Stephen Goldsmith* appeals for something, anything, even Euro 2012 to stop the nonsense of transfer speculation unsettling his summer …
All this spinning of the manager merry-go-round has sparked the back pages into life in the last few days just as I was starting to wish my life away to get the European championships started.
This shouldn’t be mistaken for banging a patriotic drum in eager anticipation of England making us all proud (as if), more a distraction to stop the uncertainties of the transfer market driving me insane.
Before the days when the internet was so dominant, with people tweeting transfer gossip every five minutes, we would simply pick up a newspaper to see which player we were in the process of signing and that was that.
Very often we would read we were signing a player only to pick up the same paper the following day and find out they had signed for somebody else. As let downs go at least this was fairly painless, like being dumped by someone in the days before easy electronic contact, before we could constantly text them or stalk their every move on social networking sites. (Or at least that’s what a mate told me he does.)
That’s impossible now days of course, as stories are recycled at lightning speed and passed around the internet from one ridiculously uninformed website to another.
By far the worst possible event in this process is when a player you really want is linked. Some shabby looking football website about as reputable as Fifa reports that we are to sign Lionel Messi and at no point do you genuinely believe that to be true, but it gets out and spreads like wildfire.
The national media fall victim to this also, petrified they may miss out on a scoop so they run with it, claiming they have exclusive inside information. Away from the topic slightly, this was depressingly the case when it came to Steed Malbranque and the non-illness of his imaginary son last summer; rumours circulate so rapidly that not even respected journalists know whether they’re coming or going.
One sports hack has decided already this summer that because Martin O’Neill had spoken of his admiration of Fernando Llorente that professional duty required him to inform the paying public that Sunderland were actively pursuing him. In our dreams folks. Fortunately, I am a little older and, though this may be debatable, wiser these days than I was on one mmemorable occasion I remember a player of such magnitude being linked with us.
I was 18, buzzing on the back of that 105-point season the year after the Wembley playoff heartbreak and in Magaluf for the summer of ’99. When the Daily Star (I know, I know) reported that we were looking at signing Ariel Ortega, I had no reason to disbelieve them.
Now the famous number 10 shirt is sought after by all Argentinian footballers, even if they represent quite an average filling when sandwiched between Maradona and Messi. All the same it was Ortega’s at the time
In reality, any suggestion that he was about to fly over and play alongside Kevin Ball or Gavin McCann in Peter Reid’s industrious midfield was, quite simply, ludicrous. Yet I proceeded to tell everybody in our hotel it was happening and genuinely wondered why they didn’t have as much faith in the deal as me. Michael Gray apparently had a house warming for Paul Scholes the same summer, too. Scholes’s Man Utd side had just won the treble. Hmmmmm. Are 18 year olds always this naive or was it just me?
Something else we can safely predict will happen with transfer speculation this summer is that a player will have turned down a move to Sunderland as he does not want to move to the area. You can guarantee it. Then the squabbling with them lot up the road will start all over again and adds unnecessarily to the frustration.
Not that I mind the odd debate with more sensible Newcastle fans, ones with the capacity to think beyond attendances and who don’t believe that, in any shape or form, at any time on this planet, that Sunderland AFC paid for Pappe Cissé’s flight to England only to see him divert his entourage in the direction of Newcastle at the last minute. Just no, Newcastle fans, NO!!
It is these fans that will start to pollute the comment sections of articles that report some under-the-thumb footballer not fancying a move up here, goading about how nobody wants to live in Sunderland, how it has nothing of interest to anybody. This will be embellished with a catalogue of all Newcastle’s desirable places even though they’re actually located in Gateshead, a town along with all the other Tyneside ones that is conveniently left out of their side of the debate over attendances.
Newcastle? Gateshead? Maybe they should just merge the two into a fictional place called NewcastleGateshead, the name to be invoked whenever it suits the Newcastle part.
What seems beyond the grasp of this lot is that any player who considers signing for Sunderland doesn’t drive his Hummer through the streets of Thorney Close or Pennywell actively searching for houses on the market. Players who play for the London clubs don’t confine househunting to the streets around the White Hart Lane or Upton Park. In our case, the chances are they will actually live near this NewcastleGateshead place, or in Durham, or anywhere in the North East. Bit of a thoughtless goading exercise really.
Now I don’t want fans of NewcastleGatehead United to come on here and start accusing me of being ”obsessed” with them. I am merely stating what kind of thing normally winds me up in the summer, every summer. I dared to go on the Ready To Go website one day and ended up wondering whether a group of kids had taken the day off school to display to the world their unbelievably basic and idiotic insight into football and all things Sunderland. So our fans make me grumpy well as the NewcastleGateshead United ones; this isn’t victimisation in any way.
If anything I get more annoyed at some of the nonsense spouted about from our own fans throughout the summer. Whenever we get linked to any desirable player then you just know somebody has seen him in the area somewhere. Why people do this I don’t know, I really, really don’t. Wilfully making up sightings and stories in the hope they will be transformed into truth just passes me by as something worth doing, it really does. I can already guarantee that Adam Johnson will be in Seaham Hall over the summer, according to somebody with inside information. Poor Charles N’Zogbia was there for about four weeks last summer. It is quite absurd that anyone could … hang on, I swear that was Grant Holt I just saw walking into Pallion chippy.
Where was I? Oh yes, my brother is a taxi driver so I blame him and his kind.
Back to international football, I really wish I had been around in the days when some footballing nations were so far behind us that they offered unintended entertainment, such as Zaire in the 1974 World Cup. If we want to laugh and point our superior fingers nowadays, the best we can hope for is a side like Slovenia qualifying as they tend to wear strips that looked like they cost about £69.99 from JD Sports for the full team. My favourite programme in my teens was Fantasy Football, humour delivered to perfection by Skinner and Baddiel. I beg you to take five minutes out to watch this …
* Stephen Goldsmith is on Twitter @goldys_logic