Johnson and McGrath entitled to their opinions

GLEN JOHNSON’s interview with the Daily Mail has seen him come in for some criticism from the usual types. He spoke out in response to questions he was asked and gave his honest opinions. He’s entitled to do both, especially if it’s in response to criticism from others.

Paul McGrath was critical of Glen Johnson after Johnson joined his team mates and wore a Suarez t-shirt before the match. McGrath said at the time: “If I was in Glen Johnson’s position, I would have thrown the shirt to the floor,’ said McGrath.”

Johnson’s response to that, in today’s article, basically suggest McGrath needs to look at himself before commenting on others: “The McGrath thing… that’s actually racist. Saying what he said is racist. He is only saying that to me because I was the only black lad wearing the T-shirt. He’s targeting me because of my colour.

“I haven’t spoken to Paul McGrath about it. I don’t care what he thinks, really. I don’t know anything about him. But for someone to say that, it sums them up. It’s their problem.”

McGrath has since responded, tweeting: “It saddens me that Glen Johnson has called me a racist, but he is entitled to his opinion.”

He’s right. Both players are entitled to their opinions and both players should be entitled to a fair response to any airing of their opinions.

McGrath made assumptions about Johnson’s opinions when he made the comments Johnson referred to.

But McGrath seems to have inconsistent views about racism anyway.

The following was written on this site on Christmas Eve, after the Suarez verdict but before the written reasons were released:

MUCH has been written and said about the Suarez-Evra case, particularly in the few days since The FA announced the verdict, and it’s safe to say that little new can be added, at least until the written reasons for the verdict are made public.

Opinions vary on how right or wrong the verdict was, how suitable the punishment was and how appropriate the response has been. People have opinions on people’s opinions and it’s practically impossible to find an impartial opinion.

Yet these opinions are all based on ‘facts’ that are still rather vague, few of which are actually on record anywhere. Words like “negro”, “negrita” and “sudaca” are getting mentioned almost everywhere as being part of the exchange between the two players – but haven’t been mentioned anywhere on the record, in public, by any of those remotely involved in the case.

The opinions being voiced now may well change when, eventually, the full facts of the case are known. The opinions may still be polarised even then, but at least by then it will be possible for those who really care to base their opinions on something other than speculation, sensationalised snippets and spin. There will always be those who struggle to see beyond club v club and those who see no issues in using a situation like this to suit their own needs in some other way – but this spiteful debate could actually become positive if it was based on fact and not innuendo. Individuals normally critical of decisions made by football’s officialdom are suddenly blind to any possibility that there could be a problem – minor or major – with the verdict.

Kenny Dalglish said, yesterday, “It would be helpful to everyone if someone gave us some guidelines about what you can and cannot say.” Whether that would be helpful or not (again, opinions will vary) it would be far more helpful to hear what was or wasn’t said.

Not that any of this bothers the people with an eye on viewing figures and circulation numbers. It’s controversial, it sells, it brings in the punters. And to keep it going they need people who can speak from experience to throw their opinions out there, to help promote even more debate.

Thankfully for them Twitter provides ideal candidates and eases the need to explain in the awkward early part of the phone call why they think that person’s opinion might be relevant.  Instead they see the person’s opinion in 140 characters or less and there’s their excuse to call.

One of the people with an opinion on the issue is former Manchester United player Paul McGrath.  He’s not seen the written reasons for the verdict either, but he’s clearly satisfied that there are no problems with it. His mind’s made up and he thinks it’s shameful that Liverpool – and one of Liverpool’s players in particular – is willing to even consider there could be a problem with the verdict. It hasn’t crossed his mind that the player he singles out is entitled to his own opinion.

McGrath was speaking about the Liverpool players wearing t-shirts showing their support for Suarez: “It puts the anti-racism campaign back to the beginning as far as I’m concerned.  Maybe Kenny is trying to make a statement to the FA but I just think it is in bad taste that he sent them out in those T-shirts.”

It was Liverpool’s right-back he singled out: “If I was in Glen Johnson’s situation, I’d have thrown the shirt to the floor. If that had been someone in my time and I’d heard the comments or even suspect he was guilty, then I would not wear a T-shirt with his name on it, saying all is well and good here.”

We’ll come back to that in a moment. He went on: “It would have been much better for Liverpool if they’d have worn anti-racism shirts. It’s about respect. There’s this issue going on about respecting your opponents. It is actually a game. The game itself has gone too big; it’s about winning and the money.  The actual element of football being a game has long since gone; it is all about protecting your interest, protecting your best players.

“A lot of children watch these games and to have done what they did, doing their warm-up in T-shirts with his smiling face on it, having just been done for a supposedly racist comment to one of his opponents, is shameful for football.”

Johnson wore a Luis Suarez t-shirt, he didn’t go into details about his opinions on the case or what he based those unaired opinions on. He clearly knows more about the case (at least Suarez’s side of it) than most, but for various reasons he’s not in a position to actually go on record to elaborate, not yet anyway.

One incident of racial abuse in football that hit the headlines happened off the field in 2004. It was Manchester United’s former manager Ron Atkinson, working for TV, who was heard making comments about Marcel Desailly from the commentary box: “He’s what is known in some schools as a f*****g lazy thick ni****.”

The “n” word used by Atkinson was far stronger than the variations Suarez is speculated to have used and it wasn’t a case of his word against that of an accuser. It was all on tape, there for anyone who wanted to hear it with their own ears to do so. If that was what Suarez had said, unprovoked, and if that had been caught on tape, this debate wouldn’t be taking place this week. There wouldn’t be a grey area and Liverpool would probably have started a self-imposed ban on their own player from the off.

Nobody would be able to defend Suarez for that, absolutely nobody. Yet Atkinson was defended when he came out with that slur. He lost his job and he lost his status in the game but he was still defended by some. He was defended by one in particular. Mr Paul McGrath.

McGrath’s defence of Atkinson was astounding, even more so in the wake of his comments about Glen Johnson and Kenny Dalglish: “Well, Ron’s old school, I have to say that.”

What does that mean? Does “old school” mean old-fashioned, from an era where using words like “n****r” would be acceptable? Did he think Ron maybe just needed educating that the culture of the olden days wasn’t the same as culture of modern-day England. In other words, let it go with an apology?

He didn’t say, he just said the man who called a player a “n****r” wasn’t a racist. “Jesus, he’s one of the furthest men away from being a racist. He might say the odd word that makes you think ‘Jesus, what’s happening here?’ He had this thing in training, where he’d say ‘it’s the c**ns against the rest’.”

How did McGrath, now so annoyed with Johnson about a t-shirt, react to Atkinson’s alleged use of insulting racial words in training? “We’d just laugh about it.”

Really? “And the so-called c**ns had a good team – me, Yorkie, Dalian Atkinson, Cyrille Regis – so we were delighted. Never once would any of us have taken exception.”

These comments were made around three years after Atkinson’s, he’d had plenty of time to reflect on it, he still wasn’t willing to show the same contempt to Atkinson that he would later be showing to Kenny Dalglish.

Dalglish wore a t-shirt with a player’s name number and image on. Atkinson called a player one of the most objectionable racist words known. “What he said about Desailly, that’s something you shouldn’t be saying,” said McGrath.

Paul McGrath is entitled to his opinion, but people reading it are entitled to see it in context. He can’t be right both times, can he?

Context doesn’t sell papers, sensationalism does. Far too many people claiming to care about racism have it further down their priorities than they would care to admit.


  • T

    Very interesting that you don’t allow comments.

    • Thomas,

      We do allow comments, although if they’re full of inaccuracies it’s sometimes easier just to bin them than to point out the errors in them. Especially if they’re of a provocative nature or seem to be from someone intent on stirring up trouble. We also dump obvious attempts at trolling and of course spam.

      If a comment is full of dubious accusations there’s more chance of it appearing if a real name and email address is used by the person leaving it.

      If you’re just here to stir up trouble you’ll probably not get on. Especially if you’ve been doing that on other sites that we’re aware of.

      If you want to leave a comment that doesn’t come under the above then feel free.

      • T

        You have my name and email, not that anyone should have to put their real full name on blog comments. I didn’t say anything inaccurate at all, it was simply critical of what you write. It’s a safe bet you didn’t allow it because it showed your hypocrisy. My point being that you and other bloggers have misled LFC supporters with smears, exaggerations and lies over the racial abuse incident.
        I made my points clearly and fairly. It’s your articles that are deliberately provocative and stir up trouble. If I was out of order and full of errors I’m sure you’d have pointed out how.

        I find your censoring of critical comments even more shameful than your promotion of inflammatory propaganda. This comment is not inaccurate or intent on stirring up trouble, but I’m sure you’ll still arbitrarily judge it to be “trolling”. Some people just aren’t able to stand by their own words.
        Each to their own.

        • Thomas,

          You’re not very good at this. Although you’ve got another bite so I suppose you’ll be smiling now.

          The comments McGrath made about players wearing t-shirts (worn because they believed their team-mate’s version of events in this case, not because they condoned what the press were effectively accusing him of doing) were more than a little hypocritical – because McGrath played down comments made be his former boss, defending him for doing so. His former boss had actually used the word Evra falsely/mistakenly accused Suarez of using.

          Never mind that McGrath and others read far more into the thinking behind the t-shirts than was actually the case, who is he to criticise after telling the world that it’s okay for Ron Atkinson to use the “ni****” word? Liverpool’s players didn’t wear the t-shirts to say “It’s okay for Suarez to make racist comments”, they wore the t-shirts to say “We don’t think Suarez made racist comments.”

          It’s not that difficult to grasp, surely?

          You probably did grasp it, but you can’t bring yourself to nod your head and admit that it’s a good point. It doesn’t make any difference to how wrong or right the Suarez verdict was, or how other people reacted to the verdict, or the t-shirts. It shows that one person who was wheeled out of wherever it is he normally hangs around these days wasn’t the best person to ask for opinions on what it meant.

          Your comment was a little rant about stuff you claimed you’d read on other LFC websites (you mentioned one in particular but were otherwise generalising). The only parts of your rant relating to this site or the article in question were based on preconceptions you’d clearly picked up elsewhere. You had no interest in debating anything actually in this article.

          As for the accuracy of your comment, here’s one example from towards the end of it: “You and your fellow Liverpool bloggers have done nothing but miseducate LFC supporters with irrelevant smears, gross exaggerations and lies over this issue.”

          What exactly do you mean by “fellow Liverpool bloggers”? (Rhetorical question, not really interested.) The term “blogger” isn’t one I use for myself (it’s the kind of term I’m more accustomed to seeing used by angry MUFC fans who’ve written two articles about why they don’t like LFC for the kind of MUFC fan-sites that find it difficult to discuss anything else other than LFC). You could write something on Blogspot tomorrow about your favourite team, would that then make you the voice of MUFC, everything you say spot on and representative of all MUFC fans? Or would it, basically, be your opinion?

          You’re generalising too much with your comment. You’ve read stuff others have written and decided “they’re all the same those ‘LFC bloggers’, in fact they’re all the same, those scousers / LFC fans.” It doesn’t even cross your mind that all of those individuals who have commented, wherever and however they’ve done it, are capable of forming their own opinions and might not actually agree with each other. There are plenty of Liverpool fans whose views I find are the polar opposite of mine.

          There are plenty of people whose views on this whole case have taught me a lot, helped me to see it in a different way. Some are LFC fans, some are MUFC fans, some aren’t fans of either club.

          There’s one thing that people who have given me food for thought all have in common. They all actually care about the underlying issue. You, quite clearly, don’t.

          Back to the bit of your deleted comment that I’ve quoted, and to put it into a way that relates to me, you said: “You.. have done nothing but miseducate… with… lies over this issue.”

          Perhaps you’d like to justify that accusation with some evidence of me lying about this issue.

          You claim you “didn’t say anything that was inaccurate at all.” So you stand by your false accusation? Do you, as you put it, “stand by your own words”?

          You say: “Not that anyone should have to put their real full name on blog comments.” Of course they don’t have to. Just like people looking after blogs aren’t obliged to publish those comments.

          If you intend to leave comments that you’ve not properly checked, that contain false allegations and seem to be, given where they’ve been left, sent with more of an intention to be inflammatory than with an intention to get involved in reasonable debate, then it’s no surprise you’re reluctant to leave your full name. Given where you’ve been posting your comments from I’m not surprised you’re holding your name back.

          As for the amount of time I’ve spent writing this reply, I think it illustrates why I said it’s easier just to bin comments like yours!