The emergence of the digital age has changed the face of the planet in several ways – for better or worse. Globalization has been made possible, social networking has supposedly brought us closer and the exposure of information has even been credited with toppling dictators. But something far more revolutionary and impactful has occurred. Indeed, within footballing circles, the age of the ‘in the know’ is upon us.
Now known to most of us by the immortal acronym ‘ITK’, it’s actually quite difficult to define what makes somebody ‘in the know’. The notion of an ITK is hardly something new, either. The ‘wise old man of the boozer’ doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so easily, although we’ve all been enlightened in our favourite haunt by a man who claims to have the inside track.
Convincing people you’re engineering Terry Venables contract to manage your local club is one thing, but trying to legitimately claim you have a boardroom scoop on a Premier League club is quite another. And one simple scan of the Internet suggests that quite a few people fancy themselves as a modern day ITK. Have fans developed KGB-like surveillance skills or are they just a bunch of chancers looking for a bit of attention?
The answer is usually found within your own footballing community. Football clubs of all levels have substantial online followings and most sites come with something of a hierarchy of trust. Sites that are the best run, by the fans and with a trusted list of seasoned posters, tend to prove your best bet of finding a trusty ITK.
Some will of course be ridiculing the obvious logic in this, but the alarming amount of faith put in the wisdom of Twitter users using a suit and briefcase avatar as some form of ITK certificate, is rife. Speculation and rumours that swirl around football clubs are often founded in truth. No smoke without fire, and all that. There are always going to be people who love your football club that are either well placed as an employee or exposed to someone who is aware of boardroom goings on, who are going to want to share it to other fans. That is the nature of football.
Players, managers, chairman and agents. There are simply too many people involved in football, for a Pringles lid to be sealed over all the gossip and inner workings of the football world. But where as there are a select few who contribute online to the benefit of all supporters, a vast majority seems to be devaluing the notion of an ITK. Self-proclaimed, Twitter peacocks; wearing their ITK title with pride and firing unanswered Tweets out to Gary Lineker, in a pathetic attempt to increase their validity.
And this is where the problem lies. Harmless fun or tedious chancing? You take all transfer based or takeover speculation, at face value. But it feels like there is a staunch difference between fans exchanging a bit of hearsay and gossip and those proclaiming to have information that must be taken as gospel; especially when it is complete fabrication. You may think that you’re too wily to avoid such dubious sources. But the rumor always makes it way round.
But even then, the nature of such ITK information, be it from more esteemed sources or slightly more dubious ones, can be fraught with danger. Those taking the liberty to name a date for a transfer instantly seem to douse their claim with some form of holy credibility. And when it so usually does fail to prove accurate, the ITK’s head is on the chopping block, awaiting the guillotine of fuming posters on the message boards.
Unfortunately though, the harsh annihilation of ITK’s who dare hand out ill-advised transfer tips, is a double edged sword. Because for every kid who is having a bit of a wind on the message boards, there will always be one gentleman who had some genuinely well sourced information.
The way in which football business is dealt with, is of course, highly protracted and often very tedious indeed. There is every chance that an ITK did indeed get the date right, but was shafted by the delayed negotiation of something like an agents fee. Being greeted with a volley of abuse from a series of keyboard warriors isn’t likely to see them come back again too soon. Is there a right way to treat an ITK?
As already mentioned, supporters will know which sites and forums offer the best gauge of opinion and measure of goings on at their football club. And the chances are, if anyone really has any serious news that they think could benefit their club, they’re going to go to one of these sites to share it. Not under a pathetic pseudonym on Twitter.
Yet would it really feel the same without the ITK’s, in whatever guise they come in? However much rubbish some of them speak, it always gets fans talking. Spurs fans sense investment is around the corner – just about every Arabian royal family, government and business syndicate has been touted as either an investor or outright buyer. It could be absolute garbage or it could be solidified fact. But the point is fans feel something is around the corner and it’s got people buzzing.
Footballing ITK’s are the ultimate footballing paradox. Whether it’s an absolute pearler of boardroom wisdom or a wicked rumor that sets you up for a fall, the ITK is a footballing fixture that isn’t going away any time soon. And whether that’s a good thing, you decide.
Do you have a trusty source that regularly produces the goods on the message boards? Are you sick to death of having your hopes crushed by a serial offender? Or do you just wish to wind me up with a transfer tip? Tell me what you think, follow @samuel_antobus on Twitter