POOR ADAM Johnson is getting some stick on the message boards. “Is he moaning again? Why doesn’t he stop whingeing and just leg it if he isn’t happy?” Well, to be fair I don’t think he moaning again. Yes, there are some quotes floating around cyber-space’s network of salvage sites but they appear to be stripped down, reconditioned, polished and recycled versions of things that he said a fortnight ago rather than a serial strop .
I spoke to Adam Johnson after the Yeovil game. He had just done a very short live pitchside interview with BBC Tees and then I collared him in the tunnel and he blurted out a confessional stream of very honest statements about his frustration at being on the sidelines but reiterated his burning desire to stay at Boro. I was the only one there, the national lads at that match spoke to Justin Hoyte in the side room.
The quotes from that interview were later lifted and respun by a variety of other outlets, that’s how it works. Once it is in the public domain – and especially on websites – you can’t control how or where they are used.
But no-one else spoke to Johnno after that game and since then he has not been available to the press. No one is allowed to phone the players without prior arrangement on pain of death and the international break has meant that routine has been disrupted at Hurworth so no journalists have been down there at all and there has been no chance of even a quick word.
Which leaves a mystery, the story now doing the rounds in which he says he may have to leave if Stewie doesn’t … and that Stewie is leaving anyway. The quotes appear to have surfaced first on one of the many gossip sites – Tribal Football, Goal.com, Team Talk etc – which begs the questions of where they came from. Those sites don’t have any journalists, at least not of the sense you would recognise, reporters who research and source original stories. They have an army of lowly paid media studies graduates who are desk based and office bound and scour the net for quotes which they cut and paste and give a new ‘nose’ but they don’t have staff writers who go to Boro matches or press conferences to make objective first hand observations or ask questions.
Even if they did it would be unlikely that they would ever come face to face with players as access to the tunnel is strictly limited: the written press is usually restricted to the Gazette, the Echo, one from the daily papers and one from the Sundays. A website representative wouldn’t get down the stairs. Generally then, we know where most quotes come from. Sometimes they are from our own Gazette stories, sometimes they are squirrelled away from past press conferences and sometimes they are, well, something else.
When they are lifted by cut-and-paste operations they lose their context. The writer hasn’t got a clue and generally doesn’t care what the question was or what was said before and after to support, or balance a statement that in stark isolation can look quite damning or emotionally charged. And with each step away from the starting point that estrangement from the essence of the story grows.
For instance, a well structured 20 paragraph Gazette story that allows the player to elaborate a point may be legitimately lifted from our web site by Sky Sports or the BBC say but attributed to us and chopped back to eight paragraphs of concise and pertinent quotes.
But from there it will be lifted by someone else and stripped back to maybe just three paragraphs of quotes. And from there by another site. And another. And with every impression the picture fades and distorts like a tenth generation photo-copy to the point where it is barely decypherable.
Then from there those quotes will be picked up and then reconstructed two days later to flesh out another story devoid of any relationship to the original. At is at this point that mistakes, prejudices and agendas are allowed to seep in, when sentences are snapped in half and reordered to fit the constraints of the bite sized, info-lite parameters these lazy cut-and-shut sites work to.
My best guess on the provenance of the current Johnno quotes is that the link with a loan move to Ipswich in recent days prompted someone to take that one line and ‘flesh it out’ by Googling for evidence that indicated if he might be available for a move to Portman Road. I think they came across a fifth or sixth generation story from last week then took two or three lines out of it and pressed the publish button.
Don’t think too badly of Johnno just because he is the victim of a bout of Chinese whispers.
MEANWHILE, MORE on the contrast between Boro and Newcastle. Gareth Southgate has fleshed out the picture that has been emerging in recent weeks of the co-operative management structure at Boro in which the football department works with rather than against the business side.
In the routine pre-match press conference the boss was thrown some pointed questions about the circus up the A19, about Kevin Keegan and about the constraints on the modern manager. His polished responses reveal that while in other clubs there appear to be built in areas of corporate friction, he is comfortable with the structure and believes it is a model that works for Boro.
I thought I’d just throw the quotes in and let you draw your own conclusions. I’m sure they will be different ones from those some of the national tabloid writers will come to.
“The role of manager at football clubs has changed, and maybe this country is now moving more towards how they operate in Europe,” said Southgate.
“Naturally there are a lot of big decisions which have to be taken, and as a manager you need to be in on these decisions but the days have gone where you can expect to do everything yourself.
“We don’t have a director of football here like other clubs. We use a different system. It might not suit other clubs, but it suits us. There are lots of things on a manager’s plate these days and he no longer has the time to go travelling the globe watching players. It’s too time-consuming. So we have a recruitment department here and we make decisions collectively. The decision-making also involves the chairman and the chief executive.
“I am very clear on the type of player that I want to bring in here and that is what we work towards. But then it doesn’t always come down to a football decision. We are talking about huge financial operations and that’s another reason why you have to bring in other people from inside the club.”
“We’ve got a small squad but that’s the way we want it. There are times in the past when this club has had players on big money who were not being selected. We have tried to move away from that and placed the accent on quality. We have a first-team squad of players who are all liable to be selected on a regular basis.
“We wanted to go along the route of bringing in younger players because we believe this is the way forward as a club. Our wage bill needed to be dramatically reduced and we’ve done that. We’ve cut our cloth according to our needs. Now we have a system which is right for us. We are together as a club and we are all singing from the same hymn book.”