Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, even Arsenal fans

From John Cross, Daily Mirror
The guy from the Liverpool Daily Post made me laugh when I saw him at the Anfield club’s FA Cup third round tie against Reading a few weeks ago.

He was taking the mickey out of London-based reporters like me because apparently we’re all soft and give Arsenal and Arsene Wenger such an easy ride.

Wenger would not have agreed last season when the club was stumbling outside of the top four places. Believe me, he was annoyed by what he saw as negative coverage in the press.

Funnily enough, I reckon the majority of Merseyside reporters have been pretty easy on Rafa Benitez, despite Liverpool’s problems this season. But then I am an outsider looking in.

I regularly send a mickey-taking message to a friend of mine who is a Midlands reporter because I jokingly say they should all club together, get a collection going and buy Martin O’Neill a knighthood and be done with it.

It’s all about perception you see. I cover Arsenal regularly for the Daily Mirror and Arsenal fans have queued up this season to claim that the press have got it in for Wenger, his players and the club in general. They reckon Arsenal get far more stick than any other club in the country.

Why? Simple. Because you take notice of your own club and remember the headlines even more when they upset you.

Trust me, Liverpool, Man United and Villa fans all think the press like Arsenal more than their own team. And, to a degree, I don’t blame them. Whenever I switch on the radio, people are glowing about Wenger and Arsenal’s style of football. Except Arsenal fans conveniently forget that.

A while ago, I wrote one of these columns about Liverpool, Rafa Benitez and his revolving door transfer policy.

Liverpool fans are incredibly prolific at replying via e-mail, on Twitter or leaving comments at the bottom of the piece.

The most common theme was that I was anti-Liverpool and that every reporter was guilty of falling into a trap of just doing what Sir Alex Ferguson says and putting the boot in to Liverpool and talking up Manchester United.

That is just laughable. Men may think about sex every 10 minutes – since our baby daughter arrived I can assure you it’s not that often anymore – but us football journalists can go a long time without thinking about Fergie.

When I wrote that Liverpool piece, do you honestly think I was doing it with Fergie and United in mind?

It is amazing how fans think there must be a side to a journalist’s comment. There’s not. I like to pass comment, offer an opinion and yet if I’m slagging off Rafa it’s not because I’m a Manchester United fan.

Which, in turn, brings me around to football journalists and allegiances. This month alone, I’ve been accused of supporting Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Quite why fans are obsessed with which team journalists support is beyond me. I don’t offer up where my allegiances lie outside of work, even though my Dad was born within a stone’s throw of the ground, didn’t miss a game for years, had a season ticket and first took me in the mid-70s.

It’s pretty hard at times when I get a fan of that club telling me to stop being so anti and how they are such big fans. I didn’t tend to see them when I bunked off school every Monday afternoon to go and see the reserves.

I was watching Arsenal’s win at Bolton on Sunday, Tweeted to say how physical Bolton were being and a Newcastle fan replied to me to say how, as a reporter, I should be neutral.

That guy just doesn’t get it. Why should I be neutral? Why can’t I offer an opinion and say I think Bolton are being over-physical?

Do you really want reporters to be passionless and have no feel for the game? But also, whether I’m a reporter or not, I thought Bolton were being over physical.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion – even reporters.

This is an abbreviated version of an opinion column posted on the Mirror‘s football website today. Click here to read Cross’s column in full.

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