Fast becoming The Most Damaging Aspect Of English Football

Initially I wasn’t at all sure why Edin Dzeko hammering in Manchester City’s sixth goal at Old Trafford  left me feeling so flat. With no allegiance to either side and despite having been thoroughly entertained by the afternoon’s proceedings I found myself profoundly wishing the game had been a bit of a non-event where neither side had made any great strides or significant result been attained.

It wasn’t until I got into the car on the way back home that I finally put my finger on it. Listening as I was to the BBC conducting a post-match interview with City’s Vincent Kompany, I realised that the ludicrous over reaction to the result in the media would quickly crush any real pleasure I had taken from what was undoubtedly another incredibly exciting weekend in the Premier League.

The phenomenal lack of perspective that accompanies coverage of England’s top flight and the wider footballing world has always been a slight niggle. I must confess I found it hard to stomach the anointment of four players as the ‘greatest in the world©’ in the space of six years- each a little more ‘great’ than the last.

Yet it has been this season that has taken things to a new height and, at the risk of myself sounding hyperbolic, been the most extraordinary I’ve ever seen. The last four weeks in particular have been like watching a hyperactive child fed nothing but energy drinks and jelly beans being taken to a theme park for the first time.

Where do we even begin? With Sky’s wall to wall coverage of the game and constant need to sell the jewel in their crown to any subscriber who was ever considering jumping ship the sport has reached saturation point.

Every game, every week is significant to the history of the game, every season of the Premier League is better than the last. At times it is hard not to feel like Adam Sandler in a remake of ’50 First Dates’ as every week the memory of the average football fan is wiped and a new set of established rules and truths are laid out.

This season’s cast of characters and ludicrous storylines have taken the whole concept to new heights. Targets of praise and derision are singled out with the same lazy attitude that means genuine stories and excited moments are lost in a sea of filler and rumour.

Phil “the new Duncan Edwards” Jones, Steven “He has barely played in 18 months but is a shoo-in for a starting berth at Euro 2012” Gerrard, Wayne “He left his exercise programme at home in the summer” Rooney and Frank “He’s had two poor games so must be retired” Lampard have all figured prominently.

Let us also not forget that Arsene Wenger may as well clear his desk at The Emirates, David Moyes has done all he can at Everton and Harry Redknapp is but a couple of months away from the England job and may wish to use any financial pay off he receives to help Steve Kean, Mick McCarthy, Owen Coyle and Steve Bruce feed their families through the winter (the coldest ever winter…of all time?). Absolute madness.

With the country is concerned by an unsustainable economic situation there should be more concern in the sporting world about an unsustainable attitude to football. I am almost expecting the boys doing ‘Sunday Supplement’ on Sky to take a collective valium after each advert break to stop Henry Winter short-circuiting when using the words ‘Kyle Walker’ too much.

Most of the hyperbole is pedalled to such an extent that it becomes established fact. The painfully weak Fabio Capello opted to slot the latest paper picks in the form of Chris Smalling and the aforementioned Phil Jones straight into his starting line-up for the most recent Euro 2012 qualifier. In that time Jones was promoted to next cab off the rank for the England captaincy and Smalling may have felt someone had paid the £35 necessary to record a name change as he has become known as “Can you believe he was playing non-league football in 2009?!”

City’s win over United will of course be billed as a seminal moment in charting a football rivalry and the papers that six weeks ago hailed Sir Alex Ferguson’s men as “unstoppable” will today be hastily shovelling their words down their throats before Charlie Adam has been given the chance to scare the children of Merseyside at Halloween.  Maybe they are right to make such bold pronouncements, maybe not, but judging the importance of each passing result is becoming harder and harder.

I cannot be alone in feeling that there has to be a tipping point. I’ve never been one to get annoyed at the finances in the game or the gap between the haves and have-nots but when genuinely exquisite moments of footballing theatre are lost under an avalanche of money spinning copy and Twitter induced rumour I feel the average fan has every right to be angry with a media that cries wolf every passing week and gets louder and louder in doing so.

I’m not asking you to turn Sky Sports News off or stop reading the papers- I’m not sure I will ever be able to do that myself. However, I urge you, when hearing how Chelsea’s penalty shootout defeat to Everton in the Carling Cup this week will represent a ‘crisis’ or if Wayne Rooney’s international career is over after he is given a week off instead of facing Spain in November, to take a deep breath and try and inject some perspective into what you are reading. Sadly, if you won’t do it, no one else will do it for you.
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