When the story broke last week about Sevco striker Alfredo Morelos and the move to China, the thing that surprised me most about it was not that it appeared at all – stories linking Sevco players with moves for several times their value are not unusual – but the place where that story appeared in the first place; it was in The Express.
There are newspapers for which most liberals have nothing but the deepest contempt.
The Daily Mail soars beneath them all, as a sterling example of the kind of right-wing awfulness which would not have been out of place in a fascist country.
Theirs was the last newspaper in the country to still openly back Hitler. In the 60’s and 70’s they opened supported those who suggested that military revolutions might be necessary to bring down left-wing governments.
Beneath them, on top of the sludge pile that included the red-top rags which nobody in their right mind would be caught reading even in the most male chauvinist works canteen, is The Express. Their owner, “Dirty” Richard Desmond, owns other published media include a series of porn magazines, and who’s courting by Tony Blair led to this incredibly squirmy YouTube clip.
The Express Group, which owns the newspaper, is notorious for its political and social views, yet whilst the flagship paper represents itself as some kind of guardian of British virtue you only have to look at the downmarket, bottom-feeding title in their stable to understand the level of them; it’s The Daily Star, a title so toxic that even being seen with it ought to carry social stigma. It is the last of the old-school red-tops, a “hang ‘em, flog ‘em, show us your t@ts girls” throwback to a time which the rest of us are all pretty pleased to have left behind.
I found it odd that Sevco’s PR arm would use The Express to put a transfer story in the public domain; perhaps they think that using an English based title gave the story more credibility. And maybe it did, in the eyes of some people, but The Mail would have been a far better outlet because as much as I hate it they take their Scottish football coverage semi-seriously although I think their lead writer is not much better than some of the hacks here.
The Express barely gives Scottish football an afterthought; it was, for a long time, the home only of Charlie Nicholas.
Who reads The Express? Very few people these days, but the internet has changed the ground war, because people who would never pick up the newspaper itself might not have any problem with clicking on a link … and that’s why it was a valid conduit.
They were also the paper that “broke” the story that Beijing were “no longer interested” in the player, which we rightly interpreted as the moment the burial of the story started for real. The media here is easy to predict; their strategies have been seen before and before and before.
We all know how this works, right?
We know something else too; certain PR firms operate a two-pronged strategy. The first prong is the promotion of their own clients and interests; that’s a fact and everyone knows it. The other prong is to try to weaken competitors and show them up.
The Morelos story was only worth our attention when it leaped into the Scottish dailies which are widely read and which then expanded on the story. At that point it became something worth this blog’s time and coverage. The Express itself isn’t.
And then today I read the following headline:
“Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers ruthlessly mocked by fans for ‘going posh for the cameras”.
Now that is so obviously a click-bait headline that I would have ignored it completely, but then I caught sight of the title who had run it; it was, of course, Desmond’s down-market title The Daily Star, and the reason that interested me is that I read a similarly ridiculous headline in the paper earlier in the week.
“Brendan Rodgers out? Celtic fans LIVID after Kilmarnock defeat ‘The magic touch is gone’”
The “writer” of both of these pieces is the same guy; his name is George Mills. He doesn’t cover Scottish football; he writes about a variety of subjects and appears not to have one speciality. The one Scottish football subject he returns to with any frequency is Brendan Rodgers though, and every single time he does the theme is the same; slagging him off.
A perusal of his headlines, since the turn of the year, and which concern our club, tells one story and one story only; a story of a nearly rabid hatred of our manager. This is the total of his writing on Scottish football and you’ll spot it in two seconds. In order, starting with the most recent, the list reads thus:
“Brendan Rodgers BLASTED as Celtic fans don’t believe his transfer window assessment.”
“Brendan Rodgers RIDICULED after claiming Celtic beat REAL MADRID to sign Charly Musonda.”
“Liverpool fans SLAM Brendan Rodgers’ claim about Luis Suarez’s Juventus transfer.”
“Celtic fans FURIOUS as club chiefs make SHOCKING confession about transfer window woes.”
“Brendan Rodgers SLATED for Celtic’s lack of activity in January transfer window.”
“Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers labelled ‘weasel’ over Philippe Coutinho comments.”
He has written literally no other article in connection with Scottish football; that is the total of his output on the game here, and as you can see every piece concentrates either on Rodgers himself or on some perceived failure with him and those who run the club with him.
And I wonder at this. I mean, it’s perfectly clear that George Mills, whoever this goon is, can’t stand Brendan and has a serious personal issue with him, but I can’t help wondering if it’s more than that, part of a process to try to undermine our boss.
Look how many of those headlines involve Celtic fans.
I wonder if someone, somewhere, isn’t playing games by trying to loosening the nuts here. I know there are a growing number of our fans – tiny in number – who act like spoiled children after every setback and who actually have, ludicrously, called for the manager’s head.
Those people need a lie down.
But their views are amplified by The Express Group, and slapped all over the news aggregators.
And that’s why I wonder if there’s something more going on here.
Obviously, this has to be monitored and this guy Mills and his work highlighted. I’m clearly up for that job, and I’ll continue to keep an eye on what they, and he, are getting up to … the guy is clearly a clit-bait hack, but that’s not the point.
There was a time when these people could work in relative darkness; not so anymore. I mean, this guy self-defines as a “journalist” but it’s clear from his work that The Daily Star is about the level of his talent. That’s not the point either.
The point is, Brendan now has a target on his back.
And that’s definitely something worth watching.
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