Is it tabloid as usual for the England Manager, or have times changed?
He speaks five languages. He enjoys the novels of Philip Roth. He is, by all accounts, a decent man. And what does he get, a day after reaching the pinnacle of his career? A mocking tabloid headline, cruelly poking ‘fun’ at his inability to fully enunciate the letter ‘r’. He hasn’t lost a game. He hasn’t failed in a major championship. He hasn’t even named a squad. But it is accepted. The England football manager is fair game. For mockery and spite. Or at least was.
But has The Sun misjudged things? Or are we now viewing The Sun through different eyes? Have we finally found our way, via hacked phones of dead schoolgirls, via Wot Won It elections, through pulling on the strings of puppet PMs, through the suicides, the paedophiles, the fake Arab sheiks and merciless poking and pillioring, to a less tolerant view of our beloved tabloids?
Complaints have been flooding in. The FA has publicly rebuked the paper, calling it unacceptable. And let us be clear. This is the same organization that previously has stood by as their employee No. 1 has been ritually and regularly humiliated. Back in the early in the 90s, Graham Taylor found his head superimposed on a turnip. Even when he finally left the job, it was to a smug smirk of terrible vegetable puns.
Not so long ago, McClaren found himself, for time immemorial, the wally with the brolly thanks to the Daily Mail. Sven was entrapped by the NOTW fake sheikh, and his admittedly lurid love life was constant tabloid fodder. Even the late, great Bobby Robson, who took England to Italia 90 semi-final heartbreak, once had the tabloids screaming ‘In the name of Allah, go’ after the temerity of drawing in Saudi Arabia.
And Capello was branded a Jackass for not picking, or actually the crime of intimating that he wouldn’t pick, two players for a qualifier (one of which, incidentally, was the soaring Andy Carroll).
But where perhaps we would tut-tut, whilst secretly thrilling at the always mocking, sometimes brutal attacks, the tabloids, and especially The Sun, suddenly aren’t so funny anymore. The mood has certainly changed. The old cheeky chappy persona of the Currant Bun has been exposed. The Sun, and its ilk, may actually find that it might pay to be a little kind before being a little too cruel. It’s an interesting moment. As befits the man they’ve decided to have a dig at, in a quiet, dignified way, it could be that we are saying ‘we’ve had enough’. Your jokes and your exposes have come at too high a price. Time now to keep your head down, son. Show something you’ve never been capable of before. Show some respect.
Roy Hodgson, the new England manager, might even get a decent break, though that is perhaps taking it too far. The delights of the England manager’s job is that the gap between meaningful fixtures is such that opportunities to redeem can be months away. You can stay a zero for months, with just the steady drip-drip of criticism to take you through the long winter months. Rather ridiculous really, given the contact the England manager has with his players, which in a non-championship year may add up to a grand total of around 2 weeks. Slammed for not having an impact on the team, despite the fact that it is impossible to have any kind of impact on the team given the time available. And it’s not just tabloids, there are just too many inches to be filled across all papers (far more than minutes on the pitch).
Mr. Hodgson may very well be found out as a small-town manager who can’t handle the big time. Nevertheless, he may just have inadvertently ushered in an era where we don’t mock first and ask questions later.