"The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses." - Malcolm X
Quoting Malcolm X for a football article could be deemed a little eccentric and bizarre, but I believe this particular quote is definitely suitable when discussing modern global football and a particular incident that occurred over the past couple of weeks.
Let's have a bit of a recap and gain a brief understanding of the motivation for this article. It all came about when Tottenham Hotspur head coach Andre Villas-Boas made a particular statement in his post-match press conference regarding an opinion based article by Neil Ashton of the Daily Mail. In Ashton's article, he had suggested that anyone could have had the same success that Andre Villas-Boas had achieved at Porto.
Andre Villas Boas replied to this article in the press conference by saying that these articles attack his "integrity", "competence" and "human values". The Portuguese manager furthered his dispute when he stated that a certain journalist misquoted him after the 6-0 thrashing by Manchester City. Andre Villas-Boas accused certain members of the press of printing "the players should be ashamed" instead of "we should be ashamed", highlighting that he does not want to appear a being apart from his players.
Everyone will have their own opinion on this incident, but it does put into question the bigger picture. Professional football clubs are particularly reticent and controlled when it comes to communicating the human element of their team. So on the limited occasions when representatives of the club, such as managers, players or other staff, communicate with the public, it is generally through media outlets and journalists. This gives huge power to the media for how they interpret and present the information and messages to the masses.
This suggests that a manager's ability to manipulate and control their relationship with the media is hugely significant and important for their long term relationship with the fans. If we look back through recent English footballing history, we can see examples of the 'likeable' and 'attacked' characters in the headlines.
Some of you may remember Graham Taylor as England manager back in the early 90's. The media ridiculed the England boss with headlines such as the "Swedes 2 Turnips 1", "Turnip Taylor" and even the introduction of "Taylorisms" such as "Do I not like that?" and "Can we not knock it?" Essentially, Graham Taylor was not a popular man with the British media at the time and after failing to take England to the World Cup, he resigned from his post.
However, look at the other end of the spectrum and you will see managers adored by media folk. Take Harry Redknapp for example. Everyone loves 'arry and his open, down to earth nature. The current QPR boss has always presented himself well to the media and it almost paid dividends. When Fabio Capello resigned as England manager in February 2012, the fans, the players and the media all wanted Harry Redknapp to get the job. He obviously didn't, with the appointment of the well-respected Roy Hodgson, but it demonstrated the effect and support that a positive media relationship can have.
Another excellent example is comparing Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benítez's time at Chelsea. Obviously, the 'special one' is back at his spiritual home, but he has achieved a similar start to this season to Benítez when he was the Blues boss. The reaction and treatment from the media, however, and therefore from the fans, is the complete opposite. Mourinho, who has an excellent relationship with the British media due to his charming, witty and confident approach, is treated with a certain respect and admiration. Compare this to Benítez, who could not boast a similar relationship with the media and was treated candidly.
Andre Villas-Boas appears to be falling down the Taylor-Benítez route with his association and representation in the media. His cause will not be helped by fighting the ones with the power, but it does represent a very important relationship which the modern football manager must master and understand in order to survive in a top job hot seat. Or is this simply over complicating the matter? I started on a quote from a very non-football source and will therefore end on a similar note.
"People write negatives things, cause they feel that's what sells. Good news to them, doesn't sell." - Michael Jackson.
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