"...this is the most articulate and accurate piece written about the club for years!" - Tales from the Front, http://www.otib.co.uk/

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Twit on Twitter? Sepp Blatter & Rio Ferdinand's public spat

My latest article from Bristol City's matchday programme, Red Alert:
Southampton, Nov 26th

The last ‘On the Social’ focused on unknown individuals hiding behind a Twitter shield to racially abuse players (this is a trend that unfortunately shows few signs of abating with James Vaughan and Fraizer Campbell the latest ‘victims’ reporting abuse to the police).  This article will remain focused on the main topic but will feature two far more recognisable names and their use of Twitter.

With Anton Ferdinand being one of the key figures at the centre of the row, it should come as no surprise that brother – and serial tweeter – Rio (@rioferdy5) should wade in to the discussion.  Although Rio was very careful not to talk specifics – he is one of the more professional Twitter users and typically knows where the boundaries lie – he jumped in with two feet as soon as an interview with FIFA president Sepp Blatter was aired.

Blatter’s widely publicised comments provoked an immediate response from Rio, with a general tweet “Tell me I have just read Sepp Blatter's comments on racism in football wrong....if not then I am astonished”.  However, this didn’t seem to let off enough steam and his next question to his 1.6million followers – asking whether Blatter was on Twitter (he is) – was answered in the affirmative by hundreds who were starting to smell a ‘Twitter-fight’ brewing!

Ferdinand immediately set about confronting Blatter via Twitter, tweeting him directly with “your comments on racism are so condescending its almost laughable. If fans shout racist chants but shake our hands is that ok?

He followed this by responding to a photo FIFA – clearly sensing a PR disaster – had placed on their website’s homepage of Blatter with South African Tokyo Sexwale, a former inmate of Robben Island and now a sitting member of FIFA’s fair play committee, intimating they should be embarrassed at such a token effort at negating the row.

This is when Blatter reacted, accusing Ferdinand of patronising Sexwale and being ignorant of both Sexwale’s importance in the fight against racism and the huge strides Blatter himself has helped nurture as President in recent years.  He then tweeted several more general statements to defend himself and try to put himself back on an even keel, although essentially repeating the initial statement that caused the furore in the first place: “Racism and discrimination of any kind have no place in football. I have said this many times before, and I will say it again and again…However, and it is not an excuse - sometimes, in the heat of the moment, things are said and done on the field of play which are wrong

Ferdinand retorted with a series of tweets left unanswered by Blatter “to say what you said about racism in football spoke volumes of your ignorance to the subject….. If we want 2 stamp out racism in society a football pitch is a good place to start - loved by billions of people around the world”

And that was that.  So, why the fuss?  When you take a step back and think about this, this was the president of the game’s ruling body getting involved in a tit-for-tat bicker with one of the game’s most famous players – and all in the public domain. 

If you work for any medium-to-large sized company, just imagine for a second your Chief Executive getting involved in an argument with a senior manager on emails being sent to ‘All Users’.  Then multiply that by about a million to take into account football’s media and popularity status.  I had a mental image of Blatter’s advisors man-handling him and dragging him away from his desk whilst he clung on with his fingernails, desperately trying to write more!

This was without doubt the most high profile ‘conversation’ in the football world since Twitter came into being and once again Twitter was actually providing the news.  TV and written press alike led on this story for the following 24 hours and this whole episode simply couldn’t have come to the fore in quite the same way a few years ago. 

If you’re not yet on Twitter then you’re missing out!

The Exiled Robin (@TheExiledRobin)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Derek McInnes' start to life as Bristol City manager

I was invited by top football website The Hard Tackle to write a post on the start made at Bristol City by Derek McInnes, and this is the result:

Sacking a manager in early October, as Bristol City did recently, often seems like a knee-jerk reaction made with far too much haste. After all, what can you possibly infer about the season ahead after just ten matches? There are plenty of games left, new ideas and tactics are still being established and anyway, what could a new manager do with the much-hyped transfer window not opening until January?

At times, however, it just feels like the right thing to do. This was certainly the case at Ashton Gate following the 5-0 humiliation at Blackpool on October’s opening day. It wasn’t the score-line so much as the manner of defeat. With three goals coming in the last few minutes of the game, it was clear the players’ heads had again dropped and confidence was rock-bottom. This followed a catastrophic finish in the previous home game against Reading, where after being 2-0 up and cruising with 20 minutes to go, three goals were conceded and another defeat – you can call it the ‘penultimately’ fatal one – was chalked up on Keith Millen’s record. The club was bottom of the Championship and in danger of being cast adrift with little sign of improvement on the horizon.........

To read more please follow the link below to The Hard Tackle, and follow them on Twitter for a fabulous range of football writing


Follow me on Twitter: @TheExiledRobin

Sunday, 6 November 2011

How will Twitter change following racism row?

My latest article from Bristol City's matchday programme, Red Alert:
Burnley, Nov 5th

The days when John Barnes, John Fashanu et al regularly had banana skins thrown at them and monkey noises were common-place seem many moons ago.  Those that run the game today are often keen to point out that racism in the game has been virtually eliminated and occurred before the formation of the Premier League and the Champions League.  Prior to multi-millionaire owners, before the fences came down and we had new all-seater, family-friendly stadia.

There have been persistent flashes abroad, with Southern and Eastern European team’s fans in particular causing disgruntlement amongst those within the English game.  The fact that UEFA seem unwilling to deal with these issues with any more than a financial slap on the wrists is another story for another day.

However, the topic has returned with a vengeance to dominate English football headlines in the past couple of weeks.  It started as a ‘one-off’ with Patrice Evra claiming Luis Suarez abused him during the recent Liverpool v Manchester United clash at Anfield.  The matter escalated in dramatic fashion when England captain John Terry was accused of racially abusing his “friend” Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road – ironically not one of the episodes that led to a red card during that fractious clash.  It should be noted both of these remain alleged incidents.

Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) has spoken out on this matter regularly via Twitter after the Terry/Ferdinand incident and amongst the overwhelming support from good-natured football fans, he also received a sizeable amount of racist and personal abuse.

News then broke that Newcastle had reported a Twitter user to the police for sending an offensive tweet to their young player, Sammy Ameobi (@Sammy_Ameobi).

Behind the appalling nature of this alleged abuse lies an interesting sub-topic, that of perceived privacy in the wide-open world of social media.  The once-threatened legal action against 100,000 people for defying a high court ruling on keeping Ryan Giggs’ name out of the public domain seems unfeasible and appears to have died a death.  However if the police act as they should in the Ameobi instance, providing the allegations have sufficient foundation, it will give people cause to stop and think before tweeting comments they would surely be immensely ashamed of saying out loud. 

If Twitter won’t act (some truly horrendous insults get sent to footballers in particular without retribution) then maybe firm police action will help to stem the flow.  The anonymity that many wrongly assume lies behind their user name could be about to be blown away as a myth if this fan is barred from St. James Park (it is being reported he is a Newcastle season-ticket holder believe it or not), and dealt with accordingly by Northumbria Police. 

What is also positive about this story is the sensible route being taken by the player himself.  It would have been very easy for him to have responded angrily.  It would perhaps have been even easier to ignore it completely, leaving the incident largely unreported and the alleged offender free to abuse others.  Instead he informed his employers who have taken appropriate action.  Ameobi himself has received hundreds, perhaps thousands of comments of praise from fans and it is good to see the majority of people using Twitter in the correct manner – getting in touch and close to your ‘celebrity’ heroes is a significant factor in its seemingly unstoppable success. 

What this could result in is a real transformation of how some act on Twitter.  Online fan’s forums, especially ‘official’ ones, have long had a behaviour code but it’s something Twitter has been reticent to do, and as such people feel that they can say anything they like without any comeback. 

Lewis Wiltshire – BBC Sport’s Social Media Editor, (@LewisWiltshire) – has long been intrigued by players and fans use of Twitter and his tweet on the incident sums up the possible impact on the world of social media of the story:
“Newcastle reporting alleged racism on Twitter is fascinating development in the way
people’s conduct online may affect them in the ‘real world’”

The mask may be about to slip.

The Exiled Robin (@cider1977)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Stephen Pearson: A Rams' point of view

The signing of Stephen Pearson seems like a marker for new manager Derek McInnes.  An experienced campaigner of the type he has already identified we need to get out of the relegation scrap. 

A Scottish international with 10 caps and more than 250 games under his belt he is relatively well-known, but I asked Ollie (follow him on Twitter here), from the excellent "The Derby County Blog" to give his views on our newest loan signing - and it sounds largely encouraging.

And with a goal, an assist and a Man of the Match on his debut in our 3-1 home win against Burnley things have certainly started brightly!

"Stephen Pearson was brought to Derby from Celtic in January 2007, as the club surged towards promotion under Billy Davies.

Pearson commanded relatively big wages and Davies claimed that his energy in midfield would make him a huge asset.  And of course, he scored the goal that got us promoted.  In the play-off final against West Brom, he converted a Giles Barnes cross thanks to one of his lung-bursting sprints from midfield.

That was exactly the sort of goal he had been signed to score, but it was actually his first goal for the club - and he barely ever scored again.

He's a left-footed box-to-box central midfielder, who can win the ball, link play and surge forward when given the space.  His final delivery and shooting, however, was a source of frustration to Rams fans and his goalscoring record, for a midfielder with the ability to break into the final third, is awful.  Due to his pace and trademark surge through midfield, you tend to assume that he could play on the left, but he has rarely proved effective in that position.

By the time our 2007/8 Premier League season had been confirmed as a farce, Pearson had been loaned to Stoke, but a proposed permanent transfer never went through.  A move to Birmingham that summer also collapsed, after the player failed his medical.

Sure enough, Pearson played little part the next season.  However, he played regularly in 2009/10 under Nigel Clough and even scored a goal, against you lot.  Having done enough to earn a contract extension from Clough, Pearson managed 21 league starts in 2010/11, before suffering another bad injury at the end of the season, from which he has only just recovered.

Ultimately, Pearson is one of the many players who have passed through Derby in the last few years without ever doing enough to justify their price tag or wages.  It's clearly in his interests to move on, as we continue to slash a wagebill which ballooned dangerously under the management of Davies and Paul Jewell.  However, if his injuries are genuinely behind him, you should have a useful central midfielder on your hands.

Pearson's Derby career can be summed up by the fact that his best moment with the club, the Wembley goal, actually led to the worst season in our history and successive terms of second-tier turmoil.  He is a reminder of a period the club would rather forget and for this reason, I'm glad he's moving on.

Good luck to Pearo and to Bristol City for the rest of the season."

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