Charlton Athletic 3-1 Stoke City (Saturday 10th August 2019)

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Williams rallies Valley after Aneke puts Addicks back in front

Charlton continued their perfect return to the Championship with a 3-1 victory against out of form Stoke at The Valley on Saturday.

Following relatively surprising opening day results for both sides (Charlton enjoying a 2-1 triumph at Blackburn, Stoke succumbing to a slack defeat of the same score line at home to QPR), Saturday saw divergent spirits surrounding the two clubs polarise further, with Potters boss Nathan Jones’ record, since January appointment, worryingly still reading a poor three wins.

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Jones remains frustrated

By contrast, it’s now an impressive 14 successes from 18 games for Lee Bowyer’s Addicks, a sensational run encompassing the final three months of last season (including the trilogy of play-off fixtures) and a step-up in division.

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Another great result for Bowyer

Jones set up again with the same midfield diamond which laboured to loss against QPR (a performance which “lacked tempo” according to the Welshman), adjusting personnel slightly by replacing Jordan Cousins with Ryan Woods at the base, as well as handing first starts to Liam Lindsay, Stephen Ward, Lee Gregory and on-loan Aston Villa striker Scott Hogan.

Jones’ philosophy, championing forward-thinking full-backs, dominance of possession and nomadic strike duos is clear enough to see, though his Potters sides have so far proven way too easy to defend against, infamously playing out four successive goalless draws in March.

Still, they looked to start sharply: Tom Ince striding straight forward from kick-off, immediately finding left wing-back Ward, who whipped in a dangerous cross which was eventually dealt with by a slightly shaken Charlton backline.

But it was the home side who struck first: Lyle Taylor working an opening on the left-hand corner of the box, before unleashing a powerful strike into the right of Jack Butland’s goal (25’).

A fine hit by Ince to level on 37’, beating Dillon Phillips from outside the box not long after Hogan had struck the bar, may have pointed to improvement from the visitors, who, like on matchday one, hogged much of the ball throughout (54%) without being able to dispense of a generally ponderous tempo.

On the flipside, Bowyer structured his team superbly, opting for two strong banks of four (with attacking midfielder Conor Gallagher dropping, in the turnover, to compose a five in front of defence) to nullify City’s endeavours to utilise width.

Just simply man-marking Stoke seems to cancel out the multitude of their threat, as Athletic wide-men Jonny Williams (left) and on-loan (West Brom) debutant Jonathan Leko (right) tracked Tommy Smith and Ward respectively.

Whilst, going the other way, by committing their (Stoke) full-backs so high up the field, the two mentioned Charlton players (Leko possessing a significant turn of pace) were pivotal in counter-attacking springs, as Addicks transitions embodied an effective directness.

Returning to analysis of Stoke’s impotence, Darren Pratley, returning West Ham loan star Josh Cullen and the aforementioned Gallagher (also on loan, Chelsea) alternated in regard to monitoring of Ince’s runs into the eighteen-yard area, meaning that with each visiting player marked (including strikers Gregory and Hogan, touch-tight throughout the first-half to Tom Lockyer and Jason Pearce), the Potters’ midfield appeared overtaxed for creativity.

Gregory did also hit the woodwork before the break, though it was a Bowyer change in the last twenty minutes that made all the difference: Gallagher moved out to the left, Williams switched to the right and Chuks Aneke came on (69’), replacing an duly worn out Leko, for his debut; and to partner Taylor up top.

Six minutes later, Charlton retook the lead: Aneke coolly finishing just in front of the penalty spot (75′).

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Aneke after debut goal

Meanwhile, Jones’ changes, opting for further attacking width with the introductions of Mark Duffy (69’) and Thibaud Verlinden (78’), operating either side of lone forward Tyrese Campbell (brought on 61’), did not trouble the home side.

On 83’ it was 3-1, with industrious yet classy midfielder Gallagher finding the net for his first professional goal. Again, for Charlton, one dispatched from within the box.

An extremely encouraging start for Charlton
All in all, Charlton’s high energy approach, enhanced by a particular directness on the break, yet aided too by an effective mix of pace, creativity (notably through Williams) and, crucially, ruthlessness will give them a great chance in the majority of Championship games this season.

There’s a good 20+ goals in Taylor, and starts to a season like these really build early momentum; the kind which, in a number of the division’s previous years, including on a handful of occasions for promoted sides sustaining their previous campaign’s spirit, can initiate top-six or even top-two charges. Compatible with this, Bowyer said afterwards that “the lads are gaining confidence from these results”.

The loss of Anfernee Dijksteel to Middlesbrough in the final days of the transfer window may however prove damaging, with long-serving right-back Chris Solly, as reliable as he is and has been, now the only orthodox option in the position.

Moreover, in trying to play out from defence, the Addicks do occasionally get caught out. Namely, goalkeeper Phillips (jointly left red-faced with Naby Sarr for similar reasons at Wembley during the play-off final in May) being pressed right the way back to his byline at one point on Saturday. Solly did also seem to have been identified by Stoke for potential weakness on the ball.

An overriding positive though for Charlton is the remarkable spirit around The Valley, an atmosphere which has not always been forthcoming in recent years:

Having been relegated from the Championship at the end of the 2015/16 season, following a turbulent campaign consisting of three managers, supporters’ much publicised discontent with owner Roland Duchatelet reached toxic levels, with many holding the Belgian owner accountable for upsetting the club’s harmony and progress at the time of his January 2014 takeover: first sacking club legend Chris Powell, then proceeding to rather haphazardly appoint a string of managers with no English football experience (including three Belgian compatriots and Israeli Guy Luzon), all whilst providing little to no explanation as to any measured strategy.

Today however, though Duchatelet’s poor communication with the fanbase continues to bitterly frustrate the loyal Addicks following, the feel-good factor around manager Lee Bowyer is, for the time being, seemingly numbing widespread desperation for a change of ownership.

Yet more disappointment for Jones
For Stoke, it’s been a difficult period since relegation from the Premier League in May 2018, and having replaced Gary Rowett in January, Nathan Jones’ waves at Luton (notably League Two promotion in 2018, responsibility for the first half of the club’s 2019 League One championship, and a points per game ratio of 1.8, the highest of any Hatters boss) have not followed through into The Potteries. Indeed, the Welshman’s revolution has yet to take shape, and looks a long way off doing so based on Saturday’s toothless display.

Speaking to BBC Radio Stoke on Saturday evening, Jones maintained that his side are “creating enough chances”, but conceded that “goals win games” and “that’s what we’re [they’re] not doing”.

View From RowZ’s 2019/20 Premier League Preview

Where your team will finish and why, how many points they’ll achieve and who’ll top your goalscoring charts.

1st- Manchester City
They will become the first team since arch-rivals Manchester United in 2009 to secure three successive Premier League titles.
With a squad so lavishly stacked, a manager [Pep Guardiola] unrivalled in the art of interchanging countless individuals into his unequivocal philosophy and the combination of Guardiola’s ability to keep players unwaveringly motivated, along with recognition from these superb footballers that they couldn’t be in a better place, I’m expecting another ridiculous tally of points from City.
99 points
Top goal scorer- Raheem Sterling (24 goals)

2nd- Tottenham Hotspur
Having limped through a wretched obstacle course last season, in the form of a campaign which effectively rolled on from 2017/18 and the World Cup (by virtue of extreme involvement from Spurs players in the latter stages), Mauricio Pochettino’s side have finally had time to refresh, aided even more duly by three exciting transfer additions.
Now entering phase two of the Pochettino era, as well as full season No.1 in the glorious Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Spurs look ready to at least sustain conversation with City this year.
89 points
Top goal scorer- Harry Kane (25 goals)

3rd- Liverpool
Ending last campaign as Champions of Europe and the runners-up that people will remember, Liverpool’s mentality will be fascinating to assess: That is, will they proceed with the swagger that their continental title attributes them? Or will the disappointment of cashing 97 points in exchange for a runners-up medal harm their capacity to start, from scratch, another lung-busting pursuit of City?
Like Spurs last season, summer tournament participation from some key players and a lack of marquee investment is likely to hinder the potential for significant improvement.
88 points
Top goal scorer- Sadio Mané (24 goals)

4th- Arsenal
Unai Emery is a top-class manager and is without doubt the man to reshape what had become a stale regime at the Emirates Stadium.
Crucially, the defence will undoubtedly be better, bolstered by two winners in Kieran Tierney (albeit in Scottish football) and David Luiz, to assist the impressive Sokratis and stalwart Nacho Monreal.
Whilst at the top end, they look one of the Premier League’s most potent outfits, leading me to back them for a return to the Champions League, after what will have been a three-year absence.
80 points
Top goal scorer- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (27 goals)

5th- Manchester United
Like Arsenal, gapingly clear defensive deficiencies have been largely addressed. Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire look like fine moves, whilst you’d firmly expect David de Gea, off the back of a restful summer (both physically and mentally, the latter in relation to some fierce Spanish national team scrutiny), to rediscover masterful form.
Going forward, United possess a satisfactory cavalry as far as goals are concerned, but there’s still question marks surrounding Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial’s capacities to meet the lofty demands. Whilst Paul Pogba, last season’s top marksman with thirteen, likely to stay beyond the European transfer deadline (31st August for Spain, France and Germany) will be expected to contribute again from midfield.
76 points
Top goal scorer- Marcus Rashford (18 goals)

6th- Chelsea
They’ve lost Eden Hazard, been unable to sign anybody this summer (bar Christian Pulisic’s switch, confirmed in January) and welcome into the hotseat an ultimate club legend [Frank Lampard] with just one year of management experience.
That said, Chelsea’s squad is laden with know-how, crisp with young hungry talent and the club, from staff to supporters, is bursting with positivity.
I do believe that a top-four finish is beyond them this term, particularly due to involvement in this season’s Champions League and no guaranteed beacon in the way of goals, though am convinced that Lampard will be afforded the allusive commodity of time to build on a constrained first campaign.
73 points
Top goal scorer- Olivier Giroud (14 goals)

7th- Newcastle United
Troubled, toxic… please insert your description of the summer’s atmosphere on Tyneside.
However, amid Newcastle supporters’ untenable relationship with owner Mike Ashley, footballing mourning of Rafa Benítez’ departure and underwhelmed sentiments towards Steve Bruce’s appointment, it is my honest projection that Newcastle will do very well.
Having lost Salomón Rondón, Brazilian striker Joelinton has arrived from Hoffenheim for a hefty £40m. Described by South American football expert Tim Vickery to be “good with both feet, mobile and [a player with] some physical presence about him”, I’m expecting to see an effective Toon side, steered by a reliable and organised stalwart of English football in Bruce.
Whilst alongside Bruce, there’s a strong local contingent about the place, notably in the form of future England star Sean Longstaff and the returning Andy Carroll; who, if managed correctly, will be a huge asset.
The backline is strong, there’s some class in midfield and the personnel is suitable for a productive, direct approach, utilising pace, dynamism and physical presence.
54 points
Top goal scorer- Joelinton (16 goals)

8th- West Ham United
A fledgling team entering its second campaign under the stewardship of Manuel Pellegrini, the Hammers have recruited positively, dispensed of the disruptive Marko Arnautovic and are looking increasingly comfortable at the London Stadium.
Goals will be no bother, aided by the arrivals of Sébastien Haller and Albian Ajeti, and creativity is rife in the shape of Felipe Anderson, Pablo Fornals and long-missed fan favourite Manuel Lanzini.
It’ll be close between them and Newcastle for 7th, though I think, despite Lukasz Fabianski and Issa Diop’s strong performances last season, that their openness will entail a sizeable goals against column.
53 points
Top goal scorer- Sébastien Haller (14 goals)

9th- AFC Bournemouth
Always a top-heavy outfit, yet one which, since promotion to the Premier League in 2015, has never become embroiled in a relegation battle, Bournemouth, having kept hold of key players in Callum Wilson and David Brooks, meanwhile strengthening late-on loaning Harry Wilson from Liverpool, should plough along with vitality (true to their stadium’s title) once again.
49 points
Top goal scorer- Callum Wilson (17 goals)

10th- Leicester City
The Foxes’ summer had been going swimmingly until star defender Harry Maguire’s switch to Old Trafford. And though £80m embodies a hugely healthy financial windfall, there’s no doubt that the side looks weaker now than it did a week ago.
Brendan Rodgers’ team is youthful, emancipated and full of promise, displaying adequate clarity of direction for the fans to give the project time.
Youri Tielemans (as exemplified in my July article Tielemans: The Ace Fox in Leicester’s Skulk) is a young footballer I love, Harvey Barnes and Hamza Choudhury will progress and I can see Leicester enjoying a rollercoaster campaign that’ll renew optimism for the future at the King Power Stadium.
49 points
Top goal scorer- Jamie Vardy (15 goals)

11th- Everton
I anticipate what will be a damaging marginal trailing of Bournemouth and Leicester for Toffees boss Marco Silva.
Superficially, Everton’s business has been good within the transfer window just gone. However, I can still point to cavernous defensive shortcomings, aided not by the losses of Kurt Zouma in defence and Idrissa Gueye at the base of the midfield.
They certainly won’t struggle but will fall well short of the club’s coveted top-six challenge. Something the Goodison Park faithful are unlikely to accept with a smile.
48 points
Top goal scorer- Richarlison (11 goals)

12th- Wolverhampton Wanderers
Again, will not struggle, but are set to find themselves circumstantially constrained to repeat last season’s league form.
It’s easy to forget that Wolves are embarking on just their second season back in the Premier League, after a terrific 7th-place finish (securing Europa League qualification) and an (in the end heart-breaking) FA Cup semi-final.
Commendably, Nuno Espírito Santo pays upmost respect to each competition his team enters, leading me to project another FA or League Cup run and a strong showing in Europe. The latter meaning, of course, the age-old Thursday-Sunday curse.
46 points
Top goal scorer- Raúl Jiménez (14 goals)

13th- Burnley
From last year’s Europa League-qualifying overachievers to 2017/18’s, Burnley, though knocked out of Europe in late-August, began last season on the backfoot, having embarked on the first of an eventual six European ties in July and set themselves an unsurpassable final league position of 7th in May 2018.
With just three wins to their name by the final days of December, Sean Dyche succeeded in reinstalling Burnley’s renowned solidity, in the wake of Boxing Day’s crushing 5-1 home defeat at the hands of Everton.
Retaining James Tarkowski, a late transfer target of Leicester’s, was a key summer victory, whilst homegrown winger Dwight McNeil, duly creditable for 2019’s upturn in results, should shine again.
45 points
Top goal scorer- Jay Rodriguez (9 goals)

14th- Watford
A smartly run club with a smartly managed team, Watford will again renew their Premier League stay with no trouble at all.
Like Wolves, the side they dramatically dispatched to reach what was, unfortunately, a procession of an FA Cup Final against Man City, the Hornet’s have a manager in Javi Gracia who seems keen on a cup run, professing, ahead of the big day in May, that “as soon as I [he] arrived in England, I [he] felt how special The FA Cup is”. So another FA or League Cup run would not be a surprise.
Whilst squad-wise, keeping hold of Abdoulaye Doucouré, a fine player, and attaining the services of Danny Welbeck (fitness pending) to supplement an already potent attack containing Gerard Deulofeu, still only 25 and someone I believe has it in him to explode Mahrez-like, bodes well for another refreshing season at Vicarage Road.
45 points
Top goal scorer- Gerard Deulofeu (13 goals)

15th- Brighton & Hove Albion
Another club with a robust sense of direction, Brighton are foundationally secure both on and off the pitch: Off it in regard to the bonny AMEX Stadium, savvy owner Tony Bloom, reputed technical director Dan Ashworth (recruited from the England setup) and nomadic head coach Graham Potter; whilst on it in relation to former boss Chris Hughton’s solid footballing implementations, notably centre-halves Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy, in front of Aussie stopper Mathew Ryan.
Pascal Groß has impressed since arriving in English football, whilst Aaron Mooy, Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard could be inspired acquisitions. Variables pointing towards a relatively worry-free campaign for the Seagulls.
43 points
Top goal scorer- Neal Maupay (14 goals)

16th- Aston Villa
Poked for much of the summer with comparisons to Fulham’s transfer activity a year ago, after their promotion (also, like Villa’s) via the play-offs, everybody is intrigued to see how Dean Smith’s team get on.
Having spent over £100m on no fewer than twelve players, nine of whom are untested in the Premier League, Smith leads his boyhood club back into the top-flight with an arsenal of reinforcements behind him.
As with many promotions, loan players played a massive role last term for Villa, who’ve been able to reobtain Tyrone Mings, Anwar El Ghazi and Kortney Hause. Though not Tammy Abraham or Axel Tuanzebe, who return to Chelsea and Man United respectively.
New striker Wesley is a relatively unknown quantity up top, however goals should materialise sufficiently across midfield and attack to ensure survival.
41 points
Top goal scorer- Wesley (13 goals)

17th- Crystal Palace
Presuming Wilfried Zaha does stay beyond the European transfer deadline, so much, in regard to Palace’s success this season, will depend on whether or not their talisman’s focus will be affected by a summer’s worth of uncertainty surrounding his future. And, indeed, dependent on no January transfer for the Ivorian.
Palace are often a wildcard, registering a large quantity of goals from alternative sources: namely penalties (won by Zaha, converted by Luka Milivojevic), left-back Patrick van Aanholt and ridiculously spectacular wonderstrikes (none more so than Andros Townsend’s stunning volley against Man City).
Bosses don’t come more seasoned this campaign than 72-year-old Croydon-born Roy Hodgson, whilst almost everybody in the Eagles’ squad looks capable of scoring. They’ll just have enough.
40 points
Top goal scorer- Wilfried Zaha (14 goals)

18th- Southampton
The Saints certainly got a bounce from Ralph Hasenhüttl’s appointment last December, though by no means danced to safety.
This campaign, they’ll be looking to finally extract some consistency from the ever-promising Nathan Redmond and will harbour high hopes for 22-goal Championship man Che Adams. Always an encouraging outfit on paper, Southampton have underachieved for two seasons now, leading me to fear for them should they have a rocky start.
Hasenhüttl, in spite of some positive results, was unable to wholesomely transform them into his full throttle approach, and I’m not convinced they’ve reinforced the squad enough to aid the process.
38 points
Top goal scorer- Che Adams (8 goals)

19th- Sheffield United
A similar proposition to that of Cardiff City last season, yet with slightly more about them in my view, Sheffield United have recruited sparingly and predominantly from the league they’ve recently vacated.
Managed, like Villa, by a boyhood fan [Chris Wilder], United (led from the Championship as runners-up by a Yorkshireman, again like Cardiff) will be a fascinating watch, and a side most away from the blue half of Sheffield will wish all the best.
Wilder’s 5-3-2 system is to give the Blades the greatest possible chance of survival, allowing for a firm base (commanded by returning hero Phil Jagielka, see On the Move Like Jaga: Sheff Utd re-sign Jagielka), ample width and a combination of energy and presence (respectively) up front with Callum Robinson and Oliver McBurnie.
36 points
Top goal scorer- Oliver McBurnie (7 goals)

20th- Norwich City
Harsh considering they won the Championship, but Norwich just wreak of a club setting up to yo-yo: in that, relegation followed by promotion the season after this would not shock me.
They won’t disgrace themselves, but it’s just unrealistic to envisage near enough the same squad repeating last year’s freescoring exploits. An incredible 93 league goals were bagged by the champions in 2018/19, but, this time around, even 40 will be a massive challenge.
At the other end, it was far from an unflappable Canaries defence in the title winning campaign, and I anticipate a steep learning curve of a first Premier League season for highly touted young full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis.
35 points
Top goal scorer- Teemu Pukki (9 goals)

When Did Popular Perception of Rooney Change?

Rooney’s unveiling to the press at Pride Park got me thinking as to whether or not the popular perception of him as a footballer has somehow altered during his professional career.

Yesterday, Wayne Rooney joined Derby County on an 18-month player-coach deal which will begin in January 2020.

The move, seeing England’s record goal scorer leave MLS side DC United, progressed rapidly after Derby manager Phillip Cocu declined to deny the rumours. This in the immediate aftermath of the new boss’ first game in charge, as the Rams claimed a 2-1 victory at Huddersfield in their Monday night Championship opener.

Rooney has somewhat rediscovered himself in Washington, scoring 25 goals in 45 appearances in total, albeit in a largely inferior league, however much the MLS and its endorsers may postulate its undeniable growth.

A deal kept impeccably under wraps by Derby owner Mel Morris, we’ve scarcely had time to reflect on neither the rumour nor completion of transfer, as Monday’s noises were subsequently validated and soon after confirmed: first as Rooney arrived at Heathrow early Tuesday, then when announced as a Derby County player-coach in the early afternoon.

Rooney’s unveiling to the press at Pride Park however got me thinking as to whether or not the popular perception of him as a footballer has somehow altered during his professional career, 17 years and counting.
Indeed, this consideration was evoked by the following question from a journalist during the press conference:
“You have won 16 major trophies, England’s all-time leading goal scorer and yet here you are talking about the appetite to play in England’s second tier. Where do you still get that desire from?”
To which Rooney replied:
“That is football. It is what I have done my whole life, it is what I love and until my body says that you cannot do it no more, I will keep doing it.”

Whether, traditionally, described as a ‘street footballer’, a ‘working-class lad living his dream’ or something else of a similar distinction, the Wayne Rooney of 2002-2010 (a period incorporating his Everton breakthrough and foremost spell of Manchester United success) was roundly perceived to possess the ultimate hunger for the game. Epitomised within 2015 documentary Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals, which reveals that the Everton hero, “too young to celebrate with his teammates” (narration by Gary Lineker) after scoring the winner and his first professional goal against Arsenal, “went back to Croxteth for his second game that day”.

My main question, therefore, is do we still look at Rooney as that same young man who, above all (bar of course family commitments), wants to be out on concrete, grass or glass kicking a ball? Or has something changed? To the point that somebody may question, for whatever reason, why, having achieved what he has in the game, his enthusiasm to grace the field remains undiminished. And if so, when did the shift begin?

Money
An uncomfortable reality within the modern game, yet one we’re pretty comfortable discussing. Speculating about it too, and the ways in which astronomical figures modify the priorities of today’s footballer (as, dually, a generalised conception and human commodity).

In regard to Rooney, it was in the Autumn of 2010 when contractually concerned reports first began to taint his conventional identity. This beginning in the August, when he told Man United chiefs that he would not be renewing his deal with the club. According to Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, the striker’s rationale for refusing to commit was insufficient ambition, though Ferguson proceeds to insinuate that “he’d been programmed [by agent Paul Stretford] in what he was trying to say”, during a meeting over the matter with Fergie. The narrative of the greedy agent and questionably represented footballer is one at the very forefront of the current transfer sphere (rearing countlessly this summer, namely surrounding Gareth Bale, agent Jonathan Barnett and the Welshman’s Chinese transfer saga). Rooney eventually signed on for five years in October 2010, with the deal netting him £180,000 a week.

The affair did not sit well with many, mostly for reasons concerning money. Not only due to his extraordinary new wage (later plunged into perspective by the extension signed in 2014), but also his rather unfounded assertions about the club’s inadequate ambition, despite three Premier League titles in four years, two Champions League finals (victorious in 2008) in three and a League Cup that year. United’s neighbours Manchester City, then two years into their Abu Dhabi financial splurge, therefore acted as leverage for Stretford, who, knowing he could cite them as potentially improved suitors for Rooney (particularly following Carlos Tevez’ move across town the previous summer), rather forced the Old Trafford side’s hand in caving to player and (perhaps more pertinently) agent demands. All whilst, on the pitch, City had yet to end their 34-year trophy drought or qualify for the Champions League. Somewhat justifying scattered belief that football had become a secondary concern of the England strikers’.

Rooney’s next contract extension, signed in February 2014 to earn him up to £300,000 a week, left people similarly unsettled. Indeed, having been embroiled in another transfer saga (this time with Chelsea being the most profoundly uttered destination) from Ferguson’s exit to the beginning of the 2013/14 season, the end result was again a hugely improved monetary package. Staying a United player allowed him to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time goalscoring record, entrenching the football-loving lad from humble beginnings’ place in English football folklore. But perhaps it’s the various transfer bluffs, which could have compromised the aforementioned achievement, that have caused people to propose a slip in footballing hunger.

Personal Life, Lifestyle and Ronaldo
Be it tabloid revelations of infidelity, or the recurrent idea that his lifestyle has been far from conducive to optimal performance and longevity (admittedly supported, intermittently, by seemingly below-par outward physical condition), public respect for Rooney has at times been hindered by some of his conduct. Bluntly, nobody likes a ‘cheat’, whilst many harbour frustrations as to how much better he could have been with such prodigious talent, had he simply looked after himself better. At which point, the inevitable Cristiano Ronaldo comparisons emerge. Unfairly in my view.

Returning to the journalist to player exchange at Pride Park yesterday, any indirect implication that Rooney’s “appetite” or “desire” might have waned can be attributed to the divergent career trajectories of himself and Ronaldo. Arguably on a parallel straight in the era before and immediately after the 2006 World Cup, Rooney, whilst advancing to become a superb player, undeniably became the inferior one out of the duo:Rooney vs Ronaldo

Credited for an unequivocal eagerness to play, willingness to line-up out of position for tactical reasons (often filling in out wide in Champions League ties) and even a tendency to ‘play angry’ (a trait numerously landing him in petulant bother early on in his career, though recognised as a sometimes regrettable by-product of Rooney’s positively fervent nature), the original conception of the forward depicts a young man who, as reiterated by himself yesterday, has spent his life playing football and intends to do so for as long as physically possible. In which case, could Ronaldo’s unwavering exploits be a factor for the perception change?

For all the recurring cliché’s uttered above about Rooney, one which rarely, if ever, features is the old stays behind after training notion. The phrase effectively follows players noted for exceptional work ethic and constant desire to better themselves. Where Ronaldo famously does not drink alcohol (one major reason being substance abuse suffered by his late Father), is fabled to tirelessly nurture his technique and (clearly) looks after his body both nutritionally and practically, Rooney could certainly have made some more bodily enhancing choices

Much, therefore, makes him a victim of once being on a par with Ronaldo. Alas, regardless of subjective judgements on levels of natural talent, nobody can indisputably argue that Rooney could ever have either genetically or applicably (via extreme, Ronaldo-esque dedication) sustain his counterpart’s achievements. Thus, at 33 (one-year Ronaldo’s junior) he finds himself, for a multitude of physiological explanations beyond his control, a world away from the Portuguese legend’s renewed Champions League and league title winning triumphs.

The bottom line here, a change of perception born out of an unfortunately premature decline as a top top-level footballer.

Beckham: A Culmination of Both the Above
As a final cross-section of the central question surrounding Rooney, David Beckham is evocative of much previously outlined in this article.

Contrastingly to Rooney’s narrative of exceptional natural ability, Beckham has been traditionally labelled as a lad just as hungry to play, but supplemented by a work ethic comparable to that of Ronaldo. Yes, the aforementioned training ground adage has indeed stuck to him. Be it crossing, set-pieces, long-range passing or maximisation of limited pace, Beckham has been noted, from stories of drills with his Father in Ridgeway Park to many additional hours spent at Carrington, to have optimised his ability through utter perseverance towards his childhood dream.

But like Rooney, intensification of fame and money appeared to conceive a myth that he had lost his edge in regard to the game. Admittedly, Sir Alex Ferguson’s substantially believable account of Beckham’s latter United years conveys diminishment of footballing focus, as he, like Rooney, has filled many tabloid columns over the years. Plus the various sponsorships stacked on top of sizable professional footballers’ wages.

Beckham, as Rooney did, won it all at Old Trafford, yet fell victim to the same change in perception, advanced, to a fair degree, by the same factors. Again unjustly, considering he played until the age of 38, tested himself in four top European leagues (as well as in the MLS) and never retired from International football. He’s also arguably, like Ronaldo, at a genetic advantage to Rooney, who, though ready to enter an extremely demanding league just a tier below the Premier League, has a lot of work to do to achieve another five years in the higher reaches as a player. Hence, perhaps the player-coach angle, due possibly, if his Derby contract is seen out, to see him bow out as a player at the age of 35.


Tuesday’s development is nothing less than enthralling, piling another layer of intrigue onto the Championship.

The question posed to Rooney at Pride Park, I must stress, was absolutely apt and very evocative. Everybody of course is different, and the enormous sums of footballing honours and economic rewards swept by Rooney over 17 years may indeed adversely affect some footballers’ appetite for the game. It was simply, however, a shock, remembering the orthodox perception of Wayne Rooney, to entertain the possibility that he would ever lose that explosive desire. I suppose as much as it has been, over the last 6 years or so, for many to watch his game slow down to the extent that it has.

*Podcast* The Year Ends in 1: Episode 1 Part 1

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-year-ends-in-1/id1474531217?i=1000445487738

Recorded Saturday 13th July 2019:

Chaired by a Tottenham supporter Ian Wallis, 5 fellow Spurs fans (Casper Wallis, 11, Simeon Wright, 21, Rikki Swarbrick, 41, Rob White, son of Spurs legend John White and co-author of The Ghost: In Search of My Father the Football Legend, and Peter Wright, 61, discuss a broad agenda of matters concerning Tottenham Hotspur.
Spanning several generations, the inaugrual edition delves into why we came to support the club (and what subsequently hooked us), our differential expectations, appraisals of the club’s current position (for example, whether or not 2 trophies in 28 years is acceptable).

Part 2 assesses each individual’s favourite era of watching Spurs, best and worst moments and projections as to what the future holds for Spurs.

Our 61-year-old participant symbolises Tottenham’s last league title success (1961😱), whilst our 11-year-old supporter was born in 2008 (the year of our very last trophy).
Furthermore, the 1-year-old son of another participant represents the many promising years ahead for the club.

Tielemans: The Ace Fox in Leicester’s Skulk

Leicester City have broken their transfer record for the second time in less than a week to complete the signing of 22-year-old Belgium international midfielder Youri Tielemans, for a reported £40m.

Having spent spent the second-half of last season on loan at the King Power Stadium, the Foxes were successful in chasing off apparent interest from the likes of Manchester United to finalise a permanent deal for the exciting young playmaker (widely regarded as one the brightest talents in European football), enhancing the air of optimism around the city, as the new Premier League season draws closer.

The move follows the £30m acquisition of Ayoze Perez from Newcastle on Thursday, and speaking today about the capture, Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has expressed his delight: “I’m delighted that Youri has chosen to be part of Leicester City’s journey. It’s an incredibly exciting time for this football club and to be able to bring players of Youri’s quality here is an indication of the hunger for success we have”.

A player at the right end of his 20s, with experience in the World Cup, Champions League and three top-flight European leagues, Leicester have secured a player who could, without doubt, play for any side in the Premier League. That said, the 2016 champions, at £40m, have perhaps paid a fee substantially beneath that which Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and even Spurs (in light of their £63m paid to another French club [Lyon] for a similarly touted midfield starlet [Tanguy Ndombele, also 22]) would’ve been charged for Tielemans’ services.

Indeed, the fairy tale of three years ago may have reverberated around football world, but without forthcoming involvement in European competition, opportunistic recognition from other clubs of any such desperation to fix their squad (much like Leicester themselves’ rather extortionate demands to ‘crisis-ridden’ United for Harry Maguire) or any frivolous examples of Leicester waving wads of cash around, they’ve sealed a bargain deal for somebody whose value will almost certainly increase; and swiftly too.

Moreover, in expansion to the factor of no European football at the King Power, Rodgers’ young, liberated regime has the ideal mix of realistic league ambition (that being to, at least, challenge the monopoly of the top 6), a fresh feel-good factor and a clear footballing philosophy; without the derailing proposition of the Europa League.

The addition of Tielemans may well prove to be the most influential of any made by Leicester this summer, as he is perfect for a plethora of in-game scenarios: likely to excel again (this time to an even greater degree) as the more advanced midfield force alongside the ever-maturing tenacious pair of Wilfred Ndidi and Hamza Choudhury, the Belgian has the ability to orchestrate a front-footed possession game, as well as utilise that same technical adeptness in the form of ball retention to conserve results and also serve the ever-green explosiveness of Jamie Vardy during matches suiting a counter-attacking approach.

In light of Tielemans’ permanent arrival, a signature of such pedigree both justifies the excitement ahead of Rodgers’ first full season and emphasises the statement and view to progression required to convince the likes of Ben Chilwell and much sought-after Harry Maguire to remain part of the venture. Tielemans’ performances towards the back end of the season, notably an authoritative display in the 3-0 victory over Arsenal in April, were certainly worthy of other potential suitors. However, his readiness to return to the East Midlands, with such a way still to go in the window, epitomises the infectious spirit and anticipation surrounding the club, spanning the gateway period from May to imminent August.

Having scored 3 times in his 13 Premier League appearances last term, Tielemans also has 23 caps and a single international goal to his name. Goals are certainly a commodity he’ll be looking to add more regularly to his game, though it’s something he’s in a fantastic position to do, playing for attack-minded club and international [Roberto Martínez] coaches; whilst training and lining up, several times a year, alongside one of the world’s foremost goalscoring midfield players: Kevin De Bruyne. Of course, there’s much more too for him to learn from the Man City star.

Furthermore, though he scored just once for Monaco in 2017/18, struggling also with the team during the first-half of their chaotic 2018/19 campaign, an excellent tally of 18 goals from midfield during his final season at Anderlecht (before moving to France for €25m in May 2017) reminds us that that particular trait is there.

In the name of team development, the buy represents the continuation of a project at Leicester which is very much in its infancy. Initially loaned back in January by Frenchman Claude Puel to fit into his patient and retentive style of play, it took a month for Tielemans to hit his capable stride, amid turmoil and swelling toxicity surrounding the aforementioned manager. Though in the weeks following Puel’s February sacking, he would become instrumental in a run of 5 wins (and just 2 losses) from the Foxes’ final 9 league fixtures; much accreditable to Rodgers’ more emancipated incarnation of the Frenchman’s possession-based football. The Belgian started every game of the run-in, impressing too as Leicester held Man City for 70 minutes at the Etihad in May, frustrating the free-scoring (eventual) champions until Vincent Kompany’s iconic piledriver.

All in all, Leicester have pulled off a major coup. The Foxes face 5 of last season’s the top 7 in their opening 8 league games, including a trip to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea on matchday 2. Indeed, with such a tricky start, optimism could quickly turn to pressure, so it will be interesting to see how Tielemans, as promising and classy as he is, may react to an adverse run of results. Particularly in light of his involvement in Monaco’s capitulation from last season’s outset. That said, he and this dangerous, yet foundationally robust (allowing the likes of the Belgian to express himself) Leicester side will no doubt revel in the prospect of quieting what will be a euphoric Stamford Bridge during Lampard’s homecoming.

So all things considered, this is how Leicester, by virtue of their squad today, may line-up against Wolves on 11th August:

Leicester lineup

On the Move Like Jaga: Sheff Utd re-sign Jagielka

On Thursday, defender Phil Jagielka re-signed with Sheffield United on a one-year contract, following his release by Everton.

Premier League stalwart (see Premier League 2019/20 STALWART XI) Jagielka, 36, who cut short a seven-year association with United (his first professional club) on 4th July 2007, returned exactly twelve years on from the day he departed.

Having previously made 254 league appearances between 2000 and 2007, including ever-presence in United’s 2006/07 Premiership campaign, the (then) 24-year-old had mustered both rounded professional experience within the English game and an impressive reputation, by virtue of invariable participation in every Blades league fixture during his final three seasons there, as a highly accomplished, reliable and versatile defensive asset. A combination of attributes which attracted the interest of the day’s Everton boss David Moyes, whose sides had been known for their resilience, awkwardness to defeat and, above all, effectiveness in attaining strong sums of league points season-on-season.

Last Time Around

Over the years, a handful of clubs have graced the Premier League for just a season or two, yet have managed to make their mark and, subsequently, stick in the memory. For instance, Ian Holloway’s all-out-attacking Blackpool were unforgettable participants of the 2010/11 campaign, whilst Bradford City’s unlikely survival in 1999/2000 (though only to go down the next year) saw them memorably escape by beating Liverpool at Valley Parade in the season finale. Similarly, Sheffield United’s contribution to 2006/07 has sustained recollection; and Jagielka, coupled with manager Neil Warnock, was a leading character during the brief stint.

Indeed, he was at the forefront of each success (though limited of course by eventual relegation) enjoyed by the team. Regularly standing in for club captain Chris Morgan at times of absence, Jagielka put in star showings all across the park: kicking off the season in front of the back four, before dropping into a more natural centre-half birth shortly after; yet still occasionally resurfacing in the higher echelons of the pitch, notably to hit a corker on the half-volley to claim a late first victory of the season against Middlesbrough. Whilst he also converted 2/2 penalties (a skill he’d later utilise in blue to send Everton to the 2010 FA Cup Final) and even kept a goalkeeping clean sheet, having been forced to replace the injured Paddy Kenny between the sticks on the hour-mark against Arsenal. A game which they won 1-0, with Jagielka justifying Warnock’s decision not to name a goalkeeper on his five-man bench.

After moving on to Everton for a bargain £4m fee, following the disappointing outcome of his inaugural top-flight year, Jagielka went on to play 322 times for the Toffees in the Premier League; early on as a sitting midfielder or right-back, but soon as the second component of a robust centre-half unit alongside Joleon Lescott. Jagielka also represented his country 40 times, emerging as a particular favourite of Roy Hodgson’s in the middle of the England boss’ defence.

An international defender and stalwart of two big English football clubs, yet a tier below the elite players of his generation, he has been a perfect fit into club and international sides whose approach to matches, league campaigns and tournaments have not been bound by overwhelming expectancy of dominant success; managed often, too, by ‘old-fashioned’ British managers, who have commonly valued a firm base, natural leaders and unwavering commitment to historic shirts and ardent fans. All qualities which Jagielka has classically invoked. Though he, of course, must also be given credit for his proficiency on the ball, allowing him to make the aforementioned appearances in midfield, as well as remain a trustee within Roberto Martínez’ regime of possession-based football at Everton.

So as Jagielka strolls back down Bramall Lane (seemingly at will), there’s little to no uncertainty, both internally and externally, as to the nature and vast experience of the man that Sheffield United are reattaining; though sentiment, due to a definite (if expected) decline in his recent performances, has been murmured as a principal and, perhaps, irrational vehicle for the transfer. Though, for sure, he and United have unfinished business together, and if you’re looking for a dark horse for a potential game or atmospheric occasion of the season, then look no further than West Ham’s visit to Bramall Lane.

Indeed, the Blades’ relegation in May 2007 was certainly among the unluckiest in Premier League history, falling victim to some extremely poor refereeing decisions within games involving both themselves and fellow strugglers West Ham: Notably, a dubious penalty awarded to Liverpool by Rob Styles on the opening day, when Blades captain Chris Morgan mildly caught Steven Gerrard; and arguably one of the worst decisions ever seen in the league, as West Ham’s Bobby Zamora was accredited the winning goal at Blackburn, despite Carlos Tevez not only blocking the ball in front of the goal line, but also doing so in an explicitly offside position.

Speaking to Sky Sports immediately after relegation, having just been beaten by usurpers to 17th Wigan on the final day, Warnock alluded to both exemplified game changing calls, with direct reference to “Mr [Jim] Devine” (the linesman on the day at Blackburn’s Ewood Park) evoking both his aggravation towards the Liverpool penalty ruling and (though coincidently and by no means Warnock’s intention) the near divine intervention of the Hammers’ Argentine during the back end of that season, having arrived at West Ham alongside Javier Mascherano under ‘shady’ circumstances.

The Hammers, crucially, avoided a points deduction for their purchase of the pair, who had been the subjects of third-party ownership; contrary to Premier League rules. Indeed, it was Tevez’ goals, including the winner at Old Trafford on matchday 38, which are largely recognised to have kept his side up, sending the Yorkshire club the other way in the process. They had yet to return until promotion last season.

Sheff Utd relegated

In light of these controversies, Jagielka and Blades supporters alike will be all the more determined to survive this time around, as well as get one (or two) over on the East Londoners to boot. West Ham visit Bramall Lane 11th January 2020, and with ‘one of their own’ returning to play for ‘one of their own’ [Chris Wilder], motivation within the dressing room is unlikely to be a problem.

Finally, aged 36, the one-year deal signed by Jagielka gives him the chance to join the eleven below in continuing, in spite of senior age and significant miles on the clock, to pull on Premier League jerseys:

Premier League 2019/20 STALWART XI

GK- Joe Hart, Burnley, 32:
340 appearances
Debut- October 2006 (Man City vs Sheff Utd)

RB- Phil Bardsley, Burnley, 34:
278 appearances
Debut- September 2005 (Man United vs Blackburn)

CB- Phil Jagielka, Sheff Utd, 36:
360 appearances
Debut- August 2006 (Sheff Utd vs Liverpool)

CB- Adrian Mariappa, Watford, 32:
143 appearances
Debut- August 2006 (Everton vs Watford

LB- Leighton Baines, Everton, 34:
412 appearances
Debut- August 2005 (Wigan vs Chelsea)

RM- Aaron Lennon, Burnley, 32:
372 appearances
Debut- August 2003 (Tottenham vs Leeds)

CM- James Milner, Liverpool, 33:
516 appearances
Debut- November 2002 (West Ham vs Leeds)

CM- Mark Noble, West Ham, 32:
349 appearances
Debut- August 2005 (West Ham vs Blackburn)

LM- Ashley Young, Man United, 33:
357 appearances
Debut- August 2006 (Everton vs Watford)

ST- Theo Walcott, Everton, 30:
321 appearances
Debut- August 2006 (Arsenal vs Aston Villa)

ST- Shane Long, Southampton, 32:
271 appearances
Debut- August 2006 (Aston Villa vs Reading)

Hillsborough Disaster: Conflicting News Sources

Within UK society, an ongoing narrative is competition between differential news organisations to shape public opinion and define the world locally, nationally and, increasingly so, internationally. Technology and the mass media are major vehicles advancing these battles, having been so from the lengthy era of the traditional printing press to use of newer platforms like social media. Sharing the plethora of platforms, rival news sources work to project their ideas and values. Though the playing field is far from level. Indeed, various factors affect the fortunes of sources, irrespective of their integrity, in defining the news agenda.

A particularly poignant and tragic case study demonstrating media-management struggles, clashing groups of news sources and contentious influence on news is the Hillsborough disaster, as a series of political, civil and media conflicts led to a paradigm of victim blaming, causing wholehearted endeavours for unequivocal truth and subsequent justice to continue over 25 years on from the event.
On 15th April 1989, 96 supporters of Liverpool Football Club lost their lives during a fatal crush at Hillsborough Stadium during the semi-final of the FA Cup. In the aftermath, an unsavoury narrative rumbled, whereby fans were blamed and negligent individuals and institutions were not held to account, an unacceptable state of affairs symptomatic of the inequalities in the industry of media-management, as well as the civic state of Britain at the time. Notable news sources relevant to the controversy include a particular leading national newspaper, some overall less influential local publications and a selection of questionable public service reports.

Powerful Sources and Hillsborough’s Dominant Frame
News sources are the variety of mass media organisations which uncover, publish and circulate news to the public. These range from superficial forms like hard newspaper copies to less transparent information forces like news agencies. Though similarly to how divergent political organisations project alternate ideologies and values, rival news sources often frame events and affairs contrastingly in order to push their preferential agenda. A major determining factor as to the influence of a source is the extent of its “power to speak publicly” (Franklin and Carlson, 2011), a liberty most readily available to larger publications, thus allowing them to “define the world”. In the case of Hillsborough, national newspaper The Sun set the most powerful and harmful agenda.

Purchased in 1969 by Rupert Murdoch’s News International (Cashfloat, 2016), the tabloid is notorious for audacious opinions, outrageous stories and fickle political allegiances; yet envied for its ability to assert definitive ‘truths’. In regard to Hillsborough, all aforementioned elements were present in forefront media accounts of the tragedy. Indeed, as a top national periodical, The Sun is optimally prominent in regard to the “mixture of voices that regularly appear” (Franklin and Carlson), meaning a wider scope to exert far greater influence on the news. In congruence with its might in the newsprint market, even recently remaining (as it was in the 1990s) the most circulated UK newspaper (Agility PR Solutions, 2017), parent company News Corp (formerly News International) boasts notable control of both the superficial and more covert levels of the citizenry information streams. The latter in the form of news agencies. Therefore, the result surrounding the disaster saw accounts of the event instantly led by an infamous article, published on 19th April 1989, headlined: “THE TRUTH”. In it read unfounded reports that drunken fans pickpocketed the dead, urinated on and assaulted police officers and, ultimately, were to blame for allegedly forcing their way into the stadium without tickets. Overt vilification of Liverpudlian people, not for the first time in the late 20th century (political context to be later explored), which would barricade justice for over a quarter of a century.

The Liverpool Echo: Fighting for its Community
Meanwhile, local publication the Liverpool Echo, though admittedly partial too, is and was an example of a more supplementary voice competing in the fierce media-management sphere. Quick to sympathise with its immediate community, the newspaper sought to defend Liverpool supporters amid “baseless accusations” (Bradbury, 2013) within nationwide reports. In paradox to The Sun’s copies the same day, it led with the headline: “SPEAKING UP FOR MERSEYSIDE”, proceeding to “challenge London papers and Sheffield police” to “PRODUCE EVIDENCE”. However, influence on the news at large from such a source is inherently compromised (geographically to name but one factor), epitomised by the Echo’s rather reactionary and backfooted tones of coverage. Its articles from the time, resurfaced by Bradbury, were published as mere responses. For example, mimicking of The Sun’s account with its own release entitled “THE REAL Truth”, mockingly channelling its ideological competitor’s structural delivery right down to its statement of the ‘facts’ in bullet point form. Finally, Bradbury’s penultimate archive (“THE PROOF”, 21st April 1989) depicts illustrations and subsequent explanations of evidence that the Reds’ fans were blameless. Alas, what is regretful about this is that the Echo’s desperate scramble for validation is ultimately indicative of major news sources’ defaulted pole position in public interest storytelling, regardless of the evidence they do or do not present.

A Lack of Interest in the Truth
Digital advancements in regard to the media have presented yet more challenges to the journalistic profession. Namely, the relentless need to produce material and the public’s growing reluctance to pay for news. However, as supported by the case study (occurring during a roaring period for the press), such pressures on reporters and journalists aren’t entirely new phenomena. Indeed, even when print media was arguably the leading player in the news industry, the most powerful sources still dominated society’s interpretations of stories. In light of this, it’s conceivable to suggest that many professionals in fact roll-over regarding media-management struggles, rather conforming to principal narratives supplied by elite sources. Gandy (1982), for example, alludes to utilisation of “information subsidies”, causing the more investigative virtues of journalism to be restrained by comfortable and often passive reliance on mainstream sources. An unhealthy passivity highlighted by Davies (2008) in specific connection to the deployment of “PR to serve some political or commercial interest”. Both journalists and citizens here are consequently affected. As such common practice, a dangerous product of the convention is effectively a sanctioning of consent for “news sources to shape the news agenda” (Berkowitz and Adams, 1990). Furthermore, broad circulation of such information, akin to Hillsborough’s press-led victim blaming paradigm, inevitably means that the people are bombarded with one-sided news testimonies, as the dominant sources are inherently “more readily accessible to the public” (Robinson). In addition, there’s also an increased likelihood that the empowered subsidies will trickle down into regional newsrooms. Examples of this relating to Hillsborough to be pinpointed later.

A Lack of Interest in the Truth: The Police and Government Agenda
The ideological standpoint of news sources and the effect of news events on particular organisations’ public image has much to do with how they may spin narratives. Thus, as previously identified, the political context of Britain at the time of the tragedy is extremely applicable to such actions. Moreover, it may be in the interest of an institution to frame an event for reasons born out of self-defence; for example, following occupational malpractice resulting in disastrous consequences. In scenarios of the like, organisations attempt to get “the media to ‘play along’, convincing them that a spin story is correct” (Maltese, 1994). In specific reference to Hillsborough, the latter state of affairs befits cover-up efforts and subsequent legal exoneration (until only recently) of inept public services, both on the scene and in the aftermath.

Following on, reaction to Hillsborough from high-profile sectors of the media ran parallel with rife social unrest and disconnects in society. To look, as a comparative instance, at a US-based political communications study, Walters, Walters and Gray (1996), paraphrased by Robinson, suggest that subjecting citizens to partial information subsidies and consequent media coverage help to “legitimise campaign messages”. The research examines public relations (PR) ploys (specifically strategic press releases) during the 1992 presidential election, though resonates regarding Hillsborough in that UK prime minister of the day Margaret Thatcher, “primary definers” (Hall et al., 1978) of crime (including various public service organisations and professions) and the mainstream media all had various agenda to sustain alignment with. To expand on Hall, the assertion within his work that “police, Home Office and courts form a near-monopoly as sources of crime news in the media” is extremely significant in that competent scrutiny of those in positions of power, a traditional role of the media (namely the “press”) as “the public sphere’s pre-eminent institution” (Habermas, 1962), is compromised. As a result, when major incidents like the disaster occur, already difficult and sensitive circumstances are liable to be exacerbated by miscarriages of justice, with society not systematically set up to effectively “hold the police to account” (Mawby, 2010). With Hillsborough, though “Lord Justice Peter Taylor’s interim report” depicts an early suggestion of negligence and subsequent responsibility on the part of “South Yorkshire Police” (The Week UK), the initial inquest (concluded 28th March 1991) ruled accidental death, clearing all institutions and persons of any criminality. Additionally, the evidential substance behind the aforementioned verdict exemplifies further corruption, born out of the primary definition monopoly. Indeed, Dr Stefan Popper’s (South Yorkshire coroner) report did not only disregard factors arising after 3:15pm (including emergency service reaction), but Popper has also been accused of allowing “police to deluge his inquest with stories of drunkenness and misbehaviour” (Conn, 2016) on the part of fans. Ultimately, with the inquest confirming a completion of the death toll by 3:15pm that day, coupled with dismissal of any police culpability, neither the emergency services, any law enforcement offices nor even the coroner’s actions would be brought to thorough questioning. Hence the paradigm of supporter blaming, which, following the aforementioned official judicial hearing, would be durably consolidated as a fact of legal record.

To finally explore directly the socio-political context surrounding the events in 1989, the role of The Sun must again be foregrounded. Contrast.org recalls a “historical media framework that already labelled Liverpool rebellious and anarchistic”, advanced dually by both prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. The latter politician’s feud with the city was in connection to Militant group’s control of Liverpool City Council (vocalised by Kinnock’s fellow party member Derek Hatton). The group led its campaign in the spotlight of the media with the controversial and rather normless slogan “better to break the law than to break the poor”. In expansion, the council’s establishment of an illegal budget in 1985 unfortunately proved to be damaging PR for Liverpool as a whole. Militant also actively challenged the Conservative government’s poll tax policy in 1989 (November, though the same year as Hillsborough), notably setting up the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation. Consequently, blame for the tragedy was laid at the door of matchday supporters, which no doubt corresponded as a suitable outcome for some of Parliament’s bigwigs. Whilst as a side note, the Toxteth riots of 1981 (which followed London’s Brixton riots the same year) was indicative of the social struggles between police and some citizens. In this isolated case, violent strains between Liverpool’s black community and Merseyside police, which visually infiltrated national news, thus painting the city (like in regard to Militant) in anarchic fashion. A significant response within the walls of Parliament was ministerial endorsements laid at Thatcher’s door to send Liverpool (and Merseyside’s “stony grounds”) into a state of “managed decline” (BBC, 2011). Meanwhile, lowly reputed Liverpudlians fell further victim to their predisposed media perception; one which The Sun, as emphasised prior, emphatically utilised in framing Hillsborough.

Other Nationwide Accounts
The immediate efforts of the Liverpool Echo to counter the harmful, unsympathetic and unproven nationwide event narratives proved relatively futile, as ‘elite’ sources swarmed both newsrooms and the print media. Indeed, considering the scholarly suggestion that “media organisations” have taken to “reducing their news gathering resources at local level” (Mawby), strained further by the same author’s assertion of strengthening police PR positions (“forces are committing greater resources to their communications functions”), the potential for any information circulator to succumb to truths out of coercion from broader society may be heightened. Regarding the police, PR activities which saw the media “drip fed” their “sound bites” (Contrast.org) reflects the matter. So much so that one notable employee of the Liverpool Daily Post, almost unbelievably, followed both national periodicals and other regional press in condemning fan behaviour; citizens of the newspaper’s own locality. Remarkably, Liverpool-based journalist John Williams urged readers to “blame the yobs”. The shocking attack on the “Scousers” however was none dissimilar to nor originating from unique sources to those influencing other regionals. Namely, the Sheffield Star, the Yorkshire Post and the Manchester Evening News. To boot, as far as discourse is concerned, reports in all three of their reports stand out for notably ‘military’ lexicon. Indeed, reference to fans as the “Anfield Army” (Manchester Evening News) embarking on a “fatal charge” (Sheffield Star) attires the Liverpool contingent in a fashion connoting a conflictual entity on a mission to violently descend upon a football match.

Contrastingly however, a critical discourse analysis’ compilation of survivors’ accounts has portrayed Scousers in a more philosophical light. Indeed, as a closing sentiment, Cocking and Drury’s (2014) work examines fascinatingly, drawing on a plethora of scholars, the linguistic phenomenon whereby a term (“panic”) can possess “widespread popular currency” (Quarantelli, 2001). Aware of the potential of the word “panic” to imply “uncontrolled emotion” and “selfish behaviour”, the researchers thoughtfully consider its “62”-time utterance by participants (survivors) to describe the raw scenes. Seeming admittance of actions amounting to panic in the interviews would often feed the narrative that fans (though, interestingly, arguably the police as well) neglected rationality and order. However, Cocking and Drury account for their participants who “provided evidence contradicting the notion that ‘mass panic’ occurred”; concluding with Quarantelli’s assertion that it may be beneficial for “the concept of panic within collective social behaviour” to “disappear as a technical term”. The bottom line being that many news sources lazily generalised Liverpudlians in the way that society avidly portrayed them, much like the power of language.


In final reflection, as supported by the case study, particular news sources certainly possess an advantage in regard to influence on news. Funding is obviously a major aid, as the sense of reliability (rightly or wrongly) that such sources develop (as a result of their backing) ultimately contributes to any degree of monopoly held. For example, direct financial support from News Corp, ensures a consistent stream of information for journalists of top periodicals. Moreover, public services like the UK’s numerous police forces have been shown to be able to resist scrutiny (be it for actions or queries surrounding official reports) for extended periods. Of course, with the mass media continuing to expand with concepts like citizen journalism (social media arguably at the forefront of this), more modest news sources, perhaps operating on a local level, provide relative competition for established organisations and institutions; whilst possibly even heightening any pre-existing scepticism of news via a phenomenon of ‘saturation’ and subsequent public distrust of a ‘dumbed down’ profession (journalism). However, Hillsborough still epitomises the durable suffering which can arise from wars upon the battlefield of media-management. Suffering which may eventually be at least partially cushioned, as justice slowly prevails.

References
Agility PR Solutions, 2017 Top U.K Newspapers by Circulation https://www.agilitypr.com/resources/top-media-outlets/top-10-uk-newspapers-by-circulation/

BBC, 2011 Thatcher urged ‘let Liverpool decline’ after 1981 riots https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16361170

Berkowitz, D and Adams, D.B. 1990 Information Subsidy and Agenda-Building in Local Television News

Bradbury, S 2013 Hillsborough disaster: How the Liverpool ECHO reported the tragedy in 1989 https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/hillsborough-disaster-how-liverpool-echo-3334610

Cashfloat, 2016 A History of The Sun Newspaper https://www.cashfloat.co.uk/blog/technology-innovation/sun-newspaper/

Cocking, C. and Drury, J 2014 Talking about Hillsborough: ‘Panic’ as Discourse in Survivors’ Accounts of the 1989 Football Stadium Disaster https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260532576_Talking_about_Hillsborough_’Panic’_as_Discourse_in_Survivors’_Accounts_of_the_1989_Football_Stadium_Disaster

Conn, D, The Guardian 2016 The other villain of the Hillsborough saga: legal system that left families in torment https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/apr/29/hillsborough-inquest-legal-system-key-part-establishment-failed-families-years

Contrast.org Hillsborough FOOTBALL DISASTER http://www.contrast.org/hillsborough/history/media.shtm

Davies, N, The Guardian 2008 Our media have become mass producers of distortion https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2008/feb/04/comment.pressandpublishing

Franklin, B. and Carlson, M. 2011 Journalism, Sources and Credibility: New Perspectives

Gandy, O 1982 Beyond Agenda Setting: Information Subsidies and Public Policy

Habermas, J 1962 The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society

Hall et al. 1978 Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order

Maltese, J 1994 Spin Control: The White House Office of Communications and the Management of Presidential News

Mawby, R. C. 2010 Police corporate communications, crime reporting and the shaping of policing news

Quarantelli, E. L. 2011 The Sociology of Panic

Robinson, K Information Subsidies and Social Media https://instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/Robinson-research-paper.pdf

Walters, T.N. Walters, L.M. and Gray, R 1996 Agenda building in the 1992 presidential campaign

Week UK, The 2018 Hillsborough: timeline of the disaster’s aftermath