THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

You’re shite and you know you are.

That well versed put down, usually sung as the third or fourth goal goes crashing into the net as you destroy your rivals. Gloating and mercilessly baiting as you wallow in the misfortune of others, less able than you are. Football does that, lifting your spirits to such an extent that you lose all sense of reality, forgetting that at some point, it might be your turn to take a beating. As (ex) managers and coaches, we are acutely aware of that, careful to the point of caution, thinking about every word that may or may not be distorted to make the headline. Some are less careful than others and few are brutally honest, but make no mistake, we are all waiting for that time when a loose word comes back to bite you.

John Collins had his very own “you’re shite and you know you are” moment this week and to say that I am surprised at the reaction and hypocrisy by some from both within and outwith the game, would be an understatement of ‘Houston, we have a problem’ proportions.

Firstly, it is important for me to state there is no question that John, MAY have chosen his words a little more carefully. However, having clamoured for years to get our players, managers and coaches to tell the truth and reach beyond the “game of two halves” and “crossing the white line” clichéd claptrap, are we now to pillory someone for giving an honest assessment on some of our game’s failings?

It is important however to give context to what John said. John Collins did not say that Scottish football is appalling and of sub-standard as some of the newspapers would have you believe. He did, however say, that Scottish football, does not test Celtic as much as European football does in certain situations (granted, in a slightly different way than I have). He wasn’t making a sweeping generalisation as has been portrayed in some quarters, indeed, if you read the full transcript of the interview, the tabloids have a very different emphasis to their side of the story than the broadsheets. There is nothing wrong with that. The journalists are only doing their job. They will enter a press conference with pre-conceived ideas about how the ‘presser’ will go. On many occasions they will already have an idea of their angle, pushing and pursuing a line of questioning until they get what they want. Or, as was the case on this occasion, the interviewee will hand them what they want on a plate. There is often a great amount of training and skill involved in that, because being able to spot the ‘story’ is what sells papers. But let’s look at what John actually said;

“they’re not clever enough players or quick enough thinkers…”

Those nine words in isolation are now being taken to mean that Scottish football is awash with players who are of the football intelligence level of a miscreant schoolboy and may well be construed as disparaging. They certainly created the headlines that seem to have caught everyone’s eye, but if you look at the previous sentence and the one that comes after (which many of the newspapers decided, in their wisdom to leave out) then you can see that John was in fact talking about specific incidents on the pitch, situations and points of weakness that better players are able to exploit.

“…If you become open and detached from each other against good players and good teams you’ll be punished…that doesn’t happen to us in Scotland – no disrespect to the other Scottish teams, but they’re not clever enough players or quick enough thinkers to punish us when we do become detached from one another.”

To suggest that John was being deliberately condescending to the standard of the Scottish game, rather than being very specific about the demands of European football, is frivolous. However, the stark reality, regardless of how the words may have been perceived is that had he meant to ‘down’ the Scottish game in a not-so-subtle manner, he would only have been telling the truth. The standard of play, and indeed, player when it goes beyond the first and second rounds of the European competitions, after weeding out the chaff, DOES become a much bigger test than what we can provide in this country. We only need look at ALL Scottish clubs results in European competition in recent times to see that.

There has also, in my opinion been a great deal of hypocrisy on the subject, with all manner of managers and coaches having their say on the matter, most of whom disagree with John’s assertion. I have known Derek McIness for a long time, having played against him and pitted my wits against him in a coaching capacity. He has achieved far more in the game than I ever will, but on this occasion I have to disagree with him, given that John Collins is saying no more than what almost every manager in the country will say in their team talk every other week when they arrive at Celtic Park. No? Let me fill you in.

“We need to keep it tight…”

“We need to stay compact and not become open and detached from each other, because if we don’t, Celtic have players who are quick enough and clever enough to punish us…”

Sound familiar? Does that counter argument therefore mean, that every manager in the country is being disparaging, disrespectful and demeaning to his own players, just as John Collins apparently was? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

The Celtic assistant manager wasn’t trying to apportion blame for Celtic’s failings, he was stating a fact that in Europe, his players are given a greater test than they are at home. If Celtic fail in Europe, it will be down to Celtic, but John Collins wasn’t trying to waiver or deflect from that. He will be acutely aware of his responsibilities, and that of Scottish football, but neither was he trying to put down our game, nor sing “You’re shite and you know you are.”

So please, spare me the false outrage and the calls for his hanging. A wise man once said, “better to be true to yourself than to be false to others.” Something we should maybe all think about next time we see the headline and forget to read the whole story.

My first book – TAXI FOR FARRELL: FOOTBALL BETWEEN THE LINES is now available to pre-order from http://www.tecklebooks.co.uk All pre-orders before November release date will receive a signed copy and free delivery.

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell

11 thoughts on “THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

  1. Great article David. As an Aberdeen supporter I agree with what you say. However, the irritating thing about John Collins’ comments (and many others over the years from the East End of Glasgow) is the implied assumption that Celtic are absolved from criticism and that if it wasn’t for the rubbish they have to face week in and week out they would challenge for the Champions League. For sure lets highlight shortcomings in our game – but let’s acknowledge that the criticism applies to all clubs not all bar one.

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    • Thanks for ur comments. I agree in part with what you say, but id dont think John was trying to deflect from criticism of Celtic, or absolve themselves. I think the words were portrayed that way, and the fans took that perception forward. I agree there can be a ‘big club’ slant put on things at times though which can be irritating for others

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  2. Another great read and well reasoned article David. There’s no denying that any Scottish club playing in Europe will face a tougher – and different – challenge than they do domestically. You just need to look at ICT, St Johnstone and Aberdeen’s results against so-so European sides to see that, never mind that Celtic are playing against tougher opposition in the Champs League.

    However, what rankles with non-Celtic (and for a long period of time, Rangers) supporters (Dundee supporter here) is that both of those clubs have for decades systematically skewed the domestic scene in their favour, by hoovering up the majority of the money in the game and subsequently the talent in the league. Rangers were particularly guilty of this for a long period (as a Dundee supporter I know that – Caniggia, Khizanishvili, Rae, Novo, Adamczuk), but when Dundee United can lose three excellent players to one club in the space of a few months (players I presume Collins and his colleagues believe have the quickness of mind and body to help them compete at Champs League level), or the likes of Griffiths from Wolves (after Hibs had rejuvenated his career), and not even need to play them every week, then where’s the benefit in highlighting the opposition’s weaknesses?

    Nobody’s arguing that Collins is wrong, but when you take away every else’s prize toys, or the ability to get them in the first place, and then point out that the toys they’re left with aren’t very exciting, then don’t be surprised when they throw what they do have out of the pram.

    As an aside. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on how contract negotiations go (or don’t) behind the scenes. I’m always intrigued when a player and then manager say, “well we haven’t spoken to each other about it”, when surely they see each other every day. From the outside looking in, where issues are discussed in the work place as an when they arise, it always interests me how the dynamic works when these “silent” issues must be constantly bubbling under the surface. Any thoughts in a future blog perhaps?

    Keep up the great work and looking forward to the book!

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    • Thank you for taking the time to word such a well crafted reply. I understand ur sentiment regaarding both Celtic and Rangers pillaging clubs and then, seemingly mocking the quality left behind, I just felt it was important, on this specific occasion that I put a little perspective into what was being said as it seems to have developed into something of a frenzy. The fans have every right to question, but some people in football really should know better than give more copy as they have this week. Regards the blog idea, its an interesting subject and one i’ll try to deal with in the coming months. I have a few subjects to tackle and will get round to them when I can get the book out of the way. Thanks again

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  3. Always enjoy your articles and looking forward to the book.

    Leaving aside the debate over the actual comments made by John Collins.

    From an Aberdeen fan’s point of view it was particularly pleasing that Derek McInnes decided to respond in a strong fashion to the comments – too often we as a club have not been forceful enough against the big two from Glasgow. Hopefully this can be replicated on the pitch when we do face Celtic this year especially in the games at Pittodrie.

    In addition to this if Derek pins up the tabloid version of the comments on the dressing room wall before the game, then surely his team talk will be obsolete!

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  4. Very appropriate analysis . Context and the spiriit and intent of communication is everything . Without it manipulators will manipulate and as you point out that is what has happened here . We can all be clumsy in our language when we are talking particularly in public off the cuff. The prime minister did it wrt to emigrants last week or so ..It happens .That is not the story!
    Well Done !

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  5. Good to read an article on JC’s comments with a bit of thought and balance.
    As for McInnes ,well hypocrisy sums up his opinion. On the 24 th july he stated just the same thoughts regarding european opposition and Scottish teams.

    But,i get it,it’s a an opportunity for him to put his biggest rivals under pressure from,not only his own team but also,every club in the league.

    For this to be dragging on for 3/4 days now is just stupid tbh.

    David, today is the 1st time i’ve came across your site. Had a wee look through some articles and look forward to reading more of your thoughts/opinions.

    Good luck with the book.

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