The media must have been dreading this week on Monday morning. What would they fill their back pages with? No Champions League, no Premier League, one Quarter Final tie in a devalued competition that looked a home banker. Not any more. Simply because one bug-eyed rant after the match is being blown out of all proportion. Now we have the print and the world of YouTube exposing, well, absolutely nothing.
Cesc is being hung, drawn and quartered by the rags on the basis of a grainy image from the Champions League a few seasons back, leaning over Ballack and giving him grief. According to the world outside of Arsenal, you can clearly see that Ballack’s head moves ‘more than would be expected from someone being shouted out’. So Cesc, you are guilty.
Slight flaw in their rationale though. On the clip in question, you cannot actually see anything emerging from Fabregas’ mouth other than the bollocking he is handing out to the German. The rest is supposition. Not that it matters because in the media land, flawed analysis is king. It does not matter in Brown-land either. According to the visitors manager, Hull City are ‘well aware of the video’, suggesting that they will be using this as evidence that Fabregas is a ‘gobber’.
It is becoming incredibly bizarre. Brown blew up in a BBC interview, accusing his interrogator of questioning his integrity. Apparently, as Brown ‘witnessed’ the incident we should accept that it took place. No doubt about it. Of course, that the Hull manager launched a rant so wild and fundamentally inaccurate after the game, a seeming stream of (un)conscious thought that would have left Kevin Keegan embarrassed, escapes Brown’s notice.
Problematically for Brown, his assertions of the incident taking place cannot be proved; no credible witnesses, no CCTV in the tunnel area – he is now firm in his belief that it happened there – so basically, no-one other than Hull City players and officials saw anything which leaves us with an unseemly playground spat in the media that is nothing more than a pantomime “Oh yes he did, oh no he didn’t”.
Equally, to my mind, the accuser and victim both lack credibility. Brown for reasons already covered, Horton for similar for a similar style when he managed clubs. The Hull duo could quite easily pass as inmates in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. My memories of Horton are always of a man seeking to blame others for his team’s failings when put under the stress of being interviewed by Motty or Bazza for Match of the Day all those years ago. The only equivalent for the two commentating stalwarts when they turned interviewers that I can think of is the description of Geoffrey Howe, being criticised by him was akin to ‘being savaged by a dead sheep’.
For the media, it is a God-send. Having disposed of one Arsenal captain – in their minds at least – they scent the blood of another, especially when the one they are ‘after’ now is one of the game’s current stars. Further fuel to fire is added by Fabregas giving an exclusive interview to The Sun, published this morning. In an industry that is perpetually in a circulation war, exclusivity to one equates to vilification by the majority.
No doubt this will blow over once the weekend passes and Benitez or Ferguson steps into the limelight with an equally unhinged rant following a poor result. It may soon disappear with a whimper once the FA have strutted their funky stuff through the disciplinary process only for it to re-ignite should there be a case deemed to answer. That is something that Hull may well be keen to avoid. At the moment, Fabregas is accused on innuendo; no-one has yet been provided with the answer as to what Horton said to provoke the reaction that is claimed. Given that this is a player who has lumps kicked off him in just about every club match he plays without reacting, provocation would have to be extreme. A case where the accuser may yet become the accused.