“Clever Roy is ridiculed at times due to his slight Jonathan Ross-style lisp” write The Mirror, the day after Roy Hodgson’s appointment as England manager. And they are right, he is ridiculed, in the very same “article”.
Is it worth pointing out that neither Jonathan Ross nor Roy Hodgson have a lisp, but a phonetically realised /r/ common to Estuary English? Is there anything to be gained from highlighting the incongruence of saying “It will be great if Roy Hodgson can make England as successful” in an article that mocks not only the new England manager’s accent, but his taste in literature and music. While we’re on the subject, how witty, how very funny of Martin Fricker to comment that he’d “love to be a fly on the wall when Hodgson settles down to discussing the finer points of prose with John Terry,” as if that would ever happen (and what if it did? Maybe if John Terry developed some other parts of his brain then he wouldn’t knee opponents in the back thirty-seven minutes into the most important match of the season).
Clearly it is not worth pointing any of this out, because newspapers must be sold. But here’s a question: is it possible to sell papers and have a successful football team? Actually, yes. In Spain, for example, the media are obsessively proud of all their sportspeople and the people who manage them. Daily sports papers such as Marca and As do not give a particularly unbiased view, but what they do offer is unwavering support for whoever’s in charge of La Roja, (see example here). And here’s a surprise: Spain are World and European Champions (and Marca and As sell by the truckload).
Tabloid bullying is nothing new, as Graham Taylor or any England manager from the last three decades could testify (in case you’d forgotten, The Mirror’s “article” gives us a run-down of all our glorious failures). The sad part is that the desire to sell newspapers takes priority over the desire for success. Instead of much-needed support we get hilarious diagrams of the contents Roy Hodgson’s brain, this less than twenty-four hours after him taking the job. “…he is in for merciless stick if he fails,” The Mirror assure. What they’ve failed to see is that the stick has already begun, two weeks before Hodgson has even announced his first squad. “Few think Roy Hodgson is the smart choice to lead the team to glory,” Fricker writes, an unbiased opinion I am sure, not the words of, say, a Harry Redknapp proponent.
It’s nice to see the tabloid press continuing to act so responsibly, not only informing, but giving the nation important lessons in how to nip success in the bud. The good news is that Roy Hodgson is intelligent enough to know what’s worth reading, and what’s worth using for other purposes.