Some years ago I drew indignation from a former Middlesbrough player called Bernie Slaven.
The Scotsman was one of a trio of presenters on a radio show called The Three Legends which managed to unite football fans across this region. They all hated it.
To be scrupulously fair, it had a few loyal followers. But there were only so many people who would abase themselves daily by calling in to say “Hi legends, great show” – and it was eventually put out of its misery.
After I mentioned it being a “daily festival of tripe,” someone rang them to grass me up.
Bobby Slaven’s huffy and dismissive response was that he had no idea who I was, without explaining the relevance of this.
His exact statement was: “Never hairdyim!”
He also dismissed my opinions as I had “never played the game;” which was also weird because the opinion given was about broadcasting – not football.
So Billy had little time for non-ex-footballers, or people he hadn’t heard of. Who better then to garner the views of ordinary footy fans on a radio phone-in?
I was never a footballer because I had no talent or qualifications in that area. But the same prohibitions don’t necessarily apply in journalism and the otherwise excellent Middlesbrough Gazette engages him to write a column.
Last week Barry used it to imply that Boro are – no joke – as big as Sunderland or Newcastle, on the basis of winning the League Cup 14 years ago. Cleverer Boro fans must read this through their fingers.
Perhaps it was a desperate attempt to get Middlesbrough noticed somewhere outside Middlesbrough for once; or maybe he was trying to convince himself.
But of more importance and stupidity was describing Sunderland before Saturday’s game as “cannon fodder” and “the walking dead.”
Sunderland fans themselves regularly describe their team in such terms. But that’s different.
He made the small concession, “but it is still a derby game (sic) so Boro will have to play well.”
Even overlooking the fact that it isn’t a derby, his comments weren’t terribly bright. Surely he knows that football regularly does what it’s not supposed to and that Middlesbrough aren’t great either.
Brian’s comments can only have helped Chris Coleman to inspire improvement and bag a deserved draw when everyone (me included) had predicted an away win.
Nice to see Mr Slaven’s expertise in action again. He did play the game you know.