Terry Wogan will be looking down on Newcastle fans today from his studio in the sky and chuckling.
Not because the big man wants to see Newcastle United go down, or because of the agonies we cynical souls are putting poor Steve McClaren through.
No, he’ll be laughing because so many of the Black and White army are agonising over the Daily Mail’s latest attempt at sports reporting.
Now don’t get me wrong: Craig Hope may be a very fine journalist; he may have the best sources within Newcastle United; he may even believe every word published under his by-line.
Nor am I saying that there is no player unrest at the club or that the backroom staff isn’t arguing over training methods.
I’m saying loud and clear that this story is in Paul Dacre’s Daily Mail. A pinch of salt will not do here. You need a council tipper truck loaded with road salt to cope.
Let me take you back a few years to when I “graced” the Mail on Sunday newsroom. OK, not the Daily Mail. But my News Editor back then was one Paul Dacre – a man hell bent on climbing the ladder no matter who he stamped on and who now edits … the Daily Mail.
One Saturday morning, the said Paul Dacre asked me to check out a “tip-off” that Terry Wogan had been black-balled by his home town – the council had nobbled his nomination as a freeman of the place. I think tip-off was code for “vivid imagination”.
I asked the council boss, the leader, and the mayor. All three told me Terry’s name hadn’t been up for consideration. When I told the newsdesk, Dacre said: “Ask Wogan how it feels to be blackballed.” He waved away my protests about the truth so I did.
I called Terry three times that morning. Each time, he told me it didn’t happen, so I filed a “Terry Wogan NOT blackballed” story.
Imagine my consternation when I picked up the paper next morning and read “Council chiefs have blackballed an attempt by Terry Wogan to have himself made a freeman of his home town.” And the story said “by John Lewis”. Not a word that I recognised.
So, while there may be unrest among players; Coloccini may be sulking because he’s been found out as a past-it on/off defender and fifth rate Captain; Mbemba may have played too soon after injury; McClaren may even have had his staff down to try his posh nosh in Smoggieland.
But the Daily Mail has form. So, of course, do Lee Ryder, Mark Douglas and the other sports “writers” at the Chronicle. But give the local lads the credit they deserve. They have sources too. If ANY of the Mail’s story stood up in the way Hope wrote it, Lee and his merry men would have it on the back page. Check it out.
But whatever you believe, believe this: Newcastle’s players want to win against Bournemouth above everything tomorrow. To do otherwise would blight their careers forever. It would be professional suicide.
What’s more, McClaren would be first to spill the beans as he counted his pay-off and looked for thousands in “exclusive fees” from Craig Hope and his ilk.
Now THAT would be a story.
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