Thursday 23 May 2019

Declan Lynch: 'Kloppo and Poch: justice and righteousness prevail'

Success: Tottenham Hotspur coach Miguel D'Agostino and manager Mauricio Pochettino. Photo: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Success: Tottenham Hotspur coach Miguel D'Agostino and manager Mauricio Pochettino. Photo: REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino have taken their teams to the Champions League final and, unlike their counterparts in the corporate or political arenas, they can truthfully say that it could not have been done without them.

Amid the avalanche of emotions which accompanied the victories of Liverpool and Tottenham, there was no need for some PR consultant or some Special Advisor to draft a press release making false claims of executive prowess. Giving credit where credit is not due.

Anyone could see it, anyone could tell that these men had made the difference, had shown that there is actually a difference between brilliance and bullshit, and that sometimes it is rewarded.

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Justice, this was the thing at the centre of the Liverpool eruption, this sense that a fabulous season would somehow see them going out in the semi-final of the Champions League, and losing "on the nod" to Manchester City when the Premier League finishes this afternoon.

Justice, how we thirsted for it, though we knew that one of the most tantalising attractions of sport, in some weird counter-intuitive way, is that sometimes justice is not done.

Which does not stop you thirsting for it, even when it seems so far away, as it did when City won again last Monday night, with Messi on his way last Tuesday to finish the job.

You need incalculable levels of leadership to turn that ship around, you need the qualities which Kloppo has been bringing to Liverpool since 2015 when he was rightly welcomed in these pages for his deep intelligence, his ferocious passion, and that mysterious ability to make things better than they might otherwise be - to make people better, than they might otherwise be, and to identify the right people in the first place. To lead them to a better place than any of them might have imagined.

Yes, there is a terrible yearning for leadership at this time, so terrible that it is preyed upon by some of the worst people in the world, twisted into the most inglorious of causes.

Righteousness, this was the thing at the centre of the Tottenham extravaganza. In getting this team to the final of the Champions League, Mauricio Pochettino was driven by the righteousness of the man who is trying to achieve something that others are trying to do with far more money. As he fell to his knees after beating Ajax, knowing that his team had qualified with a hat-trick scored by the last player that he had signed, about 18 months ago, he seemed to be weeping in defiance of the gods and in wonder at the improbability of it all.

And he would have understood the grief of Ajax too, who themselves had been righteous, who had come so far with even less money than he, only to find themselves in that place where sport sometimes takes you, that place where we seek justice and indeed righteousness, but all in vain.

Yet Tottenham had also beaten Manchester City, and the reprehensible monarchy which sustains them, so nothing could take away from the moral energy which Pochettino has been bringing to the party, from his inspiration of these men - like Kloppo, it seems that they will do anything for him, for as long as it takes.

And with two English teams in the Champions League final, and another two in the Europa League final, we were seeing the illumination of a broader theme, one that was so obvious you felt that even Theresa May was bound to get it. Indeed, it was so obvious even Jeremy Corbyn was bound to get it - that with Liverpool and Tottenham featuring players from England but also from many other lands, here was an absolutely perfect illustration of the power of the Premier League, with its multi-racial culture. A culture that is now of course in grave jeopardy, due to Brexit.

Well, they found their analogies all right, or their Special Advisors found them on their behalf, but somehow they avoided that completely obvious one, with May going instead for a garbled line about Britain on the brink of defeat making a comeback against European opposition - a riposte to Corbyn's equally poor line about whether she had learned anything from Klopp on how to get a result in Europe.

Thus the two Brexiteers managed to shoehorn these marvellous events into their own disingenuous little efforts, they somehow managed to take the good out of it, because they don't seem to have any idea of what is good, and what is bad.

There they stood in the Commons, exchanging their banalities, deliberately missing the point. As the world went mad with joy, lost in delirium at the breath-taking feats of two great English football institutions and their outstanding managers, these two sad little people, May and Corbyn, just kept doing what they do.

It is all they know, and it is one of the disasters of the age that such people are drawn to politics - at times it seems that only such people are drawn to it.

Meanwhile, at Liverpool and at Tottenham, under the leadership of serious people, they really are taking back control.

Ah sure lookit ... It is what it is

Trump is always lying at some level, but the brilliant Canadian journalist Daniel Dale has found an infallible warning system which tells you that a lie is coming, for sure. It's called simply "Sir".

There's a particular strand of lying in Trump's repertoire which involves him being addressed as "Sir", in suspiciously similar stories involving some rugged old-school guy like a retired fireman or a cop - though such men would usually spurn displays of emotion, when they greet the president he notes that they just can't stop themselves breaking down in tears, they just can't help it.

"Sir… thank you for giving me my country back," they say to him. Or not as the case may be. After "Sir", it's always, always a lie.

But if Daniel Dale has identified this in relation to one person in America, in Ireland it seems we have a national system in place. A system far more sophisticated and nuanced than anything coming out of Trump, one which does not necessarily involve lying, more a determination not to get too entangled in the dark web of the truth.

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US President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It is a sprawling infrastructure of evasion and obfuscation that is triggered not by "Sir", but by "Look". Or the more folksy, "Lookit".

The eminent gastroenterologist Dr Anthony O'Connor was watching a current affairs show on TV recently and tweeted: "When did everyone in this country start saying 'lookit' a hundred times a minute?"

Oddly enough, I first noted the phenomenon in relation to gaelic games rather than politics, during interviews with players who were clearly under orders not to say anything of interest to the accursed media, on pain of death - which, when allied to their own natural reticence in the matter, would give you a post-match reaction which, if the words "Look" or "Lookit" were removed from the transcript, would contain almost no words at all.

You could call it a "tell", but in poker a "tell" is regarded as an unconscious signal, whereas in Ireland it can be conscious and unconscious or even both.

Now the techniques have been honed and embellished by so many in public life, they can find themselves saying "Look" and "Lookit" even when there is no intention to mislead. It can be just a verbal punctuation mark, but usually it serves its original purpose as some kind of diversion, a prelude perhaps to some conversation-killing cliche like, "it is what it is".

Usually it involves the erection of some sort of barrier, however flimsy, to the approach of the truth. And indeed it is not Paddy alone who has taken it to his heart, it was a particular favourite of Tony Blair who was always saying "Look" with a slightly pained or amused expression, whenever he wanted to stray from the path of rigorous honesty.

So it is not exclusively ours, but we have worked at it ceaselessly, developing it to a kind of crazy perfection. And what does that say about us? Look… it is what it is.

Freddie and that hamster - a story that defined an age

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Freddie Starr. Photo: PA Wire

He died in his modest home on the Costa del Sol, "a recluse" they said, his money gone. Freddie Starr had eaten his last hamster.

Of course he had denied eating the hamster that he had been accused of eating in the legendary Sun headline 'Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster', explaining in his autobiography that, "I have never eaten or even nibbled a live hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, mouse, shrew, vole, or any other small mammal".

The word "live" may be significant, leaving open the possibility that he may have eaten a hamster in some other form, but then we are dealing here with a story that was given to The Sun by Freddie's publicist Max Clifford, to drum up business for a tour.

Fact-checking would not have been uppermost in the minds of such men, though the fact that Max died a prisoner after convictions arising out of Operation Yewtree, makes Freddie's twilight years seem perhaps a little less bleak.

He had a brush with Yewtree himself, did Freddie, and had "fled" to the Costa after being hit with a legal bill for about a million, defending "historic sex attack accusations", some of which had allegedly taken place during the filming of an episode of Clunk Click with Jimmy Savile.

Down, down we go into the badlands of British light entertainment during the 1970s and 1980s, though, in truth, Freddie was probably the least light of them, carrying with him the constant threat of danger, of genuine onscreen delinquency.

Unlike Savile, he would not have been a close personal friend of Margaret Thatcher, and a guest of hers on New Year's Eve. But you can still draw a line connecting them all, in that benighted land called Thatcher's Britain.

The Sun loved Thatcher more than anything, more than Savile or Max Clifford, more than the story of the hamster that Freddie Starr may or may not have eaten - the story that in some supremely twisted way, defined the age.

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