Last night I watched a programme about Mexico 86, with some of the England players of that time, recounting the tournament. It was a fascinating programme and chartered the whole series of events that led to the infamous ‘hand of God’ that saw England knocked out. I was four, so I remember my Granddad telling me about it a few years after the event and even two or three years later, he spoke of it as if the raw pain was still there, as if it had happened to him yesterday. Indeed, there are people old enough who still recall the disgrace of the gifted Maradonna’s handball to secure Argentina’s passage to the semi finals, just ask somebody in their 40s+ about it if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

But that is not the main reason I thought I’d pen some thoughts to you today. No, what I really wanted to do is to highlight the differences in media engagement and interaction that I saw on this documentary, which is a stark contrast to today’s footballers.

Gary Lineker, Kenny Sansom, Peter Shilton, Glenn Hoddle and Terry Butcher were the chief interviewees of the piece, as I saw footage of ‘Saint and Greavsie’ talking on TV, with Kevin Keegan also chipping in from the studio at the time. What really surprised me was the access that was given to the TV cameras. One shot had Gary Lineker being told to plug the football and saying “we’ll see you after the break”, another had both himself and Peter Beardsley by the pool with headsets on, laughing and joking with the commentators via a live video feed. It was amazing to watch footballers be so candid with their hosts and to speak so openly. Even the manager had time for some frank words and a light-hearted quip. No wonder everyone loved Bobby Robson. 

Then I started to feel a bit sad.

I felt sad because I found myself positioning modern-day footballers in that position. I found myself sad because of what would be the reality of there was that kind of access. If Sterling and Rooney were sat by the pool on a live feed to Sky Sports. If Roy Hodgson was caught on his way to the hotel and asked to make a comment. Then I imagined what their response would be.

Well, I tried to, but I gave up because I knew whatever it would be it would have been the dullest thing you’ve ever heard.

When it comes to interaction and being able to see what our heroes are like, unfortunately, the world that I watched yesterday evening doesn’t exist any more. It probably never will. 

Football has, like much of society, become santistised to a degree in which it has no real personality any more. Footballers and managers – anyone within the game who has a public profile – are media trained from an early age and they’re media trained to say things that mean absolutely nothing. You know the stuff I’m talking about, the Theo Walcott post match interviews that go something like “err, yeah, we really put the effort in today, gave 110% and all the lads worked for each other” blah, blah, blah. They’ve had personality drilled out of them. 

Some people will say that footballers just aren’t that bright, but I don’t believe that today’s footballers have had any less education or IQ tests that make them different from yesterday’s footballers, they have just been told to vanillarise any real personality in any media engagements that they are obliged to take. They’ve had who they are trained out of them and all we are left to witness is a mumbling collective of clichés that add nothing to the viewing experience. I switch the football off after the game has finished usually. Sometimes it’s because I have other things to do, but mostly it’s because I can’t be bothered to listen to boring players say boring things. 

Perhaps it’s just the way of the world these days. Perhaps the degree to which they are scrutinised means that they have to behave that way. But who has enforced that change? I don’t think it’s the public being overly dramatic. Certainly from my circle of footballing friends, they’d probably love to see a ‘real’ interview from an Arsenal or England player, like the players of Mexico 86. Perhaps the wider public wouldn’t approve, but they aren’t the main target audience, so why does it matter?

Perhaps this is a sociological issue. Perhaps society as a whole has been dummed down because of over-reaction from the media. I don’t really have an answer I’m afraid, there are other people cleverer and more articulate than I who could probably evaluate for me, but all I have is this blog and my thoughts. And my thoughts are that what we have is an over-sanitised product that professes to deliver what the people want, but off the pitch it rarely ever does.

Ok, rant over now. I would talk to you about Arsenal stuff, but there’s little of note to talk about. There was a 0-0 draw with Birmingham for the Arsenal ladies, but it’s hardly anything to get my Arsenal interest stimulated, so I’ll let you have a read of the match report here, if you like.

As for me, I’ll find myself in London shortly, so I shall be orff.