Young has proven to be a complete waste of space at Old Trafford. He doesn’t have a trick, or pace, can’t cross a ball and he’s physically weak. Compared to wingers of the past (and I’m including the likes of Arthur Graham and Ralph Milne, here), he just doesn’t move very well with a football. The only thing Ashley Young appears to be capable of is cutting inside and attempting something spectacular from 25 yards… which tends to result in a goal about once every 6 months.

Valencia meanwhile, is possibly even more of an enigma than Young. The frustrating thing here is that Valencia can play. He really can. We’ve seen him destroy Ashley Cole on a number of occasions and there was that golden spell he had pre-injury where every cross he put in seemed to land on Rooney’s head. I defended the guy for a long, long time but I’ve given up now. Things reached a nadir last season where his confidence had gone to the extent that when faced with a defender, he was performing 180-degree pirouettes and heading back to the half-way line.

On the occasions he does fancy taking on the full back and actually beats him, it usually results in one of his signature-move, ‘smashed across the box’ crosses that again, have about a 1 in 50 success rate. As everyone in the Premier League sussed months ago, it’s all too predictable and easy to defend against. It speaks volumes for Tony’s ongoing slump, that watching him toil with his waning powers, one finds oneself pining for the living embodiment of brainless inconsistency that is Nani. Nani for Christ’s sake! I swear, even Bebe seems a preferable alternative to Valencia at present.

Most fans accept that players go through dips in form at one time or another, it just starts to become a major annoyance when a few weeks becomes months (or indeed years in the recently-departed Anderson’s case). Perhaps the wisest thing the player himself can do is keep their head down and play through it until things improve – a point that seems to have been missed entirely by Tom Cleverley.


Cleverley, just in case you’d missed it, is not happy right now. Apparently he’s been ‘stung’ by the criticism he’s received from United fans this season and feels he’s been made a bit of an escape goat. I have to admit, my first thought after hearing this was one of confusion because I haven’t heard any criticism of him whatsoever at a game, so presumably he’s talking about getting a bit of stick off bellends on twitter. Simple solution to that one, Tom: don’t take any notice of bellends on twitter.

For me, Tom Cleverley isn’t really a player that invokes any strong feelings because he doesn’t really do much other than simply existing. Indeed, I can’t say I’ve noticed any drop off in his performances because it’s difficult to recall any of his performances. People call him The Brand, but it’d be more accurate to describe him as The Bland. My biggest problem with Tom Cleverley is the way people often compare him to Ray Wilkins due of his penchant for passing sideways. To me that is just an insult to Wilkins who I thought was a lovely player, a true artisan – Cleverley is just a maladroit droid in comparison.

It probably never occurred to Tom or his advisors that in conceiving his TC23 website and media presence, they’ve only succeeded in making him more unpopular with the world in general. This isn’t just limited to these rabid hoards of United fans who are hounding him either, given that England fans have already selected Tom as their official World Cup pariah before the tournament has even started. We all know that no England tournament exit is complete without an MUFC-affiliated scapegoat, fair play to England fans for deciding on this year’s at such an early stage – I expect the quality of effigy likenesses to be off the chart given the additional lead time that’s now available.

If Tom wants to improve his standing in the hearts and minds of United and England fans, I’d suggest it might be wise to explore traditional methods such as playing well in football matches. Y’know, winning the odd tackle, take a few more risks, maybe even consider scoring a few goals or something? Puff piece, ‘nobody understands me’ interviews with a sympathetic Oliver Holt aren’t going to placate anyone or do you any favours – especially when they’re packed with condescending drivel about how your game might be better appreciated by Spanish football hipsters.

Unfortunately, you don’t play in Spain, Tom. You might feel you’d avoid the white hankies and be universally lauded in the land of tiki-taka but you’re at Man United – at a time where competition for midfield places is at an all-time low and you’ve had ample opportunity to make your mark on the team. Almost 3 years into a United career you’re better known for a website and going out with a girl from TOWIE than you are for being good at football, and that’s not down to any misunderstanding or lack of awareness on anyone’s part other than you and the people you’ve got setting up these media opportunities.

Too harsh? Possibly – but he’s 24 now so we’re not talking about some kid who’s just broken into the team, he’s an experienced international who’s got an opportunity 99% of his fellow professionals would kill for. The longer this shocking season goes on, the spotlight will rightly intensify on David Moyes – but it’s time some of his charges began to take more responsibility themselves. No passengers.

Copyright Red News – March 2014