A hasty exit, a new dawn and the folly of looking back
Life occasionally becomes quite tough for a football blogger. Not in the grand scheme of things, of course. It’s not like serving in ‘Nam or anything. But you can think of a nice little topic in the morning while getting ready for the day job and everything looks peachy. Off you toddle to work, quite pleased with the article that is slowly forming in your head.
Then, completely out of the blue, a manager resigns from a Championship club and another is taken over, albeit far more expectedly, by a Thai consortium. In the space of two hours, your intended scribblings on a completely unrelated subject look rather redundant and irrelevant.
In this mind-blowing information age, it is possible to trace every piece of news back to its original source and find a subsequent opinion that has been formed within seconds. I am, of course, referring to the wonder of Twitter, although blogs, messageboards and other similar methods of electronic communication have long been making this possible.
Instant reaction to what is usually a highly complex news story, resulting from days, weeks or months of events, is nothing new. Opinions are formed without consideration by everyone, everywhere, about everything. It is not a phenomenon that is exclusive to football reporting.
Events such as Steve Coppell’s surprise resignation from Bristol City and the takeover at Leicester City, which were reported within two hours of each other at most, nevertheless bring the folly of instant opinion sharply into focus.
Twitter is a devil for it. What was your first reaction when you heard of Coppell’s departure? Everyone is an expert these days and it always feels nice to get a couple of re-tweets when you make a unique or interesting observation, so the instant response from most people was that Coppell clearly “had previous” – in reference to his very brief spell as manager of Manchester City.
I thought it myself.
Two events, completely different in the way they came about, related only by their protagonist and the superficial repetition of history, separated by more than a decade, immediately flung together as bedfellows.
Many people have said they feel sorry for Coppell. Personally, I feel great for him as long as he is happy now. A sense of unease, chiefly, appears to have informed his decision and it is far better that he withdraws quickly and definitely from a role, and a life, he does not feel comfortable with.
That is not to suggest, as some have, depression or any kind of mental disorder is at play. The concerns Coppell has made public in the past about the stress of being a football manager are, to me, wholly understandable.
Yes, it is only a game. But once you are in the game, there is huge responsibility in meeting the demands of thousands.
The real reasons for his departures from both Manchester City in November 1996 and Bristol City today remain unknown. And while it is unavoidable to speculate and to link the two events, there is no basis in reality. Opinion, but not fact.
We base so many of our opinions on seemingly similar events in the past. Leicester’s takeover today represents the second such manoeuvre upon a football club in this country by a Thai, the first being Thaksin Shinawatra’s involvement in Manchester City. Accordingly, Shinawatra was mentioned in the majority of news stories relating to the business done at the Walkers Stadium.
It has become difficult to gleefully accept a takeover from a group of previously unknown businessmen these days. The deep resentment of the American owners at such historically impregnable institutions as Manchester United and Liverpool has helped to develop the growing current of distrust in new, and particularly foreign, club ownership.
The exercise of caution is thoroughly understandable in these circumstances. Many Leicester fans worry about the direction of the club and these fears are founded mainly on the struggles of their new Championship rivals Portsmouth, the last club sold by Milan Mandaric – to a man with whom Pompey’s fans were not overly familiar.
In the East Midlands, or at least one particular part of it, the hope must be that history does not repeat itself.
Steve Coppell, meanwhile, may be forever marked out as the man who repeated history. An unfair legacy for a principled, thoughtful man who was not afraid to walk away.