Monday 16 December 2019

John Giles: Sky didn't invent football and it didn't begin in 1992 either

Chelsea celebrate after winning the Premier League last season
Chelsea celebrate after winning the Premier League last season

Herald Sport

As an old pro with a long memory, I'm never less than depressed by the aggressive drive to wipe the history of the game clean before the Premier League began.

On a daily basis, Sky edit and package football to suit themselves and have followed a very definite path since they blew the game wide open with unprecedented amounts of cash over 20 years ago.

Sky's version of the game begins in 1992 and ignores all that happened before that.

In no other sport in England is there such a casual disregard and disrespect for the achievements of players who inhabit the archives and provide an anchor for future generations.

I watched a couple of documentaries on Sky over the Christmas, one about the England 1966 World Cup winning team and another about Nottingham Forest and while I enjoyed them, I couldn't help feeling angry that Sky are quite happy to make money off the backs of old pros, the same players they have airbrushed out of the game.

The history of our game is important. Sky, BT and other broadcasters do not own football even if they would like us to believe that they are somehow part of it and a part the game cannot do without.

What other sport wipes out 100 years of records and standards and decides that Alan Shearer was the first player to score 100 goals for two clubs when Jimmy Greaves did it decades before?

I don't know about you but I was amazed at how little regard was given to Jimmy Dunne when Jamie Vardy was trying for the consecutive goal-scoring record.

It was all about Ruud van Nistlerooy and Dunne was tagged on as an afterthought. Vardy broke the only standard which meant anything to Sky so the true record was downplayed, almost as if it didn't count.

There is an arrogance about this which is all about money, all about Sky's corporate decision to attach the company to football in a way which had never been done before.

They have been remarkably successful with it and good luck to them but there is absolutely no reason why they should be allowed to annex football to suit a commercial agenda and in doing so, edit some of the greatest names out of the history of the game.

Sky's view is patronising and is now shared by other broadcasters. The image they like to display of the past is of footballers with pipes in their mouths playing on mud piles.

The judgement is that the game is so vastly different now from the old days that great players from history are not relevant because would not be able to live with the demands of the "modern game". I really despise that that awful phrase.

Every generation believes it is better than the last and in terms of infra-structure and wages, the game has improved beyond belief since my day.

The fashionable view would be that on the pitch, there is a huge difference too and perhaps that is what annoys me most of all.

There's a good example from my own career which illustrates how ridiculous this attitude is and in my opinion, how disrespectful

In my final months as a player-manager at West Brom, I shared a pitch with a young Bryan Robson. He was full of energy and a useful option for me in a couple of positions. He hadn't yet bedded down as a box to box midfielder.

I played on the same pitch as him with the same ball and I didn't feel as if I was an old man beside the future of the game.

Move forward to the end of Robson's fantastic career at Manchester United and the arrival of Paul Ince and then Roy Keane. He played on the same pitch as both men and he didn't look any less of a player.

The cycle turns and one generation blends into another but the notion that football has somehow changed so radically that men who lived the life 20 years ago or 40 years ago would not be able to cope with the Premier League is plain stupid.

But it fits Sky's narrative and programmes like Jamie Carragher's really good analysis of the England campaign are a rarity.

Perhaps someone in Sky has recognised that there is some value in what happened before 1992, if only a monetary one and we will see more of the great players of the past analysed and remembered in the right way.

The history of football is packed with great stories. Fans of most clubs rely on these memories when times are lean and in all but the most successful clubs, that's the default setting.

But Sky only deals in the here and now and it's a mistake. They didn't invent football and it didn't begin in 1992 either.

Herald Sport

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