The Guardian vs. Newcastle United

28 Aug

As underlined by this latest frisson over Andy “working man” Carroll, the feud between Louise Taylor and NUFC shows no signs of abating. I’m not sure how it started – perhaps those in the know can fill me in – but the animosity between the Toon fanbase and the Guardian’s wayward north east football correspondent raises some interesting questions. Is it another instance of the London media just not getting it (see Raoul Moat article below)? Or is Taylor providing a useful objective critique of a criminally run club and a group of supporters unwilling to look injustice in the face if it might harm the team?

In support of the latter argument, it should be noted that Ms Taylor was one of the few people prepared to highlight the outrageousness of Steven (no relation) Taylor’s treatment towards the end of last season. As the promotion battle entered its final, critical phase, Taylor was hospitalized following a training ground bust-up with Carroll. Chris Hughton took no action. Meanwhile Taylor was left feeding through a straw in a Newcastle hospital, and Carroll was photographed at a 50 Cent gig proudly displaying his bandaged hands. This was not only a shocking demonstration of Carroll’s questionable taste in hip-hop; it also represents one of the very few really dodgy episodes in Hughton’s otherwise exemplary tenure as manager. Would, say, Ferguson or Wenger have tolerated such scandalous intramural delinquency?

However, while the incident and its handling undoubtedly needed drawing attention to, the stridency and righteousness of L. Taylor’s response was way OTT:

Carroll’s continued involvement appears a thoroughly depressing victory for pragmatism over principles and Hughton has surely been diminished by the entire sorry affair.

Newcastle’s manager won a UN commendation for anti-apartheid campaigning but as Carroll waved insouciantly to fans at Doncaster it seemed Hughton had suddenly lost sight of the bigger picture.

After doing brilliantly to keep Newcastle top of the table this season, he now looks weak and it is not impossible that this affair could yet spark a chain of events that may lead to him being replaced by a manager such as Mark Hughes or Steve McClaren next season.

If you were being generous, you might call this an overreaction, or a muddled confusion of disparate issues: the Steve Taylor incident, Hughton’s position as manager, his anti-apartheid past (which is surely utterly irrelevant here). Many Newcastle fans, however, responded with something less than sympathy. “Football’s most risible muckraker” was the cry of nufcblog.org, while “that bloody woman” became her epithet over at nufc.com, a title she holds to this day.

Is there an element of male chauvinism in these attacks? Perhaps. Taylor is a brilliant, outspoken and articulate female football writer in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field. Besides, the north east, and England in general, desperately needs people who are able to cut through the self-regarding bullshit and small-c conservatism of football fandom when the occasion demands, as with the Steve Taylor-Andy Carroll incident. L.Taylor’s “principles over pragmatism” stance has a lot to be said for it, especially in a culture that has for far too long now been characterized by apathy and blithe acceptance of corporate “realism”.

Nevertheless, it’s ultimately difficult to defend Taylor’s often fanciful, wildly unfounded and inappropriately politicized comments, like the condescending description of Gateshead’s “working man’s” culture (what do those speech marks mean?!), and her absolutely bizarre character assassination of Chris Hughton:

Giving power to Kevin Nolan, Alan Smith, Steve Harper and Nicky Butt, a man who as a Tottenham full-back had mixed in Trotskyite circles watched that ‘Politburo’ ensure his coaching drills and game plans were strictly adhered to.

Meanwhile the still left-leaning Hughton and the right-wing, brashly capitalist, Ashley formed an unexpectedly close union, their bond arguably deepened by mutual mistrust of the media.

At moments like this, Taylor embodies the substantial disconnect between Guardianista sanctimony and the brash – but essentially and invariably benign – mainstream of demotic north east football culture. In May, another Guardian journalist, Chris Arnot, published an article that included comments made by Chelsea’s “head of corporate social responsibility” Simon Taylor (no relation to either Steve or Louise) suggesting that there had been racist protests outside St James’s Park when Andy Cole made his debut there in 1993. The fact that these claims were so spectacularly and demonstrably spurious (combined with the minor detail that Cole had actually made his debut away at Swindon in the previous game) prompted a hasty retraction, but for many Toon fans the damage had already been done.

In similar fashion, on Monday the Guardian website ran with the headline “Joey Barton denies Nazi salute in Newcastle’s win over Aston Villa”. The victory was an emphatic one for NUFC, a strong intimation that maybe, just maybe, we might be able to stay up this year and reverse the long-running decline inflicted on the club by 15-odd years of corrupt and senseless administration. Yet Louise Taylor chose to draw attention to the meaningless gaffe of a player who surely now deserves one more shot at redemption. But by now this sort of condescension and misrepresentation has become wearily predictable. If Taylor and the Guardian continue to treat north east football players, managers, and fans as naïve, inarticulate punchbags on which to conduct personal vendettas cloaked as bien pensant, pseudo-ideological crusades, the discord is likely to continue for some time.

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7 Responses to “The Guardian vs. Newcastle United”

  1. Champ 29/08/2010 at 10:08 #

    TBW has written some of the most trite articles regarding nufc, specifically CH and AC, in the past few weeks – the campaign is heating up with every week that goes by where we fail to implode as a team/club/region.

    The recent “swaggering olive-skinned Andy Carroll” piece would easily have passed for one of the mildly witty musing of TBW’s twitter nemesis (@GuardianLouise), while the Barton ‘nazi’ nonsense is a prime example of the sort of
    blindness that brings her such derision.

    She must have been delighted when that gesture gave her another chance to stick the knife into nufc, especially when it ‘swept the internet’ – but why did she choose to report that side of the (non) story when at the same time those who actually saw the whole game were defending and EXPLAINING what JB was actually doing.

    The above video, asside from it being my favourite ‘fanvid’ for years, (allow the foo fighters), clearly shows that that gesture was performed not just once by JB, but numerous times, and also by Andy Carroll. Maybe a cherry-picked GettyImage makes it appear a ‘salute’ (if you want it to), but the reality is that it’s quite clearly a training ground in-joke the whole team is aware of and enjoying. NOTHING to do with “political beliefs.”

    Even that single still image itself undermines her position. Contrast the gurning, open-handed, comedy-moustachioed Barton gesture with the steely, angry, pointed-hand of Paulo di Canio’s infamous salute. Same thing? Yeah, of course Louise.

    Similarly her wish to paint incidents a certain way by leaving out key points is simply not good sports journalism. She chose to ‘back’ ST in ‘brokenjawgate’ and thus flagged up hearsay such as ST ‘drinking through a straw’ and the audacity of AC to go out without covering heavily bandaged hands, (boxing gloves?), or
    indeed go out at all. What she didn’t report, or reported in spite of, was the equally present remarks concerning Taylor’s mockery of his ex-girlfriend (now the mother of Andy Carroll’s daughter), and Taylor’s assertion she’d be better off with him as he earns a “man’s wage.” It certainly doesn’t reflect well on a very good nufc player who again finds himself in contract-based disagreement with the club.

    Louise Taylor can’t get away with celebrating/inventing tabloidal escapades by nufc players and at the same time ignore them when reportedly committed by players she favours. Maybe Taylor didn’t provoke AC and deserve his broken jaw, but JB DEFINITELY didn’t deserve yet another attempt to break his recovering reputation.

    I wonder how/if she will report Wolverhampton’s physical targetting of Joey yesterday (angry
    jewish players?), or even that we again saw
    the new, unrisable JB further making the case
    for him being nufc’s most important player this season.

    • AN 29/08/2010 at 10:52 #

      Thanks for the inside info Champ. That video brings a (joyful) tear to the eye.

  2. Champ 29/08/2010 at 11:25 #

    Aforementioned Joey-baiting.

    Obviously may well be tittle-tattle, but the comments were leaked by a ‘club source’, just as was ST’s ‘soup-diet’ was.

    Also just had this flagged up on twitta, I didn’t see motd2, but it’s even more blantant than I’d imagined! How Joey doesn’t react to any of these, given his formsheet, is an absolute miracle.

  3. AN 29/08/2010 at 14:51 #

    Nice one Champo.

    Write us a full length article innit?

  4. Champ 29/08/2010 at 18:47 #

    I was actually thinking of doing a Barton piece, I’ll draft one before prem. resumes… then delete it after his sending off against against
    Blackpool.

    Actually just been a good caller on 606 too, saying how good (and rare) a spectacle the game yesterday was: hard challenges, 22 players giving their all, battles all over the pitch etc etc. Not sure how she slipped through the optimist-net Alan Green is normally swinging about.

  5. Champ 29/08/2010 at 18:50 #

    ^^Video removed from YouTube grr.

    Low quality one:

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