I’m going to break a long-held rule on this blog – never talk about football. It’s for a good reason, though.
Tuesday night’s Evening Standard contained a lengthy interview with Chris Hughton, the recently-sacked manager of Newcastle United. Hughton’s a Londoner, and was a player and assistant manager for many years at Tottenham Hotspur. His sacking from Newcastle was widely seen as unjust – he’d just got a basketcase side promoted back into the Premier League at the first attempt, and was doing a decent job at holding them there without much backing from the chairman who eventually fired him. He’s a popular figure in football, seen as an intelligent, unassuming good guy in a world of thick, overpaid, ego-driven oafs.
Chris Hughton’s also one of a tiny handful of black managers in professional football – a topic respected sports writer Mihir Bose brought up in his feature. But can you spot the mistake?
Wrong. There’s actually two black managers in the top 92 clubs in the country – the other of whom is right under the London Evening Standard’s nose. Four weeks ago, much-idolised former defender Chris Powell became Charlton’s new manager, an appointment completed with unbridled delerium in the red bits of south-east London and Kent. And by me, I should add. (Let the BBC’s Paul Fletcher explain why.)
Did the Standard notice a black manager at a London club? Not for this piece it didn’t.
There’s been a long history of bad blood between Charlton fans and the Standard, going back to the mid-1980s when then-sports editor Michael Herd wrote in a column that there were too many clubs in the country and the Addicks may as well go out of business – at a time when Charlton were on the brink of doing just that. A decade ago this month, with Charlton enjoying better days in the Premier League, Sven-Goran Eriksson chose his first England side. To everyone’s surprise, it featured a Charlton player – Chris Powell. The Standard’s front page headline that Friday? “Chris who?” – despite the fact he was playing for one of the capital’s Premier League sides. (If anyone has a copy of that front page, I’d appreciate a scan of it…)
And so they’ve done it again. Maybe it’s a south-east London thing – generally speaking, this area never really seem to count in the Standard’s worldview, something that hasn’t changed much since it changed hands a couple of years ago, despite the paper’s general improvement since its days as a Zone 1 Daily Mail.
But for a sports desk to miss a fact like that on its own doorstep? Unbelievable. South-east London, playing in the third division? Charlton clearly don’t count at the Standard.
To be fair, the mistake doesn’t appear on Mihir Bose’s own website and he protested innocence when a Charlton fan questioned him on Twitter. (LATER: He blamed an “unfortunate editing error“.) Powell’s name also appears on the Standard website’s version of the story. But at least in the first print edition, the mistake remains.
I don’t know – football ignorance? Geographical blindness? Probably a bit of both. One thing’s for sure – Charlton fans’ contempt for London’s only evening paper is going to go on for a while yet.