Ivan Toney has admitted over the weekend that he is “assisting the Football Association with their enquiries” after reports in national newspapers have run claiming that he is being investigated over allegations of historic match betting. After a seven-month investigation, no charges have been brought, as yet, however, Beesotted’s Jim Levack, questions the timing of the news as well as the way it has been reported.
After nearly four decades in a privileged role of reporting on Brentford, I’ve stepped back this season to become an out-and-out fan once again.
It’s been a fascinating journey from my first press conference with Frank McLintock, a face-to-face row with the wonderful Steve Perryman and even a thinly veiled death threat from the grisly Noades.
Being called the worst four-letter expletive by Dave Webb years after he’d been winkled out of the club was among the greatest tributes I could have ever wished for… proof, if any were needed, that I touched a nerve.
Over the last few years, the game – and I’m talking the media game here – has changed though. And definitely not for the better.
Pundits with agendas – “that was never a penalty” whined Nottingham-born former Forest man Jenas whose MotD platform gives him, Lineker and Co the chance to dismiss with faint praise or glorify former clubs – are removing the last vestiges of objectivity from the game.
The professionals, people like Billy Reeves and Phil Parry, are now few and far between. Pushed to the margins by any army of content creators hell-bent on clicks at any cost.
There are one or two great writers out there still – the Guardians, Times and broadsheet brigade who write with style, panache and above all, integrity. We should salute them. They won’t be here long.
Then there’s the likes of Oliver Holt with his Ivan Toney “Exclusive”, latched on to like sweets being thrown to starving children by The Sun. It’s a tale seven months in the making, but there’s no actual detail. Only enough to force Ivan himself into an equally meaningless social media statement.
In the good old days Daily Mail man Ollie, who has clearly been tossed this morsel by someone high up in our morally bankrupt FA, would have run with it, done some more digging… “put some meat on the bones” and run a proper story.
As it is, this last piece of journalism with its cheap Exclusive tag – a moniker once reserved for stories with some graft, craft and investigation behind them – is a non-story. What newsdesks would call a kite-flyer to see if Brentford or Ivan bite.
Its timing just days before the Qatar squad is due is nothing short of malicious and, in my honestly held opinion, does little to endear grey Gareth or the minions beneath him to the football-loving public. The absence of an FA comment from the story says a lot.
Whether there’s smoke in the story’s fire – and if there is, then Ivan’s been a naïve fool – is almost immaterial. It’s all in the timing and it’s yet another reason why I’m glad to be distanced from the sycophantic hordes of the media morass.
Mine is a judgement not just based on this latest farrago, but on seasons watching Brentford grow, only to be joined by an increasing number of journalists with agendas liberally sprinkled through their copy.
Match reports that bear scant relation to the game they’ve just watched, and copy based on what will get the most clicks. That’s the name of the game now.
At least Football.London have done the decent thing and almost bowed out completely from trying to cover Brentford properly. Their latest piece on the club was back in May 29.
They still send a reporter to games. He asks questions at the post-match pressers where writers fire the same tired old stuff at Thomas Frank, who does his diplomatic best not to roll his eyes, and answers with patience. It’s just a box-ticking exercise though.
Gone are the days when the majority of national journalists would ask sensible, probing questions, Jay Harris from The Athletic an exception in that regard now. But let’s be brutally honest, he’ll be reassigned in a heartbeat if Brentford go down.
That’s the nature of the new content creation game. Get the clicks up, doesn’t matter how you do it, big club bias from the Micah Richards and Garth Crooks songbook will help, be controversial rather than factual. Mislead days old copy with reworked headlines… that’s fine too.
Only regional titles reporting on their clubs ‘warts and all’ give a measured coverage. Perhaps Brentford suffer because they’re a small fish in a big pond, a bus stop in Hounslow. But it shouldn’t make a difference.
That’s it, rant over. Suffice to say I’m glad I’ve left the circus and passed the increasingly slippery baton on to The Daily Mail’s ‘finest’.
My late old man, a sub editor there in the reign of the great David English and sporting giant Ian Wooldridge, would be astounded at the new definition of ‘Exclusive’.
I’m not sure he’d approve.