There are times when I rise up and defend my confrères in the press, and times when they make me despair. Today’s headlines about Steve Bruce being caught “in another race storm” make it a day for despair.
Getting on for 12 years ago, I saw Sunderland beat Watford 3-2 away in the first of Peter Reid’s seventh top seasons. SuperKev grabbed two of the goals, one of them having taken a massive deflection, and Gavin McCann the other.
I remember the game for something else. Two young friends, sisters, were also there, though their seats were some way from mine. The story of their matchday experience was not a pleasant one.
Two of our own fans, who gave every impression of having been on the booze since daybreak and no impression of being able to handle it, kept up a moronic, truly racist mantra throughout the first half, jeering and abusing Watford’s black players and slurrily shouting their approval of what was then an all-white Sunderland team. Long may that remain the case, was the thrust of their philosophy, though they may not have put it quite like that.
When my friends complained to a steward, he took no action whatsoever. And the drunken, racist yobs simply changed their targets and began abusing the girls, until – in the absence of anyone moving the culprits out – the girls felt obliged to move away and finds seats somewhere else.
Where does that fit into today’s news?
It’s all over the papers, apparently, but this is obviously an agency version since I found in places from UK tabloids to an online publication I’d not previously heard of, the New Kerala (the geographical clue suggesting they ought to have known better what is, and is not, racism):
Argentina defender Marcos Angeleri has accused Sunderland boss Steve Bruce of not liking him because he is not English.
Bruce has been caught up in another race storm – involving one of his own players.
The revelation comes two months after Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier had accused Bruce of racism over the Darren Bent transfer row.
“The boss doesn’t talk to me, he doesn’t even say hello to me when he sees me. I think he doesn’t like me because I’m not English,” The Sun quoted Angeleri, as saying.
He told ESPN Radio: “Steve Bruce is not a nice person at all. He is a little unpleasant. I have played just a few minutes in Sunderland since my arrival. I want to play, that’s my job. That’s why I’m not happy here in Sunderland. I don’t understand why I”m not playing. The boss is too defensive.”
He doesn’t like me because I’m not English! He doesn’t like Houllier because he’s French!
Look at each case, think for half a second and you instantly see there could be another explanation. Bruce was unhappy about the circumstances in which Darren Bent was bought by Aston Villa. He has come to the conclusion, or so it seems, that Mr Angeleri is frankly second rate.
They could be of the purest British stock, in so far as such a thing exists. That wouldn’t alter for a moment Bruce’s displeasure with them.
Bruce may be right or wrong in this: perhaps Mr Houllier and his club acted in accordance with the highest principles of fair play in their pursuit and acquisition of Bent, and maybe Marcos Angeleri is the world’s finest footballing talent whose apparent incompetence is a cunning disguise.
But in attempting to suggest the behaviour of a serial offender – “another race storm” – and, indeed, to say there is the least hint of racism in the first place, every media outlet that has reported the non-story in such terms has succeeded only in making itself look very foolish. And in causing M Salut to despair …