It’s all kicking off in Clitheroe. Local headlines are led by a man bailed on paint-spraying charges, and a woman pushed in a so-called road-rage attack. Another lady driver ended up in a hedge after apparently falling asleep at the wheel. She was mercifully unhurt and passed a breathalyser test.
In other news, David Moyes enjoyed a decent dinner before visiting what was described as a “trendy wine bar”, a term last used in 1998. He allegedly became embroiled in what was either a “minor scuffle” or a “Wild West showdown”.
The supposed victim, a joiner whose profile photograph suggests a fondness for tanning salons and branded leisurewear, has predictably been christened “Josh The Builder”. He maintained: “I felt I was going to die.” His mum explained he had “a couple of bumps and bruises”.
It has been claimed that the Ribble Valley’s philosopher in residence had taken a drink or two before pronouncing on Moyes’ performance as Manchester United manager. We await the outcome of Lancashire Constabulary’s investigation into the consequences of his remarks.
They were characterised as “banter”, a buzzword beloved by the witless, the malicious and the inane. Eye witnesses report they involved personal invective and theatrical disrespect. Inevitably, given the hysterical mood swings of such cases, the alleged abuser now complains of being abused.
There is a serious subplot to the type of overblown incident which bestows infamy for 15 seconds. It invites questions about the limit of public accountability and the extent to which those in football are expected to acquiesce when maligned by strangers.
The madhouse of social media promotes a perverse form of domestic abuse. It is vicious and vindictive, because it is anony-mised and artificially intimate. People think they know men like Moyes, recognisable figures whose celebrity is deemed to legitimise casual bad-mouthing.
Trolls forget they are dealing with human beings whose profession demands a combative nature and high levels of self-awareness. When slurs are repeated within earshot of their target, away from a sporting setting, anger tends to be understandable and undiluted.
I once hosted a charity function with a prominent manager to raise funds for a school for the disabled. His reward for his time and generosity in donating raffle prizes was to be belittled in the most obscene manner. The manager confronted his detractor with balled fists before summoning the self-control to walk away.
Another manager recently confided that his wife refuses to go out with him for at least 48 hours after a match. Their daughter’s 16th birthday was ruined by a drunken diner who had to be hauled away from the family table by staff.
Public humiliation used to involve a spell in the stocks, where victims were partially immobilised and ritually scorned. Moyes is free to go about his business, but cannot escape the fall-out from his failure at United. Envy, generated by his £4.5 million compensation package, is no excuse for ill-concealed contempt.
Cod psychologists conclude he is a “seething mass of frustration”. Photographers followed him on holiday to Florida, and will continue to be on his case. Each paean of praise to Louis van Gaal carries the unspoken assumption of the Scot’s incompetence.
No one will be harder on Moyes than himself. His physical deterioration during his time at Old Trafford, when he became a careworn figure with pinched facial figures, was a manifestation of his intensity. Yet he is strong-willed, a good man who deserves sympathy and understanding.
He will replenish his energy, rebuild his career and regain respect. Frankly, no-one cares what becomes of the youth who pushed his luck too far.
Orient mean more than United
Manchester United purport to have 756,000,000 Facebook followers. Leyton Orient have sold 24,171 tickets for today’s League One play-off final at Wembley.
Which club means the most to its community? Whose players have a greater appreciation of the privilege of their profession? Which set of supporters feel more engaged and valued? There’s only one answer. A club like Orient might stare through football’s glass ceiling, up at the well-upholstered backsides of the businessmen who monetise United’s mystique, but they are Everyman FC.
With respect to Rotherham United, whose manager Steve Evans is assured of alternative employment as a pantomime villain in the event of over-reaction to defeat, the Championship needs them. Orient have won nothing of significance in 133 years, but mean everything in an age of disposable principles. They have not spent a penny in transfer fees for four years, but are enriched by the rarity of this season’s achievement.
Their followers don’t need plastic flags or human mosaics which proclaim their togetherness. They have faith, because it is cheap and instantly available. Players who drink with them, and dream with them, undertake outreach work in care homes and classrooms.
The Premier League, so cold, distant and grasping, is designed to kill off clubs like Orient. Pray it fails. People matter, you see.
Best chairman FA never had
Herman Ouseley grew up in Peckham, fell in love with football, and followed Millwall. As a young black man in the 1970s, he was repelled by the game’s endemic bigotry, racism and violence. He saw social progress, and returned, ennobled, as the figurehead of the Kick It Out campaign group. He has a broad view, emotional intelligence and a natural sense of dignity.
Listening to him articulate the importance of football’s equality debate, the thought occurs: he is the best chairman the Football Association will never have.
Cricket’s Chuckle Brothers
It takes rare genius to sustain Kevin Pietersen’s status as a downtrodden serf, but we can rely on Giles Clarke and Paul Downton, the Chuckle Brothers of English cricket.
Clarke’s pomposity, and Downton’s evident bewilderment at the power of social media, has given Pietersen a free hit, in PR terms. He is making them look silly.