The public, and the press, rarely treat respected football figures well, says NORMAN GILLER, as he sympathises with Arsenal’s under-pressure manager and highlights how one of England’s greatest heroes was ignored
This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Bobby Moore, arguably the greatest English defender ever to step on to a football pitch.
I cannot believe that 20 years have flashed by since Bobby was beaten by bowel cancer at the all too early age of 51.
As all the Establishment figures join in the memorials for the captain of England’s 1966 World Cup winners, I just hope they feel a twinge of guilt that they virtually ignored him when he was alive.
I have written and self-published a tribute book, Bobby Moore The Master, with all profits going to Bobby’s Cancer Fund set up by his widow Stephanie in harness with UK Cancer Research.
In it I reveal how Bobby hand-wrote an application to the Football Association for the England manager’s job following the desertion of Don Revie.
He did not even get the courtesy of a reply.
What a way to treat a hero of heroes. Rest easy, old friend.
WATCHING the public meltdown of Arsene Wenger at his press conference before the pounding from Bayern Munich had this old hack sympathising with the professorial Arsenal manager. He was like a condemned man in front of a firing squad and determined to go down shouting.
In that highly emotional mental state, he deserved to be protected from the press pack and television cameras. The news channels showed him no mercy, and his barmy exchange with the Mail‘s Neil Ashton was screened scores of times.
It was Pythonesque in its content.
“Why do you look at me?”
“I’m looking at you because it’s your press conference.”
Classic comedy. But no laughing matter for a manager who is right up there with the best that have ever operated in the English league.
It is appalling the way Wenger’s critics have turned on him, particularly Arsenal’s own fans, who have been given fantastique service by a man who has always represented his club and his sport with dignity. Yes, he can moan better and longer than most, but few can match his knowledge of tactics, dietary requirements and the nuances of the Beautiful Game.
As he himself said, “You will miss me when I’m gone.” He has the support of the Arsenal directors (at least in public), and should be allowed to choose when the time is right to make a dignified exit.
If Arsenal fans hound him out they will live to regret it, and it could come back to haunt them. He has made them one of the most stable and successful clubs in Europe and should be beyond the sort of scathing criticism that is coming his way from all angles, particularly on the interweb. It is the old, old story of non-achievers trying to bring down achievers.
A young would-be sportswriter I am advising (“go into broadcasting, not newspapers”) asked me: “What were the press conferences like in your day? Did you ever see a manager crack like Wenger?”
I fell about laughing as if I’d been asked if I had ever eaten a Shergar Burger. Press conferences were not part of the football reporters’ vocabulary when I was chasing the headlines and the deadlines.
Snatched quotes in car parks and the occasional full-barrelled verbal attack on a referee was about as good as it got. Ron Greenwood used to give sherry parties in his office after matches and he would brain wash us into seeing the match through his eyes. You rarely found West Ham heavily criticised in defeat.
Tommy Docherty was always good value, dropping jokes on his way to the team coach. “Our full backs were hopeless today,” he’d crack. “I’ve seen milk turn faster.”
Bill Shankly was always worth trying to collar as he left the ground. I recall him shouting across the car park at Jimmy Greaves after the Tottenham man had scored a winner against Liverpool: “Hey, Jimmy son, only one thing wrong with you today. You were wearing the wrong colour shirt.”
It made a nice intro for our Monday morning copy, but this was as close as it got to getting a conference.
Bill Nicholson would never talk in victory but would lambast his team in defeat, rarely holding back with criticism of anybody who he thought had given less than 100 per cent. He would tear them apart. And then he would add: “Don’t quote me. Write what you saw.”
Sir Matt Busby was almost reverential and would always find words of praise for the opposition, even after Man U had cut them to ribbons. I can never ever remember him bad-mouthing anybody.
Big Mal Allison would analyse a match like a surgeon describing an operation, and then say the complete opposite in his Daily Express column, beautifully crafted by young James Lawton.
The major difference “in my day” is that a select few of us had the home phone numbers of all the top managers and major players. We would call them on the Sunday morning and get their considered opinions, sometimes off the record if the topic was controversial.
To the best of my knowledge, few reporters today have the home numbers of managers and players. Agents, with vested interest, are their main spokesmen.
They have to rely on those staged press conferences, with every Tom, Dick and Harriet sharing the same morsels.
I preferred the chasing for quotes. At least it was not robotic and they knew who we were looking at.
- www.normangillerbooks.com for the Bobby Moore The Master. All profits to Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK