Flint's Off on One

Close your eyes. Go on, trust me on this one. Actually before you do, think of the last memorable commentary you remember. Switch off any nearby device, close whatever door you see, and sit down in as much peace as possible. Rid your mind of any thoughts or images and settle into a clear, quiet headspace. Ready? When you are all set, run the memorable commentary back to yourself in your head.

Be honest; how did feel? Other than potentially feeling odd without the ubiquitous ping of ceaseless notifications in the background, of course. Did a wisp of gravy tease your nostrils? Was the shimmering grass shining back the floodlights’ beam into your eyes? Did the bite of a winter’s evening nibble at the hairs on your neck?

OK, so shoot me – I’m indulging in a little poetic license for exaggerated effect. My point is still valid though. Without question, you would have transported yourself into a more vivid landscape than with the ‘aid’ of Hollywood-esque CGI graphics and Quadruple Super-Maxi Extra HD picture.

It’s good to talk. I bet most whipper snappers nowadays wouldn’t remember the slogan – they wouldn’t agree anyway. Whatever latest form of screen-based ‘interaction’ is most fashionable and absolutely 100% essential seemingly takes precedence over actual conversation. Regular readers will know that dashing back to the car after a game to catch the last strains of crackling radio updates is a favourite memory of this column. Lodged away somewhere in my cupboard is a cassette tape (an old, physical and much smaller capacity version of an MP3 file to you ankle-biters) of a talkSport appearance from yours truly almost two decades old; glorious stuff.

Football phone-ins were exactly that – no visual element. It was almost half the fun, guessing the appearance and age of the voice on the soapbox. There was certainly a charm to not seeing the protagonists – not because they’re butt-ugly, but the medium required concentration on the message itself. I don’t have a problem at all with the current trend of broadcasting live video feeds of a studio. In fact, I think it brings a different advantage of attracting the attention of the online crowd.

Now I promise I won’t turn this ENTIRE column into a nostalgic glance into the misty swirls of time from yesteryear. For Christ’s sake, I’m only 32. In fact, I’m going the other way this time.

Although hardly scientific, it seems that the size of a club is inversely proportional to the official social media team’s ability. There are exceptions; Zenit St Petersburg’s twitter is gloriously down-to-earth, while Besiktas’s bizarre “Come to Besiktas” animated gifs are legendary. Anyone who follows the EvoStik league will tell you, though, that the live updates are beyond compare. Seriously.

Take Altrincham, a storied non-league side with countless giant-killing scalps in their history. Right now they are battling their way past the likes of Matlock Town and Mickleover Sports to escape the seventh tier, they don’t have a scoreboard and boast a turnstile built by former left-back Warren Peyton. There is significant foliage sprouting out of the less than glamorous main stand’s roof. Even the sponsors are a local scrap metal merchant. They do, however, have an online TV channel that records every highlight, and superb minute-by-minute coverage on twitter.

Want to see a replay of Jordan Hulme’s sensational improvised finish in the north west mist? No problem, Alty TV has you covered. Love watching contentious goal line decisions against Tranmere? You know where to look.

Now it’s not that top-flight clubs don’t offer similar coverage – replays are hardly unknown, while updates are standard fare. Relative to the eye-watering gap in resources, staffing and funds though, Premier League clubs should be producing fucking holograms and remote 3D printouts of goalscorers. Maybe that’d be pushing the boat a bit much, but the quality to resources ratio is not even close.

Bristol City for me have won the social media bragging rights hands down. With some of the ridiculous efforts to be ‘original’, their amazing gifs where the players shed all semblance of self-conscience are just the right level of cheeky. An honourable mention goes to Southampton’s mock blockbuster announcement of Stuart Taylor’s one-year contract extension.

OK, I’ll hold my hands up – maybe I am being a little harsh. I’ve not referenced a large pool, and there is only so much that can be done on twitter. Let’s broaden this rant out a little then; engagement with fans. Whatever your opinion of them, social networks are a necessary evil in football, simply because they exist. Clubs would be idiotic to shun them. They will therefore always be a part of the debate on how clubs connect to fans.

Victor Anichebe demonstrated what we already knew regarding top clubs and their awareness; it’s next to none. For those of you who somehow missed one of the most hilariously inept twitter moments, here is the tweet verbatim:

“Can you tweet something like

Unbelievable support yesterday and great effort by the lads! Hard result to take! But we go again!”

Then there was a classic a week or two ago from Jack Wilshere (yes, he is still a thing). “Big oppurtunity (sic) tomorrow night to get into the semi-finals! Let’s go lads [emoji, emoji, emoji]” No shit Jack – it’s your ONLY opportunity to make it through, that’s how knockout tournaments work… In his defence, at least that spelling error tells us it was definitely typed by him. I don’t know about you, but that ‘Let’s go lads’ is excruciating; honestly, that’s what they’d say. I smell a club-directed tweet again methinks.

Footballers may form a brains trust on a par with the janitor from Scrubs, but how thick do clubs think the public are? One hardly needs Sherlock Holmes to detect a distinct case of bullshit. Even if a swathe of morons really do think ‘Oh Jack genuinely sounds up for this one!’ – although let’s face it, a fanbase that puts money in Troopz’s pocket is not likely to win much more than the Darwin Award – it reeks of laziness to consider that interaction with the fans. In reality, they end up even further removed.

Instead of wafting wads of wonga at some smarmy gap year student with a top knot and an inheritance fund, do us all a favour and dig out talent from the lower leagues. Or, god forbid, listen to your fans.