By Daniel Rhodes.
It is easy to pick holes in Patrick Barclay’s work. Not only are the Heysel tweet, the Hodgson headlines and the Justice for the 135′ line on the 20th anniversary of Hillsborough riddled with bitterness and bile, it is wrong – so wrong – that you can ignore him. The same cannot be said for ex-players. They know the club inside out. They offer us a chance to lap up their professional knowledge and learn from their own personal experiences. Some still have contacts within the club. Their opinions should have gravitas. So what’s gone wrong when one of the most prominent football analysts on television, with over 200 appearances and five league titles for the club, referred to as a “fearless” broadcaster, picked to commentate on the biggest games, says this:
Michael Owen isn’t the tallest of lads, but his height more than makes up for that.
Or more recently, this:
If Spain are crowned Euro 2012 champions, it would be a bad advertisement for football.
They have no obvious motive to want to damage the club (unless they were treated badly), and why would any ex-player want to rile the same fans who had chanted their name in the stands, idolised them on the local pitches and spent half their (teenage) lives, at least, wanting to be them? However, players have moved on, they’re not at the club anymore, their new profession requires journalistic integrity and a clear mind with which to give an objective view. They need to be honest. Furthermore, they have influence.
Throughout this piece we’ll look at the range of ex-players’ views in the football media; the bad, the lazy, the clichéd and the brilliant. Can some of it simply be ignored like Barclay’s twisted nonsense or does it have a broad appeal, influencing the fanbase and maybe causing some of the impatience we see so often today?
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