It goes without saying that Salut! Sunderland is sad at the imminent departure of just the sort of player we rather hoped Sunderland AFC would see as central to future development. After the Darren Bent saga, we also hoped we would never again sell a key player without having a suitable replacement or replacements lined up. It remains to be seen whether our wish will be granted in at least that respect …
So after all the “Jordan Henderson’s going nowhere” posturing, all the attacks on sports journalists for supposedly making up transfer stories, guess what? Reports all over the press, on the web and on the air say Jordan Henderson has all but been sold to Liverpool, just as the reviled hacks said would be the case. And just as I finish writing this piece, up pops a statement from Sunderland AFC:
Jordan Henderson will hold talks with Liverpool after the two clubs agreed a fee for the midfielder.
The 20-year-old, who played for England under-21s on Sunday, is set to discuss personal terms with the Anfield club.
A club spokesperson said: “A fee has been agreed with Liverpool for Jordan Henderson and he travels to Anfield today with the club’s blessing.”
With the club’s blessing! All we seem to be waiting for, it seems, is word on whether the fee is £20m, £13m plus David Ngog or something else entirely. On the reported inclusion of Ngog in the deal, I will say no more just now than that he was not the sort of player I had in mind when hoping against hope that we would not repeat the glaring errors of January.
The media’s role in the Henderson transfer has become a fascinating side story of its own.
Salut! Sunderland is no friend of bad journalism, as its track record should persuade any fair-minded reader.
I am a journalist and as proud of my trade as others are proud to be lawyers, teachers, IT specialists, engineers, plumbers and builders. There are rogues in journalism just as they are to be found in every other group. And there are people getting on with doing the job they’re paid for.
Football writers have a right and a duty to give share with their readers the information they discover. If that information is wrong, or of no interest, they are soon enough caught out.
My mainly electronic friends at the Blackcats list were on top form yesterday, lambasting the press for inventing talk of Jordan’s impending departure and invoking all manner of justification for their attacks: “the stories have no quotes”, “Jordan’s mam says he’s happy”, contrary to “all information coming out of the club”. No one quite got as far as citing the Zinoviev Letter as evidence that the Daily Mail was up to scurrilous old tricks, dreaming up transfer twaddle to keep the circulation people happy and stop Labour ever regaining power, but it was a close-run thing.
And yet a whole army of media outlets is not, after all, about to experience large portions of egg colliding with face. The story turns out to be true and to have been true all along.
It didn’t matter a hoot that few if any of the reports contained direct quotes from the clubs, the player or the player’s representatives. It didn’t matter what someone’s mate thought Jordan’s mam might have said. Or that the two clubs had kept lips sealed.
Why should that any of that surprise anyone? If the clubs insist on observing Trappist vows of silence on their official sites while speculation rages about issues of vital importance to them and their supporters, they are hardly then going to make candid, informative statements in response to questions from the media. Families, too, may be sucked into the whole ritual of half-truths and disinformation.
What actually goes on in such affairs is that people in the know – and they could be connected with the club, the player’s agent or the player himself – brief favoured journalists on what is going on. Lines are undoubtedly spun, interest talked up, money exaggerated; the process is intended by those doing the briefing to be self-serving. But that doen’t make the information that is published wrong. Or at least not always.
If you have a long memory, you may recall my own cautionary words about transfer speculation.
A year ago, I wrote: “Never forget what has been mentioned here more than once: in a recent pre-season (and therefore, no doubt in others too), only a handful of the scores of players with whom we had been confidently linked had ever actually crossed our radar. And nearly as many other players had been targets without the rumour mill getting so much as a sniff.”
All you need do is apply ordinary common sense to every story. Work out for yourselves whose interests are best served by letting it be known that this or that player is a target, wants to leave, is demanding higher wages and so on.
Often, it is wisest to ignore the gossip. I admit that I dislike the transfer rumour mill, not least because it seems in our case to concern either the possible loss of players we should be keeping or players we want but will quickly be sought by others (and have Wags who’d prefer to go there) as soon as our interest is known.
But when the reporting of supposed negotiations is as detailed as it has been in the Jordan Henderson case, it is time to take note and acknowledge that something is probably afoot. At different points, we have heard about haggling on price, Henderson’s own preferences on destination (Manchester or Liverpool) and timing, pay rates, exchange deal possibilities. Forget the easy pot shots at bits of the press we may dislike; someone, it has seemed to me all along, has been briefing like mad. I have no inside track but suspect the hand of an agent.
For my last word, for now, on the media’s role, I offer this extract from the “don’t trust the hacks” debate at Blackcats:
In all the stories the daily heil has published on the Henderson move there has not been one quote. Nor has anyone had the b**** to put their names to this guff. It’s always the ‘daily mail reporter’. They’re *****.
They might be, Mark, and I’ll be the first to laugh in their faces if the club announces today that Henderson is going nowhere, wants to go nowhere and was never the subject of bidding, intense or otherwise, from Liverpool or anyone and that the whole story was made up by the Mail, aided and abetted by the BBC, the Times and just about anyone else you can think of. And that for all his exceptional abilities as a diver (vs Birmingham City the season before last, more accomplished even than Eduardo’s v Celtic), we haven’t the least interest in Ngog.
And if he goes, with or without Ngog coming, I know I can rely on fair-minded folk here to say: “Yes, they certainly had their ears close the ground, and their sources turned out to be spot on. There may not have been a direct quote, but that may have been a condition set by their sources – and what reliable sources they were.”
And as for Jordan, I am bitterly disappointed that he sees his future away from the club that nurtured his great talent. I am sad that the club was unable to resist what I accept must have been weighty pressure to sell. I am annoyed at those who loudly barracked the player during his lapses from top form, and hope this had nothing to do with his decision to leave, and I am apprehensive about how our own programme of acquisitions will proceed between now and August.
But I wish the lad well.