Football is a game all about opinions, or so we’re told.
It’s argued that if you take away the controversy surrounding the flashpoints – the penalty appeal, the handball, the diving – you rip the heart out of the most popular team sport on the planet.
In an age of wall-to-wall football coverage, where social media gives everybody a chance and a channel to have their views ‘heard’, there are privileged individuals able to use their exalted positions to influence public perceptions on the critical decisions in the beautiful game.
I refer to the pundits, the ex-players and managers, who populate the studios and stadiums for match coverage supplied by Sky, BT, ITV, BBC, talkSPORT and the like.
There was a time when commentators and their cohorts were strictly impartial, displaying no bias to either side. Sadly, especially in the case of Manchester City, this seems to be long gone.
We’re fortunate that we live in a democracy and if a viewer is so affronted by the seemingly biased and unbalanced commentaries of a TV channel, they can unsubscribe to the service or, at the very least, hit the mute button.
It’s a subjective topic.
Viewers and listeners must make up their own minds as to the relevance and ‘insight’ provided by ex-players such as Michael ‘Monotone Drone’ Owen, Alan Hansen, Jamie Carragher, Jamie Redknapp, Didi Hamann, Mark Lawrenson, Robbie Fowler, Graeme Souness, Steve McManaman, David James, Ray Houghton and Phil Thompson, all of whom just happen to have spent their halcyon playing days at Liverpool.
Admittedly, four of them later went on to represent City, but all are more readily associated with the Anfield outfit…and more than willing to join the present media love-fest with Liverpool.
In fairness, Souness is quite objective when commenting on City, but he’s in a minority of one on Sky and BT Sport.
Hansen and Hamann recently delivered their BBC Match of the Day verdict on an ‘alleged’ dive by Liverpool’s Luis Suarez while playing against City.
They presented what they claimed was incontrovertible proof that there was ‘contact’ with Martin Demichelis, and that the Uruguayan striker, going down in a thoroughly dramatic style, was fully justified.
At best the ‘evidence’ presented, via a carefully selected one-dimensional camera angle, was flimsy. If viewed from a variety of different angles it was plain to see there is clear daylight between El Rodento and El Pony Tail.
It was an outrageous attempt to influence anybody gullible enough to think MOTD still harboured any lingering vestige of credibility.
It was totally at odds with the majority view, as well as live Sky coverage and analysis earlier in the day, from none other than ex- Manchester United stalwart, Gary Neville.
As a player, Neville wasn’t at the top of any City fan’s Christmas card list, but as a pundit, it has to be said, he has excelled. Tactically astute, he genuinely enriches the viewing experience. Never, did I dream in my wildest of dreams, that I would ever be so complimentary to young Gary!
Such a plaudit for a pundit cannot and will not be extended to BT Sports’ obnoxious Owen. Give the man – who makes ex-Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell’s Brummie brogue sound exciting – a microphone and Twitter goes beserk.
The ex- Liverpool and Real Madrid striker and former Newcastle, Manure and Stoke medical room squatter, constantly refers to City as ‘Manchester U-City’ – is he just plain thick, or is he hell bent on incitement rather than being insightful?
Niall Quinn and Danny Mills are two former City players now prominent on TV and radio, but you won’t find many, if any, City supporters who think the pair show any undue positivity towards their former employers.
Quinn covered himself in glory when co-commentating with Sky’s Martin Tyler on the ‘Aguerrroooo’ moment, as City snatched the title against QPR in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Can anybody recall a single complimentary Quinn utterance about City since May 13th 2012? It’s not being facetious, it’s a genuine enquiry.
As for Mills, well where do you start? For a man who picked up £ millions in wages, doing nigh on diddly squat over five long, torturous years in sky blue, he sure as hell is ungrateful. Actually, that doesn’t come close, he’s downright venomous, but why? That’s another genuine question.
Over on ITV there is a small chink of light in the shape of ex-Stoke, Arsenal and England full back, Lee Dixon, a lifelong City fan, who tells it as it is – fair enough.
The poor man has to share punditry duties with the ex-Manure midfielder Roy Keane – every television producer’s nightmare if the less than ebullient Irishman has to comment on an incident that occurred in the ‘turd’ minute of the match. Puzzling, Keano isn’t one for extending niceties to Manchester City.
That said, Roy comes across as the Albert Einstein of football wisdom in comparison with Dwight ‘Not So Bright’ Yorke.
Who could ever forget the hilarity when Sky had City’s combative Ambassador, Mike Summerbee, in alongside ‘Right Dork’ and ‘Arry’s Boy at Old Trafford, when Shrek shinned his famous ‘bicycle’ kick past Joe Hart to secure a 2-1 win for Manure.
Belligerent Buzzer played a blinder, telling the young lightweights to stop kissing Rooney and Sir Baconface’s backsides, and acknowledge that City had played a full part in a close fought encounter. Brilliant.
Any accusations of anti-City bias in the press and media are always vehemently denied by journalists and broadcasters alike, but delve into the likes of Twitter, Facebook, online City forums and even the latest ‘app’ Sports Yapper, and there’s an abundance of folk who are convinced that such an agenda does exist.
Does the tongue-in-cheek reference of, ‘Just because we’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get us’, have any substance in reality?
If, as many of the sky blue persuasion believe, it does, what could or should be done about it, if at all possible?
It would be wholly wrong to want, or expect, a sea change with a majority of pundits singing ‘Blue Moon’ and doing unto others as has been done to City.
All City fans want is a fair deal, but if impartiality is no more, then which ex-City player or manager would be best equipped to offer well rounded expert analysis, albeit carrying a subtle sky blue hue from time to time?
Is it right to even be thinking along those lines or do people actually like to feel a sense of outrage at what they perceive to be a slur on their club? Does it engender a sense of injustice that brings City fans closer together?