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The Darke Side: Criticism Part And Parcel Of Football

Ian Darke discusses players who moan about negative coverage

29 July 2020

Jordan Pickford

Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford whipped up a storm when he claimed the media ‘hated’ England players. There really is no place to hide from nonsense like this.

He was peeved because a few writers and pundits questioned his form and suitability to be number one for the national team.

But it goes with the territory of being a star – it is one of the reasons they pay you the big bucks.

Pickford was only too happy to accept the many rave reviews he got during the World Cup, including for his penalty shoot-out heroics against Colombia.

But his form this season has been erratic and there have been a few howlers, not least letting a soft effort from Christian Benteke under his body against Crystal Palace.

How does he think the media should cover such incidents? Sweep it all under the carpet? Be nice and not debate the issue?

No, this is professional sport at the top level. It will be noticed and discussed. This is just part and parcel of life in the fast lane for those who play at the top level – or should be.

If you don’t like the heat, join the hundreds of brilliant sportspeople playing in minor sports who get no coverage at all.

"If you don’t like the heat, join the hundreds of brilliant sportspeople playing in minor sports who get no coverage at all."

Ian Darke

But Pickford’s outburst is only the latest in a series of gripes by star players who appear to believe the media should be their personal cheerleaders.

Footballers tend to be most sensitive about the marks they are given out of 10 by certain publications.

Owen Hargreaves, the gifted midfield man turned TV pundit, told me it was quite common for famous England colleagues to sit on the team coach worrying that The Sun would give them a five.

This defies belief. Those marks are usually dished out at speed by under-pressure journalists working against deadline, with half an eye on the game while writing their copy.

It is nothing personal and certainly not, as Pickford appears to believe, part of some vendetta.

Yet I have heard of cases of some players who stop talking to reporters who give them a bad rating, quite forgetting the great write-up they got last month from the same writer.

And here’s something else. Most media men and women are fans at heart. They want to write about a successful England team which wins things, but reserve the right to fairly discuss and analyse the reasons if things do not go so well.

Until we stop living in a democracy, would you what it any other way?

This column first appeared in this season's Pompey v MK Dons matchday magazine.

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