The sharp end of the football season is rarely the best time to expect rational, level-headed opinion from people involved in the game. Whether promotions are being chased, relegations being battled or silverware being contested; the pressure of demanding and stressful situations appear to cause a collective breakdown in the critical faculties of those we look to for views on the game.
Let’s start with José Mourinho, a man for whom understatement has never been a clear and present danger. The Manchester United manager has treated his team’s Europa League campaign this season with the disdain he might reserve for something unpleasant he inadvertently stepped on in the street while wearing his most expensive Italian loafers, and yet before Manchester United’s Europa League semi-final return at home to Celta Vigo he commented:
“My feeling is it’s also the most important match of our history”
This appeared a puzzlingly parochial assertion about a club that has appeared in four European Cup and Champions League Finals, plus dozens of trophy-deciding domestic games over the course of its distinguished history.
Nottingham Forest Battle Relegation
Peter Shilton showed a similar disregard for broader historical context when tweeting about Nottingham Forest’s final game of the Championship season. Forest needed a win to avoid relegation to the third tier and Shilton described the fixture against Ipswich as:
“Forest’s biggest game since the European Cup days”
Since those very same European Cup days Forest have won several domestic cup competitions, appeared in an FA Cup Final, managed a number of high-placed top division finishes and enjoyed several extended UEFA Cup runs. Either Shilts had forgotten all of those big occasions – or that the club had been in this identical situation just a decade ago anyway – or he too preferred to default to needlessly hyperbolic mode.
Blackburn Rovers Fighting The Drop
Colin Hendry adopted an identical approach when speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph about Blackburn’s similar battle against the drop from the Championship. Their must-win fixture at Brentford was labelled as:
“The biggest game since the Premier League title win”
Although if I was a Blackburn fan I would wonder why the 2002 League Cup win wouldn’t be more deserving of this accolade – Blackburn’s success does represent the only other major trophy the club has won since 1928, apart from that Premier League title.
We live in curious footballing times in which nuance has become an alien concept and everything now has to be defined as jet black or brilliant white, stunningly brilliant or shockingly terrible, an unfolding drama or a major crisis. That the ongoing travails of Manchester United, Nottingham Forest and Blackburn Rovers are so worthy of comment in the first place is because these are storied clubs, and yet those very histories that made these clubs storied are cast aside in favour of crass and ill-judged contemporary bias.
So people of football, let’s rein in this growing misuse of football superlatives and save them for discussions about clubs like Leyton Orient who face genuinely critical situations.