It’s been a good six months since MOMS has done a Media Muppets column. The main reason is it’s often too depressing to read what passes as football reporting nowadays. But, since we are into a new year and decade, let’s take the opportunity to see if standards have lifted.
Maybe it’ll be a case of ‘ignore the clickbait and it will go away’…
[Five minutes later, after the searching the internet…]
No such thing.
The latest trend in Media Muppetry?
Well, it seems that the ‘Jack Grealish to Manchester United’ stories have replaced the “Villa fans will love this…” headlines.
Over the past few weeks, several newspapers have claimed supposed ‘exclusives’ when it comes to Manchester United being heavily interested in Aston Villa’s captain Jack Grealish.
There’s no surprise to see uber hack James Nursey running with a recent ‘exclusive’ in the Daily Mirror, under the headline: Man Utd to prioritise Jack Grealish transfer as James Maddison nears new Leicester deal
Then a few days later, the same newspaper rehashes unqualified stories of Grealish house hunting around Manchester, from the website Goal.com, that originally offered up ZERO evidence to their claim.
Still, the Daily Mirror thought Goal’s story justified this headline…
‘Agrees terms’, my ass.
This low frequency of reporting is so shamelessly disrespectful to its readers, that you’d wish there was a watchdog body that clamped down on such nefarious reporting.
Why do they trot out such garbage at this stage of the season?
Well, Manchester United obviously has a massive global fanbase. Add to it, Villa’s increasingly triggered fans and the football community at large, and it’s a captive audience ripe for clickbait commercial exploitation.
It’s why the ‘Grealish to United’ narrative is kept simmering away like George Orwell’s perpetual war.
It’s good for business and it creates a cottage industry for everyone to exploit.
It’s a well-worn recipe. Get any ex-player pundit on the radio. Ask him about Grealish. “Yeah, he’s great and would be good for United”, they’ll reply (after all, it’s not rocket science, any top player would be good for any team with ambition).
The quotes then get predictably lapped up and regurgitated by other football websites and local media, that have long lost the notion of having any kind of filter for editorial quality. To them, whether something is actually true or not, is pretty much irrelevant.
‘Jack Grealish would be a PERFECT signing for Manchester United – ‘He’s a complete midfielder’ ran a recent headline on Talksport’s website, after ex-Arsenal player Ray Parlour appeared on the station.
Similiar stories have run recently after Jermaine Jenas and Kieran Richardson also praised Grealish and said he was good enough to play for Manchester United (currently, not exactly the highest level of praise).
The Birmingham Mail, last month, twisted Richardson’s observations into the headline:
‘Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish tipped to make Manchester United transfer‘
In MOMS opinion, an ex-player’s views, while they are entitled to them, are not ‘news’ and Richardson didn’t actually say, United were going to sign Villa’s captain.
‘Ex-footballer says current footballer is very good and could play for another big team’ is about the extent of what he said.
Richardson isn’t Grealish’s agent, manager or current team mate. But the 24/7 online news circle must be fed.
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Team Grealish certainly won’t complain about all this media coverage. It’ll increase his brand value in the long run, making him an increasingly prized asset for whoever he plays for and widen the scope of potential endorsement deals.
In terms of his football though, Grealish was never going anywhere this season, despite the first wave of fake news stories linking him to United in the January window.
If Villa get relegated this season, then, yes, the more-than-likely scenario is Grealish would seek a move away (partly because Villa will not be able to pay his wages in the Championship).
If Grealish then wanted to look at playing Champions League football and winning trophies, perhaps United wouldn’t be the best bet for him, in the short-term?
If Villa avoid relegation, surely Grealish will be captaining Villa again in the Premier League, next season?
This is a developing team with ambition. Already, Grealish has the upcoming prospect of captaining his boyhood club at Wembley in a cup final. Next season, will only see Villa improve on what was always going to be a transitional season, after such a big overhaul of players in the summer.
At this moment in time, Villa aren’t a club that is limiting his ambition in the game.
Manchester United will be lucky to qualify for the Champions League this season and there are big question marks over their current manager and the hierarchy at the club. Villa, are potentially in a much better space to transition quicker in the near future.
If United was such a hot ticket to join, then why is the other mooted target, James Maddison looking likely to sign a new contract with Leicester City (arguably a smaller club than Villa)? Because, he is at the heart of a team progressing in the right direction. United currently can’t offer him anything he can’t get at the Foxes.
Nowadays, with the TV rights money, most Premier League clubs can pay their players decent wages, so unless a player is all about the money, then who they play for can be a footballing decision.
Villa is very much Grealish’s club and he’s at an age (24), where he can still afford to see where Villa can take him. Winning things and ultimately qualifying for the Champions League will always be more fulfilling and sweeter to him playing in a claret and blue shirt.
Scope of Ambition
Villa’s captain is also the equivalent of a US sport team’s franchise star, and key to Villa’s potential and identity in the foreseeable future.
As well as his ability on the pitch, he has huge marketability off it, which is why MOMS always felt the club needed to play whatever poker hand they could to keep him, despite their financial woe back in the summer of 2018.
You’re not helping the situation with such comments…It’s rare that a player connects with Villa supporters in such a way. If he leaves then Villa will lose its own identity. They are unwatchable without him. I’ll never understand a football fan who wishes away their best. #AVFC pic.twitter.com/RVo6QhKQvM— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) June 13, 2018
Villa obviously got lucky that time and to dispense with his services now, even for an inflated fee, may be short-sighted.
Having increasingly proven himself this season, Grealish is a player that will be pivotal to Villa having the capacity to really kick-on with serious ambition and intent in the future.
Remaining in the Premier League this season is essential, but afterwards, surely both Villa owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris will want more for the club than simply survival limbo?
Grealish could be key to that, and they know it.
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