THE BLOG
22/10/2013 11:08 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

The Press' Portrayal of Football Managers

"Why let the facts get in the way of a good story" was a saying you often used to hear in the newsrooms of our tabloid newspapers. It was usually meant tongue in cheek. But surely this is the case with Roy Hodgson, the England manager, who is being accused of making a racist remark by referring to a monkey during his half time team talk in the game against Poland on Tuesday.

"Why let the facts get in the way of a good story" was a saying you often used to hear in the newsrooms of our tabloid newspapers. It was usually meant tongue in cheek.

But surely this is the case with Roy Hodgson, the England manager, who is being accused of making a racist remark by referring to a monkey during his half time team talk in the game against Poland on Tuesday.

Hodgson used to phrase "feed the monkey" when briefing one of his players to keep passing the ball to Andros Townsend, who is of Jamaican and Cypriot descent.

The well-read and erudite Hodgson, was referring to a phrase used by NASA who sent monkeys into space. Keep feeding the monkey was the instruction because the whole mission depended on the monkey doing his job.

It has become parlance for a repetitive action and that is clearly what Hodgson was using it for. His desire was for the player to keep giving the ball to Townsend, a player at the top of his game.

The players themselves were not offended as their Twitter accounts have confirmed. Others, including Stan Collymore, have highlighted that by focussing on a comment such as Roy's, it detracts from the real and very important debate around racism.

But just why do we love giving England managers a good kicking? It can't improve their performance, confidence or the respect they have in the dressing room. Not because of what they said, but because they become a figure of derision.

Let's look at the evidence.

Sir Bobby Robson - Robson endured headlines ranging from the blunt - the Sun called him a 'Plonker', while the Mirror at one point urged 'In The Name Of God, Go'. Another 'Beat 'Em Or Beat It, Bobby'.

When England managed only a draw with Saudi Arabia in a friendly match in late 1988 - after losing all three games in the 1988 European championships - the Mirror followed up its earlier headline with 'Go, In The Name Of Allah, Go'. 'England Mustafa New Boss', was the Sun's headline.

One writer described it at the time as "the most sustained campaign of press humiliation the national game has ever seen".

Graham Taylor - The Sun famously mocked up his head as a Turnip, renaming him Graham Turnip. As Jim White writes in the Telegraph -

As England missed out on the 1994 World Cup finals, Taylor was vilified. His image, distorted into a root vegetable, was plastered across tabloid front pages. A decent, honourable, industrious man was belittled as the footballing turnip, a nickname that stuck with him.

Sven Goran Eriksson - His private life was the sharp focus of the press. It was probably warranted but there was a complete fascination with everything he did.

Steve McClaren was "The wally with the brolly" after England failed to reach the 2008 Euros. He had sheltered underneath an umbrella at rain-lashed Wembley as England were beaten 3-2 by Croatia in June 2007. He was then sacked before going onto be successful in Holland. Even then he was mocked after giving an interview to Dutch TV in which he appeared to put on an Anglo-Dutch accent while speaking in English to the journalist.

Surely it would be sensible for the Press to adopt a strategy they usually follow in a war campaign. By all means discuss the issues around the decisions being made by Government, but back the troops once the decision has been made.

Hodgson deserves a similar wide berth. If he is to give England a sliver of a chance, he needs support, positive analysis of the players at his disposal and media coverage that unites a nation rather than makes its figurehead a laughing stock.