Cooney and Black

Tommy Craig said absolutely nothing – but his eyes invented a thousand stories. There seemed to be malice in those eyes, which stared and stared as though looks had been given a licence to kill.

Tommy Craig


THAT familiar stench of confrontation pervaded our television screens the other night when inquiries were made about the future of Tommy Craig.

The television reporter’s question was perfectly legitimate in the circumstances. St Mirren, six matches without a win and forced into a Scottish Cup replay against Inverness CT, were replicating the body language of that poor critter in the Australian rainforest who is on a hat-trick of bush-tucker trials.

The question to the manager had no connotations of Paxman and Snow, and therefore had neither aggression nor impertinence woven into it, I mean, it wasn’t as if Craig was asked if he was wearing an old semmit.

No, it was just one of those inquiries that are part of the elaborate cat and mouse game played out between those who rule unilaterally in their own little dominions and those tasked with the responsibility of asking if they still have that inalienable right to rule.

Anyway, it seemed at one point we might be about to witness (or rather listen to) a re-run of the notorious affray which featured Jim McLean, of Dundee United, and John Barnes, of BBC Scotland, back in 2000.

In the end, there was no affray, but the scenario provoked a bizarre reaction. Craig said absolutely nothing, nada – but his eyes invented a thousand stories. There seemed to be malice in those eyes, which stared and stared as though looks had been given a licence to kill.

So, the question this morning is this: are we journalists being positively beastly to those who run football clubs?

Or, does the problem lie with the managers? Have their skins become thin enough to be officially classified as translucent?

My views on the matter are quite clear, To be sure, paranoia among our football souls has always been a thriving industry. But the condition has seriously deteriorated in the last few years, to the point where they seem quite willing to leave themselves looking silly on film.

Remember Harry Redknapp’s over-reaction when he was addressed as a wheeler dealer at Tottenham rather than a football manager? Remember, also, Alex Ferguson’s various outbursts against those who put it to him, ever to timorously, that he might somehow be in deficit?

Bosses, of course, are at their most vulnerable and volatile after matches they should have won, but instead have drawn or lost. This is when their spirits are at a nadir.

But that is the deal, indigestible as it might seem to them. Their masters have sold their souls and much of their body parts to television, and the great one-eyed monster is apt to take control of proceedings and dictate what their subjects do and when they do it.

Hence, the TV money on the table decides that it should be perfectly reasonable for their representatives to hold a mature conversation with these same men without the risk of a) being severely chastised or b) receiving one round the side of the head.

The positives and negatives of being a leader are out there for all to see. As long as you’re winning, or at least not losing, you’re a hero. Drinks are on the house if this is the case.

But a losing streak, similar to the one experienced by St Mirren (it’s now seven without a win, Inverness having clattered them in the replay), invokes the dunce’s charter, That man is obliged to stand in the corner before a big boot to the backside sends him tumbling towards oblivion.

There are a host of plus points to football management. As opposed to most guys on the street, managers are well remunerated, sometimes indeed remunerated away beyond their capabilities.

They drive bespoke cars and live in houses comfortably beyond the reach of most of us. They’re sacked one day, they are re-employed somewhere else another day. Some are so attached to the managerial merry-go-round that you suspect UHU glue has been a factor.
So, do they not have a responsibility to man up when faced with a TV irritant? After all, the fans have a right to know what they’re thinking and how they can justify their methodology.

I remember one manager – the irrepressible Jimmy Sirrel, of Notts County – fielding a question that he considered to be impudent. Someone merely asked him how much he had paid for Kilmarnock’s Iain McCulloch.

The manager responded with deadpan humour, telling his questioner that in return it would only be fair if he (Sirrel) asked him how many times he made love to his wife on a weekly basis.

Perhaps there is a solution to the problem. Perhaps our managers should deflect difficult questions with wit and humour – although this becomes complicated when his team is incapable of winning a favourable look in an Eventide home.

But here’s another thought: Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, for some reason, seems to be particularly sensitive these days.

Well, after Aberdeen had lost somewhat inexplicably to a late goal at Dundee last Saturday, you waited for the explosion – the one that had David Clarkson’s name on it.

Motherwell sold to the player to Bristol City for £800,000 in 2010. Two years later, he was given a free transfer. The new manager didn’t apparently fancy the cut of his jib.

That manager was Derek McInnes. The explosion never came because BBC failed to ask him about it. Now, as he gave the impression of being filleted by the result alone, how do you imagine he would have reacted had he been reminded of this on live television?

Would he have resorted to humour?



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