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- Alex Paylor -

Published: Sept 13 98

"The Mirror & Murdoch"

What do you expect to see when you look in the mirror? Well if itís that "toilet paper in tabloid" form known as the Daily Mirror, then the answer is......... crap.

In a week of turmoil sparked by the United boardís decision to reach for the Sky, the thing that has angered me the most is the headline in Thursdayís Mirror Online over the story of the Redís win over Charlton. Look, I know the feelings between Rupert Murdochís newspapers and those in the Mirror Group are akin to those of United and Liverpool supporters but printing this garbage:





was below even the Mirrorís standards, which someone lying in a gutter would have to dig deep to reach.

As I wrote to the Mirror in an e-mail, this headline does a disservice to the players of Manchester United who put together an excellent performance amid all the hype and hysteria surrounding the club and the Sky takeover bid.

It was the PLAYERS who scored 4 goals against a team which to that point had given up no goals to any other Premiership opponent this season. It wasnít Martin Edwards, or any of the other board members who canít wait to pocket their profits.

It was Dwight Yorke, a man who, having achieved his dream of playing for Manchester United, ran his heart out and scored twice in his home debut.

It wasnít Rupert Murdoch or any of his yes-men on the field fighting back to win by three goals after falling behind by one in the first half.

It was Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, grateful to have been given the chance to prove his loyalty to Manchester United and itís fans, who scored half of the teamís goals on Wednesday night. When Solskjaer scored he kissed the club badge on his shirt, not his wallet.

To the morons at the Mirror who wrote, and approved this rubbish, I can only say, hate Rupert Murdoch, and your rivals at the Sun and the Times all you want. Having been in the journalism business for nearly 20 years, I know all too well about the rivalries between competitors. I know very well the good feeling which accompanies having written something clever.

But I also know about journalistic ethics, and fairness in reporting. And that headline, while deemed clever in some circles, I suppose, was unfair. GREED did not beat Charlton 4-1 on Wednesday night. The PLAYERS of Manchester United did. And no amount of sarcastic claptrap spewed forth by the workers at the sleazy rags which masquerade as "newspapers" can alter that.

Oh, by the way, no-one at the Mirror ever answered my e-mail. Iím not surprised. Too busy trying to come up with "witty" headlines, I suppose.

Much has been made of the Murdoch maneuver, and I have to admit to mixed feelings about it, and a barrel load of unanswered questions.

His purchase of, and subsequent actions with, the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team have been well documented. You have no doubt heard about the dismissal of Dodgers field manager Phil Russell, a 32-year Dodger employee, and the trading of catcher Mike Piazza for four players. That deal, by the way, added about 19 million dollars to the Dodgers payroll. Now some might point to that fact to declare Murdoch will spend more money to improve the team after shelling out millions to buy it. But I wonder about that. I have to ask the question, will Murdoch be willing to spend

millions more pounds on players after shelling out over 600 million of them to acquire the club?. Even pockets as deep as Murdochís have bottoms, and it wouldnít surprise me to find spending slashed at Old Trafford in an effort to recoup that investment as quickly as possible.

As far as the firing of Russell, and the trading of Piazza go, much has been made of these two occurrences. But few managers or coaches in any sport make it through their careers without being fired at least once. Fewer and fewer players, especially in North American sport, play their entire career with one club. It is interesting to note that when a player in Major League Soccer, baseball, American Football, hockey, or basketball is traded he doesnít have the Solksjaer option. He can not say "I donít want to go, and I will stay here and fight for my place in the team" The North American professional athlete is a chattel, and if sold or traded must report to his new team or he is not allowed to pursue his career.

The Murdoch executive who couldnít name Manchester Unitedís left back has been the butt of many jokes, but I have to say I would rather have someone like this involved than someone who THINKS he knows the game. I can think of too many examples of owners who THINK they know the game interfering with player acquisitions and team selection.

Take New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, for instance. When he first bought the club, Steinbrenner believed he knew all there was to know about baseball and wasnít slow to tell people that. Unfortunately the people he told this to most often were those working for him, men who had been around the pro game all of their working lives. It was soon apparent that Steinbrenner knew far less than he thought. Well it became apparent to everyone but Steinbrenner. Throughout the years in which he actively interfered with the team, the Yankees became less of a force in baseball. George would storm into the locker room and berate the players. They all knew he didnít have a clue, and the lack of respect among Yankee players for the man who paid their salaries was unanimous.

But in the past several years big George has been far more willing to leave the running of his team to those he hires to do the job. And the Yankees are once again a dominant force. My point here is you have to hire people who know the game, and let them get on with it. No matter how much you want to go to the sidelines or dressing room to give the players the benefit of your knowledge, control the urge. Let those you hired do their jobs. Go the dressing room only to congratulate the lads. To the manager say only "Do your job, win trophies, entertain the fans, and the profits should take care of themselves." If the team doesnít win trophies, entertain the fans, and make money, out goes the old manager, in comes the new.

What scares me about the Murdoch deal going through is the manís management style, the way he treats, or if you like, mistreats the people who work for him.

In my almost two decades of working in broadcast journalism I have been employed at stations owned by individuals, or corporations, who really cared about their employees. I have also worked for the other kind. Individuals and corporations who cared only about the bottom line. Employees were discardable parts of a machine. Parts which could be easily replaced, and usually at a cheaper price. It has been my experience that, eventually, the talented move on, unwilling to work for the employer to whom they are, not a human being, but a piece of the machinery. Others in the industry get to know who these owners are, and will turn down any offers of employment from them.

From what I have heard, and read, Rupert Murdoch is this kind of employer. My fear is he, although he knows nothing about football, will want to take an active role in the running of the club. Alex Ferguson is no manís fool, and I canít see the United manager taking any crap from the likes of Murdoch, or his underlings. The first time Murdoch placed one of his famous "designed to intimidate" phone calls to Ferguson, I am willing to bet the Australian would find himself on the end of some Scottish invective which would roughly translate into "Stuff your job." And there would be a line of clubs willing to take Alex on as their manager should that happen. There is always a willing market for the truly talented.

I strongly believe Manchester United have the best manager in the Premiership, as well as the best players, and the thought we could lose any of them because of the Murdoch ego sickens me.

The bottom line then is if Martin Edwards and the champagne set who occupy the board room at Old Trafford really want to cash in, then listen to all other offers, and hope one comes in for the right amount of money from a bidder who recognizes the people who work for them are human beings.

Personally I think the amount of money Martin Edwards is set to make from this deal is obscene. However much he professes to care about Manchester United, I question that he understands how we, the supporters feel. How can he? When he was a kid he went to Old Trafford with his dad, hobnobbed with the board, sat in a privileged area of the ground, and watched dadís employees at work.

When most of us were kids we got off the bus or train about two hours before kick-off, walked to the ground, lined up for as long as it took to get past the turnstiles, paid our way in with part of our pocket money, and then stood on the terraces for the best part of three and a half hours in all kinds of weather to watch our heroes perform.

To me, this is where the bond between club and supporter is formed. I know I appreciated the talent, and the hard work those players put in, and I felt they were doing it for me, and every other supporter young and old.

I know the players appreciated the supporters then too. I know this because players like Harry Gregg and John Connelly made me feel it when I was 10 years old and my best friend and I knocked on the doors of their houses, looking for an autograph. Both of these men invited my friend and I into their homes, and spent time talking to us, making us feel welcome, and, most of all, making us feel as much a part of Manchester United as they were. I donít think Martin Edwards will ever understand how much those occasions meant to me, and who knows how many other youngsters these men greeted in that way. He never had to gather the courage to knock on those doors and find his voice to speak to his heroes when they answered the door.

To me the essence of what it means to be part of this club is rooted in those childhood days. To sell this club to any one is selling part of my soul. And if I my soul is to be sold to the devil then Iíd at least like some say in the decision.


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