It shouldn’t really rile me.
I mean, there are far more concerning things going on in the world at the moment that should (and do) get me angry. Natural disasters in the Caribbean and in Mexico, the apparent ineptitude of the Brexit negotiations, the threat of annihilation of the planet.
There are even things going on in football that are more critical; corrupt FIFA officials, rogue owners destroying the heart and soul of the clubs they have purchased, ridiculous levels of greed by players and agents. I could go on.
But as a football historian I am particularly irked by the presentation of football in this country as beginning with the ‘formation’ of the Premier League. I don’t think that the mainstream media (especially BBC, SKY, Telegraph to name but three) don’t believe football existed before 1992, rather that they think that football didn’t matter before then.
The 18 league titles by Liverpool. Doesn’t matter. The record 357 top flight goals by Jimmy Greaves. Doesn’t matter. The record 849 top flight appearances by Peter Shilton. Doesn’t matter.
All those records, and many, many more besides, are ignored, wiped out, belittled, every time a commentator or a journalist says ‘it’s a Premier League record’.
For the record (!) there is no such thing as a Premier League ‘record’. Only the most goals, or most appearances, or most sendings-off since 1992.
It’s like saying that ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams is the second biggest selling single in the UK behind Elton John’s tribute to Princess Diana because it’s the second highest selling single since 1992, ignoring greats like ‘She Loves You’, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Relax’ just because they had the misfortune to have been hits in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Without denigrating Gareth Barry’s terrific achievement of making 633 top flight appearances, it is not a record. It is just the most appearances in the top flight since 1992. Apparently he’s broken the ‘record’ set by Ryan Giggs. No he hasn’t. Ryan Giggs had 672 top-flight appearances in total (not a record), but those 40 appearances before 1992 are conveniently forgotten for the sake of a soundbite that suits the media and their presentation of football.
Gary Speed was quite rightly admitted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame this week. The BBC article was quick to point out how many Premier League games Gary had played, how many Welsh caps he had earned, how successful he was as Wales manager. But no mention of the fact he had won a League title medal. Probably his greatest achievement, but because it was won prior to the Premier League moniker it wasn’t deemed worth mentioning. Just brushed under the carpet. It didn’t matter.
Even the National Football Museum itself via its Twitter feed ignored this pinnacle of his playing career tweeting solely about how Gary Speed was a stalwart of the Premier League. Now I love the National Football Museum, but if even they, an organisation that promotes the history of football, doesn’t think it worthy to mention something that was achieved before 1992, what hope is there that anyone else will.
Well I will. I will continue to rail against the media who present football facts that ignore everything that happened in the 120 or so years before the top flight was re-named the Premier League. What happened in those years, and the records that were set, matter!