Do media narratives matter?
I know we abuse the n-word on this blog, but media, whether social, DIY, or traditional, still largely wags the dog when it comes to consequences in the footballing world. If the Daily Mail thinks that Andre Villas-Boas is a hyper-intellectual pipsqueak for example, then consciously or unconsciously, it has an effect on his future at a club notorious for wielding the ax, like Chelsea.
If you think this is a stretch, consider Sir Alex Ferguson’s very self-conscious media strategy, in which he maintains strict control over messaging, and maintains the aura of someone who will withdraw access if they don’t feel coverage is fair.
Celtic lost 0-3 to Juventus in the Champions League last night. Fine. Few expected a return to their form when they beat Barcelona. Maintaining such a low total shots ratio over several knockout stage matches generally only works for Roberto Di Matteo.
Anyway, at home (i.e. the English speaking bits of Europe), both Celtic’s players and more importantly Celtic’s manager Neil Lennon had a ready-at-hand scapegoat, with the popular theory that Gary Hooper was ‘abused’ by Juventus defenders, particularly Stephan Lichtsteiner. Moreover, Hooper came in for praise for not ‘succumbing’ to his temper by screaming out over various instances of holding. The club had all the ammunition they needed for an honourable discharge from Europe in the second leg.
And then Kris Commons opened his mouth, to BBC Scotland:
The Celtic midfielder Kris Commons has pointed the finger at his team-mate Efe Ambrose following Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat by Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.
Ambrose, the Nigeria defender, only arrived back in Glasgow on the morning of the match after the Africa Cup of Nations, but was included by Neil Lennon in Celtic’s starting lineup after insisting he felt fit to play.
Ambrose gifted Alessandro Matri an early goal, missed Celtic’s best chance of the night when he sent a free header straight at Gianluigi Buffon from six yards and then lost possession to allow Mirko Vucinic to claim a late third and virtually send Juventus into the Champions League quarter-finals.
Lennon must be rueing his decision to pick Ambrose but Commons believes the player is responsible. Commons said: “Look, the manager picked him. The manager pulled him to one side and asked him if he was feeling OK. He said he was feeling brilliant. If he wasn’t feeling OK then he should have said so. If he felt good then he should have put in a better performance.”
And so suddenly we have a completely unnecessary dressing room fracas. Celtic lost the message. There may or may not be consequences, but now the media have tasted blood, and no one cares whether or not Hooper got jobbed.