Notepad on Life

June 22, 2011

Alex McLeish, Aston Villa and why journalists should get out more

Filed under: Journalism,Sport — - @ 1:07 pm
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Birmingham City F.C. and former Scotland natio...

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Not a great day at the office for The Guardian‘s Paul Hayward, who believes the cross-city move of Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish to hated rivals Aston Villa should have met with little more than raised eyebrows from either side of the Second City.

And in a passionless, clinical corporate environment, much of what he says would make sense. But this is football and sportswriters like Hayward, who would be the first to bleat about the game losing its passion if they thought it would fill a column, should realise that tribalism, lazy or otherwise, is the inevitable flipside of such passion. It fills stadia, sells merchandise and guarantees football writers work.

Alex McLeish moving from Birmingham City to Aston Villa is indeed neither illegal nor immoral. Alex McLeish leaving Birmingham City because he feared he might be on one of those unspoken win-your-first-five-games-or-you’re-out deals at St Andrews next season, is understandable.

Alex McLeish presiding over the relegation of Birmingham City and then moving to Aston Villa, however, is tactless and insensitive and demonstrates that the insular cluelessness of many footballers does not end when they hang up their boots.

This is a man who managed a club in Glasgow, for goodness’ sake. Did he learn nothing?

Has he even considered how much weight his words will carry next time he’s exhorting his charges in a relegation battle to show some commitment to the cause?

And has he made sure he’s being paid enough by his new club to make worthwhile the risk of becoming one of the game’s great trivia questions: who was the last manager to take two clubs in the same city down in consecutive seasons?

It sounds to me like money has spoken and status has trumped all other considerations. If Paul Hayward seriously thinks that this should be met with a mere sigh by football followers then I would suggest that when next season comes around, he covers the occasional game from the stands, instead of the press room. He is beginning to lose touch with both his subject and his audience.

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