It’s a grumpy Mediawatch today, bravely battling a nasty cold to bring some absolute bullsh*t about Ilkay Gundogan to your attention.
A classic example of the 21st century headline writer’s art from the Mail, where Ian Herbert’s thoughtful and decent piece about how and why Steve Cooper has done such a grand job at Forest is stitched right up by a headline that shouts:
‘As Steve Cooper saved Nottingham Forest, he had the class to embrace the club’s past… do NOT be surprised if the cult hero succeeds Gareth Southgate as England manager’
What, the manager who has just performed the near impossible by keeping a ramshackle Forest squad in the Premier League with room to spare and who famously led an England U17 side containing many future England stars to World Cup glory in 2017 by beating Brazil 3-1 in the semi-final and Spain 5-2 in the final? The manager who is currently third favourite with some bookmakers to be next England manager? Don’t be surprised if that manager becomes England manager? We can confirm we will NOT be surprised.
But is there actually any indication from Herbert that we might or would be surprised? Not really. There’s barely anything about being England manager at all. Because that is not remotely what the piece is about; the piece is about Cooper’s work at Forest this season, told mainly through the prism of interviews with the club’s double European Cup-winning captain John McGovern who has often been invited down to the training ground.
If it was about being England manager it might make more than a passing mention – mainly in relation to Morgan Gibbs-White – of that star-studded England U17 team. Or mention at all whether Cooper has any actual inclination towards the England job. Or even mention that he’s Welsh. None of that is mentioned because none of that is relevant to the piece.
What Herbert has done is put in a throwaway paragraph about what is a very obvious and very possible scenario, almost as an aside.
‘And the FA are closely observing Cooper, whom they view as one of their own. Do not be surprised if he ultimately succeeds Southgate.’
That is it. In a 1000-word piece, it is the only passing mention of the entirely uncontroversial idea that Cooper perhaps might be a future England manager.
But then Herbert should know better. He’s been around long enough to know what a MailOnline sub is likely to do with a line like that, no matter how casually tossed away.
If you suggest in passing that Nottingham Forest’s manager might one day be England manger two-thirds of the way into a 1000-word piece about something else entirely, do NOT be surprised when a MailOnline sub makes it the headline.
This one has genuinely led us to something approaching despair, for the industry, for humanity, for snickering little Mediawatch’s own place in an increasingly unhinged journalistic landscape.
We generally try to avoid the WAG wankbait the tabloid websites shoehorn into their football section, because it’s there every single day and it’s just too miserably depressing for words, but sometimes it’s too egregious and we simply wouldn’t be doing our very important job if we didn’t draw attention to it. Today is one such day. Here’s The Sun headline:
‘Dele Alli’s girlfriend Cindy Kimberly joins no bra club after bizarre wardrobe malfunction at Cannes’
We’ve also today discovered that ‘joins no bra club’ is now one of the little phrases The Sun likes to use in lots of the headlines for this kind of story, confirming they are written for – and quite possibly by – 14-year-old boys, but let’s leave that.
Because we can all have a good guess about what the ‘no bra club’ is and we all know what the long-established euphemism ‘wardrobe malfunction’ means, don’t we? This is a headline clearly designed to lure in scrolling masturbators with the promise of seeing something titillating they weren’t meant to see.
So, what was the ‘wardrobe malfunction’ here?
‘However, it was almost a disaster for her as the dress arrived late, meaning she had to delay her appearance on the red carpet by a day.’
That’s not what it means, and you know that’s not what it means. Does prefacing a phrase with the word ‘bizarre’ now mean we can all just completely change the meaning of said phrase? Is this really what anyone wanted to become a journalist to do? Are we really devoting 200 words to being indignant on behalf of masturbating Sun readers? So many questions, so few answers.
We’re all going on a mini-retirement
Lighter news now. We know you all saw this yesterday afternoon but we simply cannot ignore Gary Neville inventing ‘holidays’ in real-time.
Having made the terrible mistake of going on one of those dreadful entrepreneurial grind-set side-hustle LinkedIn-post-made-flesh podcasts they have now, Neville has managed to leave even the host of said podcast incredulous with the sheer scale of his nonsense.
“This weekend I’m going to Spain from Friday to Monday morning. I call that a mini-retirement.”
Even host Steven Bartlett can’t let that slide. “So… that’s a weekend?” Wrong, Steven.
“It’s basically where I can say for three days that I’m there and I’m basically taking it easy. I don’t think about work – but I will.
“Some of my best ideas come when I’m on these types of trips. But then in six weeks, I’ll have another mini-retirement for five days rather than thinking you’re going to stop for six months for a sort of sabbatical.
“That’s probably not going to happen for people like you or me because we basically don’t work that way. So having lots of mini-retirements during the year is what I try to do.”
That’s annual leave, Gary. You’ve invented holidays. We were all set to go off the deep end for about 800 deeply confused and confusing words about this, but luckily our good friends at Planet Football have already done so and saved us the bother, so bless them for that.
Away and clear
Clever people like you who read Mediawatch will immediately sus out that the most obvious inference of the following Mirror headline will be 100% wrong.
‘Ilkay Gundogan makes his transfer preference clear ahead of private Mikel Arteta meeting’
You can immediately and correctly deduce that the one thing this doesn’t mean, despite the obvious implication, is that this Arteta meeting makes Arsenal his ‘transfer preference’. Because if it was that it would say that.
But this headline is even better than that. Because not only has Ilkay Gundogan not made clear a transfer preference for Arsenal, he’s made no transfer preference of any kind clear at all. He has said precisely nothing.
The piece contains no quotes, no tangible, concrete information of any kind to justify the use of the word ‘clear’ in the headline. It’s based entirely on a similarly content-light report in the ever-impartial Barcelona-based Sport that baldly asserts Gundogan prefers a move to Barcelona.
By the intro, ‘Gundogan makes his transfer preference clear’ has already been downgraded to ‘Ilkay Gundogan favours a move to Barcelona amid transfer interest from Arsenal, it has been claimed’. We’re so very tired.
No such naughtiness from the Express, who back up their cryptic Gundogan to Arsenal headline with real actual quotes:
‘Ilkay Gundogan’s comments on Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hint at possible summer transfer’
‘Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is clearly a fan of Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta,’ it confidently begins. ‘The pair know each other from the latter’s time as Pep Guardiola’s assistant and a reunion could be on the cards this summer after old quotes surfaced.’
Ah. Now, ‘old quotes surfaced’ is an interesting way of phrasing ‘I googled ‘Mikel Arteta Ilkay Gundogan quotes” but at least it’s halfway honest.
How old are we talking, though? Readers, we’re sorry to inform you we’re going all the way back to autumn 2021.
But what did Gundogan say about Arteta? Must be pretty glowing, right? If it hints at a possible summer transfer now in 2023? Remember, at that time Arteta’s Arsenal were not the team they are now. Back then they would have dreamed of being accused of bottling a title race. For Gundogan to be praising Arteta then – remember, he’s a ‘big fan’ because it says so right there in the intro – is quite a big deal.
Except, obviously, it’s not. What happened is that Arteta summed up Gundogan thusly: “Maybe he doesn’t shine, but he allows others to shine.” It’s a neat description of Gundogan’s selflessness, and a description the German agreed with when the quote was brought to his attention by L’Equipe in November 2021.
“I really like this quote, I often use it to describe my game. It’s important to have a clear idea of how you can help your team-mates or not. I have never been selfish and never will be.”
And that’s it. Mentions of Arteta beyond liking this one thing he said about him? None. A single Gundogan quote about his own style of play that doesn’t even mention Mikel Arteta by name prompts the headline ‘Ilkay Gundogan’s comments on Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta hint at possible summer transfer’ a full 18 months later.
We’re so very, very, very tired.