I was in email conversation with a nice chap called Chris the other day, and he said something which got me thinking:
Lord only knows what people did in the pre-Internet days when Georgie Graham preferred to only spend money on Eddie McGoldrick and 14 centre-backs.
Although there were always rumours and chatter about certain players it was very much restricted in comparison to what we have today. These days, some idiot with nothing better to do, will set up a Twitter account pretending to be a journalist for The Times, link us to Fernando Llorente, and within hours muckracking hit-whores like the Daily Mail will confidently proclaim that we’re ‘set’ to make a move for the Spanish striker. We’re not. It’s bollocks.
And nothing illustrates the anatomy and ludicrousness of the transfer rumour better than this Tweet from @robkelly2 who shows how something is made up on one site, well known for simply making things up – that’s what they do, before appearing on the website of a national newspaper in the UK. Then it’s spread far and wide by folk who should know better and people then fixated on a deal which isn’t ever going to happen.
And while I know most people know that 99% of all transfer stories never come to fruition – even if some have a hint of truth here and there – it’s good to remind ourselves that this is a mini-industry built on lies, fiction and half-truths. The websites and papers get the hits, the agents use the papers and websites to build profile for their players (and perhaps even clubs too get involved to an extent), but all the same the best way of dealing with it all is to take a large step backwards and take everything else with an even larger pinch of salt.
However, the email got me thinking. Due to the explosion of fan opinion we have nowadays, be it on blogs, forums, Facebook or Twitter, you get instant, and very often ill-considered reactions to things. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if we’d had it back then when certain transfer deals were done. Imagine the outcry when we sold Anders Limpar and replaced him in the side with Eddie McGoldrick. I can remember seeing it on the back page of The Sun, Anders, lovely scampery little Anders, holding up an Everton shirt.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. And then I carried doing what I was doing in real life.
What would it have been like when Stefan Schwarz left after just one season? Would there have been accustations of lack of ambition, being unable to hold onto our best players? Would David Seaman have been the target of abuse and vilification following the Cup Winner’s Cup Final in 1995? ‘Past it’. ‘Flappy bastard!’ How would Arsene’s decision to sell Paul Merson have gone down? Losing an FA Cup final to 2nd division team would certainly have sparked plenty of ‘discussion’ and the 7 years without a trophy between that time and the League Cup final in 1987 would have been about as much fun as drinking a yard of whale piss flecked with manatee poo.
Green kits? George Wood? Chris Whyte playing up front? RAAAAARRRGGGHHHH. So while there’s a lot to be thankful for that we have this fantastic medium at our fingertips every day, and for some it’s the norm (like kids who will never know what it was like to be uncontactable or to play music via a large disc of black vinyl), it’s hard to not to be slightly wistful for the days when the first thing you knew about something happening is when it actually happened.
Yes, there was the odd saga. I mentioned Charlie Nicholas yesterday and that seemed to play out for a little while if I remember correctly, and I recall the stories in the papers about Liam Brady wanting to leave, but for the most part we didn’t get into the nuts and bolts of things the way we do today. Of course that’s because of the way technology has changed the world.
There used to be a time when if somebody asked a question in the pub you either knew the answer or you didn’t. Now a question can be asked and the answer is in our pockets. A quick Google and Bob is your very uncle. Maybe it makes us more informed, more educated, but maybe it also makes us think less. ‘What was the name of that bloke in that film?’, and you had to think. Some time later it might crawl out from the recesses of your brain and you’d blurt out the answer. Now IMDB does that thinking for us.
And perhaps that too is reflected in the way transfer rumours are spread. People take information at face value, never thinking to question it. One Tweet is a beacon of truth regardless of the source and regardless of the fact that reading a few more Tweets by that person will show you they’re probably talking a load of old rot. That it appears in the paper adds credence to a story, even if it’s just been made up the day before by a website which makes things up. Simply add one helping of people who can’t get enough information about their club – and this is not just related to Arsenal – and it’s a heady, potent mix.
There is no IMDB of transfers, no Google to give you the right answer because most of the time there isn’t one. And just be thankful of the fact that you can, if you really want to, filter most of that rubbish out of your ‘digital space’, if you’ll excuse the obnoxiously wanky phrase I’ve just used. Don’t torture yourself with trolls and people whose sole reason for being online is to tell lies to others. And when something happens, enjoy it, or not, but react to it then.
Que sera, sera.
Finally for today, if you want some summer reading it’s kind of last orders for the book for a while. I’m off on holidays on Friday and the shop will be closed for the duration, so if you fancy a copy, order today from here. More info on the book (including digital editions) here.