Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Bullshit Ahoy!

Those of you who don’t live in Ireland will surely have heard of RTE pundit Eamonn Dunphy at this stage. He’s the guy who called Niall Quinn a creep on air; he’s pissed off every Irish manager in my lifetime and changes his opinions on Arsenal and Man United without batting an eyelid. He’s the guy who said Alex Ferguson had reached the end of his reign in 2005 and that they wouldn’t contend for the Premier League last season. Then a few months ago talked about how Ferguson was the fulcrum of a “special club” who don’t react to knee-jerk press reactions after a bad performance.

He also claimed that Sven Goran Eriksson and Garth Crooks had a little more than an interviewer/interviewee relationship. But in amongst a lot of hyperbole, he makes a lot of sense too.

Gerard Houllier for instance, was seen as a football incompetent long before any of his peers; he saw that Ruud Gullit was a “spoofer”; that Brian Kerr’s paranoia was affecting the players; that over-rated players like Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham, Ferdinand and even Henry were more hype than substance and was more than prepared to stand over these views. In short, between the nonsense and the sense, there is a little bit of a national treasure there and certainly one who makes RTE’s Champions League nights far more interesting than Jamie Redknapp and the rest of the guff brigade at Sky and ITV.

Of course many of you will have heard of Dunphy from his work on Roy Keane’s autobiography; a solid read but one great big wasted opportunity in my opinion. I read an article by the superb Paul Kimmage some time back that told of how Dunphy had (if I remember correctly) barely looked at the transcripts of his interviews with Keane with only about six weeks left to his publisher’s deadline. If memory serves correct, someone had been hired to transcribe the tapes as well, something which can definitely create problems for a writer when trying to decide how a book should flow.

Kimmage, who produced an excellent autobiography of Tony Cascarino a few years back (though Cascarino’s propensity for spinning tales makes you take a lot of what is said with a pinch of salt), also wanted to write Keane’s book and had informal chats with him about doing so. Personally, I think Kimmage or several other journalists would have done a better job considering what an interesting subject Keane was at the time and still is today.

A few years down the line and Dunphy is obviously not so under Keane’s thumb as he once was. This week, during a radio interview he called the Sunderland manager a ‘bullshitter’ who should concentrate on his job instead of getting involved in things that didn’t concern him. Again, it’s most likely Dunphy’s attempt at proving he’s no one’s puppet and he also clearly desires to be as controversial as possible as often as he can.

The full rant reads as follows: “I know Roy well and the one thing he hated when I knew him and when we were working on that book, he hated the bullshit that was part of manager-speak and part of player-speak. And now he holds these lengthy press conferences every week in which he anoints David O’Leary to be the next Ireland manager, anoints Terry Venables as the next Ireland manager, he’s talked about the Cork GAA dispute, talked about how wonderful it is for the Premier League to play more games abroad and he’s just become rent-a-quote. And it’s quite extraordinary. This is a sharp, smart, outstanding human being and he’s just been sucked into that awful Premier League vacuousness and it’s sad to see Roy Keane bullshitting, but he is. But there you go. It happens.”

Keane’s press conferences have become a regular fixture on Sky Sports and BBC certainly, but it’s not due to bullshit and easy headlines alone. It’s more to do with his propensity to actually talk about topics that other managers won’t touch. He’ll talk about other people’s players; he’ll talk about other managers and he’ll talk about things that have absolutely nothing to do with Sunderland. It’s great, why not upset the apple cart; why not piss off everyone else in the league. Frankly, this time around I think Dunphy has got the wrong end of the stick.

The RTE man is surely aware that Keane gets asked some of the most inane questions known to man each week. Sky, BBC and local radio reporters want quick, easy quotes for unchallenging stories that are lapped up by most. But Keane, unlike most, complicates matters for his own entertainment as much as anything.

So far in the Premier League’s history it seems that only the Corkman and the genius of Gordan Strachan have ever tried to subvert the interviews with some sense and a little humour. ‘Gordon can we have a quick word’, one Sky hack asked the Scotsman while he was in charge of Southampton. ‘Velocity’ he replied and walked up the tunnel. His chat about yoghurts nearing their sell by date troubling him more than player injuries was also a classic.

And indeed, so was this exchange…

Reporter: Welcome to Southampton Football Club. Do you think you are the right man to turn things around?
Strachan: No. I was asked if I thought I was the right man for the job and I said, "No, I think they should have got George Graham because I'm useless."

In amongst the guff that Keane has to tell reporters, like Strachan, he provides the odd gem on players bringing in milk, Craig Gordon’s hairstyle and Dwight Yorke enjoying a good ride… on a bicycle that is.

Dunphy, like myself and Mark, has perhaps found that this Champions League-less period of the season makes it damn harder to come up with decent things to write about (and yes if you think this post is a bunch of shite, I get the irony).

Most likely, in a few weeks time, if Sunderland get closer to guaranteeing safety in the league, Dunphy will once again be singing from the rooftops about Keane. I suppose there are just certain times when you shouldn’t take what the manager or the journalist say very seriously at all.

But, despite Eamo's faults, there is never a time when this doesn’t deserve to be watched again.

Later, JJ

PS: We’re recording the podcast tomorrow night so we’ll be online on Thursday morning. If you haven’t voted by the way, and you happen to like our podcast, can you give us the nod for 'Best Football Podcast' over at Soccerlens. We’re in a royal rumble for the title so get your friends, their friends and people you barely know to vote for us. Cheers.

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syberspud said...

Great pic of Dunphy! Have to admit I secretly love his all or nothing rants. Sure, it might be pure bullshit a lot of the time but it's never less than entertaining. Quite like your podcast then lads. Oh keep up the good work btw.

Mark said...

syberspud - even if it is a backhanded compliment, it's still appreciated....

Anonymous said...

When are you lads going to realise that Dunf is just a self-publicist that will say/do anything to get himself in the papers/radio/tv etc. regardless of who he hurts. Shame on you guys for encouraging this despicable little man. As for Keane-O? He's a liar who twists every story to suit his own needs. Not surprising to see these two egos have fallen out. They deserve each other.