Over the weekend, an extended interview with Aiden McGeady did the rounds, and I focussed, first, on the stuff about Gordon Strachan. But the interview was full of interesting stuff above and beyond that, nothing more so than the story about how he coped with the vitriol and abuse which came his way from his decision to represent the Republic of Ireland.
I thought some in the media’s response to that story was brazenly dishonest and shamelessly hypocritical. I remember that period, as I’m sure a lot of us do, much more clearly than they seem to believe.
If large parts of this country turned on McGeady for that decision that is in no small way because it was sections of the media itself which pushed the narrative that he had betrayed Scotland and should be considered a traitor from that day forward.
Take Sky Sports Scotland’s Gordon McQueen, the former international.
He used that exact word to describe both McGeady and James McCarthy, and he never retracted it and he never apologised for it.
But some of the hacks who were lining up to “oooh” and “aaah” and express their disgust at those who gave McGeady and McCarthy that hard time were either shamefully silent at the time or they agreed with McQueen’s sentiments even if they didn’t use the specific words.
And Aiden was quick to point out that other players, including some who chose Scotland over the land of their birth, were never subjected to the same sort of stick.
Indeed, Kenny McIntyre of the BBC, who did the interview, was practically invited, by McGeady, to discuss the implications of it but didn’t bother his arse.
It wasn’t just those who went out of their way to call McGeady some kind of sell-out, it was those who said nothing at all and allowed the abuse to pour down on him like a torrent at every ground he visited in a Celtic shirt, and then gave the stupider elements of the Tartan Army license to abuse him when he played against Scotland at Celtic Park.
McGeady got virtually no protection, or support, from any of the hacks at the time. A handful said that it was his decision to make and that it should be respected. The rest were almost vitriolic in their view that it was ridiculous and wrong.
Some of the same people were shaking their heads over the weekend.
You can’t even say that some of them were merely being patriotic Scots and standing up for their country. Some of them were motivated by spite and anti-Irish hatred.
Those who said nothing did so primarily because they didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that it was his country of choice that offended some people as much as the decision not to represent Scotland.
As per usual, anti-Irish racism was brushed under the carpet.
Those calling McGeady a traitor didn’t have to explain their motivations and why those sentiments were not reserved for the likes of Brian McLean (who chose to play for the North of Ireland) or Jamie Mackie who chose Scotland over England or Richard Gough who chose not to play for South Africa.
McGeady pressed McIntyre to confront that.
He did so repeatedly.
The BBC hack, who has clashed with Ange several times this season and is a self-confessed, self-outed Ibrox fan, never wanted to take up the thread McGeady tried to get him to follow, which only proves that nothing has really changed here.
I thought that was a shameful segment of the interview, and not from Aiden’s point of view but from way the national broadcaster’s man dodged the issue.
But then some of the ways in which it’s been covered by the mainstream press have, in a very real sense, been just as bad because what you see there are titles and even individuals trying to pretend that their hands were clean when we know they weren’t.
Some of these people fed the anger against Aiden.
Others pretended it wasn’t happening.
That atmosphere of anger might not have existed had the media been united in protecting his freedom to make that choice for himself. Instead they played a very real part in drumming it up to the level it reached where, as he said, he was booed at every ground.
They have no shame … and they think we have no memory of it.
But there are an awful lot of us who do, and we bristle at the shameless way in which these people now cluck their tongues at those who responded negatively to their own coverage of that time.