Thursday, 23 July 2015

ITK = Inherently Tedious Know-nowts

The need to be "In The Know" is a relatively new phenomenon. Perpetuated by social media, where transfer rumour sites and individuals set up accounts play on the insecurity of fans in the transfer window and soak up the hits. Posting stories with little verification of sources, they stir up the fans and watch their hit rate rise and followers and likes numbers multiply. Then there are the fans who take it all up as gospel, giving oxygen to the rumour mongers. Do they think that it must be true, as the account has Football League or League One in the name. Does adding this give it any real credibility?  ITK stories are like an opiate for the football  masses. Except the drugs don't work.

If you throw shit at a wall often enough, eventually some of it will stick. It's like that with ITK'ers. Billy Sharp is coming, done deal. Just a matter of time. He has had his medical. Just waiting to tie loose ends up.

Two weeks ago "Billy Sharp set to sign in next 48 hours, my sources are telling me". One week ago "Sources telling me that Billy Sharp is signing for the Blades in the next 48 hours". This week "Billy Sharp to sign for Blades in next 24 hours sources told me". They retweet other accounts, accounts with a hand full of followers but with a familiar twitter avi but with a (not so) subtle name difference. Can you see it?

So eventually, if and when Sharp signs, they can say "I told you so". Like it gives them some sort of hero status. If challenged they will refer to delays and problems, but they will be adamant the deal was on back when they first announced it to the world (or twitter). Because, you know, they are in the know.

What about the medical you said had taken place? How come he played for Leeds risking injury? Questions they can't answer but steadfastly stick by their claims. You heard it here first, last and at every possible point in between.

At the other end of the scale we have the wannabe ITK'ers. Pleading the chairman for the merest transfer hint on Facebook, regardless of how often he says he will not be drawn on specific names or transfers. They are pestering the press on a daily basis, sometimes every couple of hours during the day! "Any news on player X pal?", "Heard any whispers why player Y isn't playing a meaningless pre-season friendly?". As if the media boys are going to give them an exclusive rather than save it for themselves. It's their livelihood not some egotist in a verbal cock waving exercise for the usually flaccid.

Some use transfer rumours as click-bait to make money from clicks to their site, some are fantasists claiming to know, or even that they are, agents. The only contacts most of them have are the lenses in their eyes. They have more time on their hands than any reasonable person will find, although I guess it is easy when you are still sat there at your laptop, in yesterday's underpants, at 4 in the afternoon, eating Rice Krispies from the box.

Frankly it's boring. I blame Sky. Yes I know they are easy to blame, but Sky Sports News and it's sharing of "Breaking" news encourages these halfwits to believe they are the next Jim White (heaven help us) or Nick Collins. This "Breaking" "Sky exclusive" is usually something they have read on twitter or from another media service. Everything pre-fixed with "Sky sources….." - AKA some trainee on a laptop scouring the internet for any news that seems halfway credible.

To be honest the only thing breaking will be my phone screen when I see another 300 follower rumour account ask to follow me or seeing their bull retweeted on my timeline.

Whilst looking at some of these accounts when writing this piece, I was amused by the interchange between two of these rumour accounts below. Each claiming to be the verified source on a story, each demanding the other gives them credit before it then turns into the most cringe worthy interchange whereby they are arguing over the FC moniker used at the start of each accounts name and when they first set their account up. The irony of two twitter accounts, set up to repeat rumours read elsewhere on twitter, arguing about originality was clearly lost on them. Yet these cretins clearly believe their own hype. They thinks they are some modern day soothsayer.

Then you note that it was all over a story that wasn't true anyway. You just couldn't write it. Well actually, you can and they did.

Many people/fans could be classed as in the know, but it's more about how you manage your new found knowledge. I have heard things in the past, that have turned out to be true. Would I share them for a social media slap on the back? No, I wouldn't. Why jeopardise friendships and people's livelihoods just to say to everyone else "I knew before you!"? Then again, if the person who tells you is daft enough to keep telling you when you blab all at the first opportunity, then perhaps they deserve any outcome they get, especially  if they are a club employee and the story is traced.

In a way I like the fact we are going about our business quietly and steadily. Whilst I would like to see more activity, I trust the management to get on with it in their own time and in the meantime I will share with you my exclusive bit of ITK knowledge.





























And for now, that is all we really know.

Up the Blades!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Truth not spin and the "Phipps Mafia"

A United View was out of the country for the last two weeks of May. When booking a holiday I obviously thought United wouldn't need a trip to Wembley to try and get out of League 1. I genuinely thought we had the resources and capability to gain automatic promotion. Make no excuses this was the weakest League One since we were relegated. How wrong I was.

Whilst I was away United made what, to many in the media and those from outside the club's support, was a surprising decision. Yet to most fans it didn't really shock. Even those who supported Clough and trusted him to put it right knew there was also a strong and vocal faction of support who'd had enough.

The timing has been criticised. Why wait until the end of May? The answer I think comes with what was happening that weekend. Given the geographical spread of our Boars of Directors and hectic business schedules, when would they be likely to have clear diaries to meet and hear Nigel Clough's plans, allowing for a period of reflection and looking forward? The same weekend they had hoped to be in the country to watch the Blades in the Play Off final.

I don't know what happened in that meeting - only those there and any they have shared the confidence of. But it has to be assumed that what was said was not convincing enough for the Board to commit the club's future in Clough's hands. I absolutely respect that and can understand why. As I wrote in a piece for The Star - prior to his departure - the case for Clough staying was based on a need for stability and the need for him to change. We can only assume that the manager wasn't for changing. A stubborn, self belief can only get you so far.

Following the announcement social media was awash with speculation and demands from fans. At times there were more dummies on the floor than at a coffee break at a ventriloquists convention. Reading twitter and Facebook to keep up to date left me wincing at some of the interaction I saw.

For me the the three stand out names in the betting market were Karl Robinson, Nigel Adkins and Mark Warburton. The other name I'd considered previously was Uwe Rosler who had found an opportunity present itself in another part of Yorkshire prior to the denouement of Clough's reign. All three of those names know what is required to get out of this division. All have managed teams playing positive football. Only two were readily available. Would any one take the step down from their current/previous status?

Adkins was that man. I have written, again for The Star, about how positively I viewed his appointment. To attract a manager who has delivered two promotions out of League One and a subsequent promotion to the top tier cannot be judged negatively. Yet in the den of the Internet trolls and the permanently aggrieved  (the comments section underneath the article) there was some lively debate. 

One commenter decided I was towing the party line - a member of the "Phipps Mafia". A fan happy to spout the rhetoric of the club and co-chairman. Another felt that I wasn't a big Blades fan as neither he or his mates had heard of me. That instantly invalidated my opinion it seems, but allows him to share his. But the big issue they seemed to have was that my piece was yet more spin and that it lacked a critical edge. I'm paraphrasing here.

Yet I struggle to see a negative issue with this appointment, so why look for one? He's the candidate that unified the opinions of a large proportion of a splintered fanbase. When other clubs' fans mocked and said "You'll never get him", it was a comment as much about their perception of Adkins status in the game as it was United's league position. 

Where criticism is valid I will offer it. I had concerns over the Clough appointment and have decried performances, even when results suggested there were few grounds for complaint. I have been criticised for negative stances as much as the positive ones. I'll support my club, but don't clap for the sake of it, nor when I feel it is undeserved. But it doesn't make me happy not to clap. It leaves me frustrated at what could/would/should be. That was the case for much of last season.

I'm sure for those who lurk on the comments pages, internet forums and social media waiting for the chance to pounce, always looking for the negatives, will find grounds to complain about our manager. Those who don't like spin will soon tire of a manager who loves to talk to the media without really saying very much. I've read comparisons with politicians and comments about saying a lot but little already. They will grow weary of his boundless positivity, a key aspect of his man-management techniques. That's because they're sat there waiting impatiently, picking away at the club like a crusty scab on their knee.

We all want to hear that the holes in the squad are being addressed, that players are being moved on, but many want to gorge on strawberries for a day, rather than have jam for weeks. Last season we were pleased by early activity in the summer, but it became a case of quantity over quality. This time the required additions are fewer in number and there is still time to have then in place whilst hopefully identifying ways to draw more incisive contributions from the players inherited.

I really hope that this appointment brings the success we crave. Whether it does or not there will be times the club and management make decisions that I don't agree with. At that point I will offer an opinion. But for now we can't judge. We need to be united as one. That's the truth, not spin.