Words can be very confusing, can’t they? Many football people have found that if you try to make sentences out of them, they can catch you out when you least expect it and become, well, sentences handed down by people who think they understand things. The rules of grammar are seemingly as debatable as the off-side rule when the decision goes against you.
Put all of this together and ‘bad language’ takes on a whole new meaning.
Many of us remember the ‘Estuary English’ of Trevor Brooking on Match of the Day when he would rabbit on about something for ages until Des Lynham would look at his watch yet again and realise that it really was that late night on a Saturday night. Trevor would then trail off into yet another unfinished sentence before the credits, mercifully, began to roll.
Alf Ramsey was born in Dagenham and, if that wasn’t bad enough, was rumoured to have Romany ancestors. Now, Alf was most anxious not to be misunderstood and so adopted a correct, clipped speaking style – which may or not have been digitally or surgically enhanced by elocution lessons – that he hoped would mask his poor background. When describing “one of the greatest things which ever happened to me,” you might assume that he was referring to Martin, Geoffrey, Robert (definitely not Nobby!) and the rest of the men who defeated the might of Germany in 1966 but, no, he was actually referring to the day he joined the British Army.
Alf was a tactical genius and so is Glenn Hoddle who mangles the English language regularly on ITV, BT and any other pulpit he can find to broadcast from. José Mourinho is to English what Alex Ferguson was to reflexology. Misunderstandings in football are as likely as Magical Mister Mistoffelees tricking the theatre-going public on a regular basis.
So, how did David Moyes become known for bad language? Did he put the Dic in Dictionary or the syn in a synonym of stupid? Let’s have a look at some possible explanations:
1. Successful people are often deliberately misunderstood. Their quotes are taken out of context and the true sentiment behind their words is lost. Obviously, this does not apply to David because no possible definition of ‘success’ could ever apply to him unless you count winning the third tier (Division Two) title with Preston North End in 1999-2000 or a championship medal with Celtic (who doesn’t?). Eleven years at Everton yielded one FA Cup Final defeat in 2009 and the rest is history (no, not glorious success, more like, well, nothing);
2. Although we can see that David is misunderstood when being described as a ‘winner’ perhaps his problem is in assembling an expensive PR team around him to generate a self-confident demeanour that lesser mortals misconstrue as ‘capable.’ On being appointed as manager of Manchester United, all round good guy, Rio Ferdinand, gushed that “I’m sure he is the right man to take us forward” in a courageous attempt to preserve his place in the team. Except that, as usual, Rio was wrong and David wasn’t;
3. Challenging himself ‘in a different league’ was less about reducing himself to Preston or Celtic, more about soundbites and sandy shots on social media from Spain. David did not feel the need to express himself in words at Real Sociedad – certainly not by learning Spanish or appreciating that Basque was not a naughty Glaswegian word for non-Christians everywhere;
4. To be fair to David he did know from the outset that Sunderland would finally be relegated under his management this season and told everyone this, only to subsequently pretend that he didn’t. If this was to try and engender sympathy that he was ‘only human,’ it sadly didn’t work as those staring, blue eyes are more acid than accord;
5. Or is the ‘bad language’ attribute simply down to a totally silly, not the person I am, throwaway kind of comment that David thought had been thrown away (cue an intervention from tabloid news journalism) after an interview with the BBC’s Vicki Sparks. David failed to recognise that Vicki was a woman and told her that she might “get a slap” if she wasn’t careful on her next visit to the Court of St David. Obviously, David was using ‘slap’ as a noun meaning ‘make-up’ in the quite thickly applied fashion of many fallen women he has met in the North East when doing missionary work, as opposed to a verb meaning ‘I’m going to smash your face in with my bare hands if you ever again question my ability, because that’s my job and I’ve been doing it ever since I realised that Scottish, football and success do not belong in the same sentence.’
This Tale may yet have a twist in its ending. With typical lack of regard for the truth, as borne out by football history, FA Chairman Greg Clarke chirped that “we in the game stand for respect.” Shadow sports minister, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (who is just one of the people, honest) thought it was ‘disgraceful’ before remembering who currently leads the Labour Party and re-considering on the basis of relative evils.
One thing is sure, if the Daily Star hadn’t been so good with words of one syllable or less, some people might still be under the misapprehension that ‘Moyes’ was an antonym of ‘miserable failure.’