Alan Biggs at Large: Why journalists are not to blame for Sheffield Wednesday's plight
Never mind the media, a football club (any club) IS the supporters - and it’s vital that they interact.
By Alan Biggs
Thursday, 12th March 2020, 6:00 am
This column wouldn’t normally speak up for itself, let alone all the region’s other reporting outlets.
We’re not the story. It’s not our job to sort out a football club’s problems.
Probe and ask searching questions, yes. To those who make themselves available. If the owner chooses not to - as has been standard so far throughout his five-year reign - that’s his prerogative and not our problem.
Nor is it our job to insist he should. Bravo if that changes, but it’s his call.
Of course, you may very justifiably feel it is a problem for Sheffield Wednesday. As it certainly seems to be for supporters, albeit invited to occasional forums.
But the suggestion from some quarters that journalists aren’t doing their jobs and are somehow responsible, however indirectly, for the club’s plight is way wide.
The players certainly are responsible. The manager also, though I feel to a lesser degree because of his inherited handicaps. Criticism is justified; support for them, if it can be dredged up somehow, absolutely paramount to drag everyone from this hole.
And no-one has asked me to write this, incidentally. It’s a personal view, independent of editors and colleagues.
I’m now away from the coal face of hacking out day-to-day news; more of a commentator on events these days, match reporting apart.
But, after many years at the sharp end, I genuinely believe the journalists who cover Wednesday up close do a diligent, perceptive and conscientious job. As do the organisations they represent, sometimes with financial constraints further pressuring the operators in the field.
The frustration is fair enough, mind you, although to those calling for some kind of undercover investigation (probably demanding national scale resources), I’d respectfully say I see no great mystery here. More a story of good intentions, inexperience, honest (but costly) mistakes, and what can happen to any football club where learning from those mistakes is the only answer.
We don’t always get it right and I’ve made mistakes of my own with club-supporter balance in the past. But, as much as fans are right to demand scrutiny, I think it’s important as well that the Owls media corps do try to be positive rather than negative, empathising with the club - where possible.
Also - and mostly - bearing the brunt of all this is the manager, Garry Monk, as the sole senior regular frontman for the club.
Which is not to defend him - or anyone - for this wretched run. It is indefensible. If Monk was sacked tomorrow, a credible objection would be very hard to mount on current record.
But one thing I am absolutely sure of is that it would not solve the problem long term. Short term, yes, maybe.
Managers changing, caretakers being appointed, firefighters installed... any of these normally clears the air and brings an upturn, albeit often temporary.
But what then? The club needs a shift in direction from the top, as I’ve argued here many, many times - for years, not weeks and months. Which is as far as my influence - if I have any at all - extends.
For all we know, the chairman may have decided upon exactly that course of action. Certainly, recent recruitment has improved; the greater concern has been (lack of) outgoings.
Some colleagues have argued likewise. The message is similar almost wherever you look and on the same page as many fans regarding delegation to a specialist football management structure.
Further, this column has carried powerful suggestions to that same effect from former Hillsborough favourites like Carlton Palmer and Chris Turner.
I say “suggestions” because that is all they can be. You can’t tell someone who has sunk many millions into a business how to run it. That’s his choice, his absolute entitlement for better or worse. And he so nearly succeeded at the outset.
It is also his choice whether to listen to concerns and to heed well-meaning professional advice.
But I hope that, via the newly-formed Wednesday Supporters Trust, there can be some constructive dialogue. The right tone seems to have been struck; to argue strongly but reasonably and not antagonise.
One thing no party involved has ever disputed is that the fans ARE the club and owners merely custodians.
Further, I think all parties - inside and outside - are committed to the club and have their heart in the right place. That’s common ground right there for starters.
Forgive the rant, but journalists are simply not the answer. Bringing the club together and learning from the lessons of the past? Now you’re talking.