5
May 04

I’ve never liked Will Buckley’s pieces in the Observer

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I’ve never liked Will Buckley’s pieces in the Observer, and until today had put it down to his schoolboyish byline photo rather than anything concrete in his writing or attitudes. Surely my dislike was down to envy of his twinkly-eyed pertness. But the front of G2 today shows a grizzled man on the threshold of middle-age, weighed down by doing a job he hates, viz. football writing. I expected the piece to be a familiar list of gripes: the game ruined by money, boring boring Premiership, bad boy players, wherefore the Corinthian ideal etc. All quite sympathetic but hardly fresh. But Buckley’s problem runs deeper: he has woken up and decided that the state of the game is not the issue, it’s that the game itself is childish and trivial, fans are bores, and the whole thing is a nonsense one should basically grow out of.

As someone who grew into football I’m not convinced. Mainly I’m not convinced by Buckley’s rant about people who live for football, and their team. As a perpetual neutral you’d think this would be the one thing that strikes a chord, but no. The fact is that Will’s Arsenal-obsessive mate and his ilk simply do not target innocent non-fans with their stats’n’banter. I worked for two years with a keen Rushden And Diamonds fan and never once got an unsolicited football opinion out of him. I had been identified as not interested, the matter rested and we got on very well. Will Buckley is a target for these people because he is a sports writer – his business is having opinions so people expect him to have them when they ask. It’s a bit of a chore I’m sure but it comes with the territory – it’s like a pop journo writing a piece saying “You know what – I hate being a music writer, because idiots keep thinking you’ll care about the crap CDs they send you”.

So is the G2 essay Buckley’s farewell to the world of football writing? Hardly. It turns out in the final paragraphs that it’s a plug – a very, very blatant plug – for his new book, a novel called, um, The Man Who Hated Football. Cheeky, no? My sense of resentment at the article at this point turned into a full-blown feeling of having been swindled.

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