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Almost too good to be true…

6 years ago

We woke up to Benitez fever.

Newcastle United, the club that brooked refusal and a six month wait to scoop the “hotly contested” signature of Steve McClaren, is reportedly on the trail of a Champions League winning manager.

Rafa is the only man in history to win the club grand slam of Champions League, UEFA League, Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Suddenly, there’s hope in the air. The pessimism of yesterday has evaporated like a morning mist.

Perhaps we can forget the fears of how an apparently dead duck manager prepares the team to take on the league leaders and exact overdue revenge in a six-pointer derby.

Maybe it will be worth the wait.

It would be an almost literally unbelievable step change in ambition from the two sacked lower league managers and the boot room boy who preceded him in the Toon dugout.

Almost too good to be true. And we’ve been here many, many times before.

Think back, not many months, to the situation after Alan Pardew left.

A head of steam build up that Frank de Boer was in the running and was interested in taking the job.

The frenzy went on for weeks, with fans jabbering excitedly online. The expectation….and the hope…..built to a crescendo.

Then de Boer himself emerged and coolly announced that Newcastle was really nothing like the sort of club he would consider taking on.

I don’t know if Frank de Boer ever was approached. He may have made his statement after rejecting overtures.

But for those who had gained the most from the unchecked speculation, there was no let down. No hope crushed. Just another lucrative punt turned into fish and chip paper.

I remember a Sun journalist bemoaning that in that paper’s time as a trusted media partner it wasn’t uncommon for the club to bombard him with leads about players that were supposedly on the cusp of signing, only to discover later that no approach at all had been made.

Daily Mirror trusted media partner Simon Bird must still be blushing over his back page screamer “Austin a Done Deal and Berahino’s next.”

Newspapers and TV channels have altogether different standards for their sports desks.

Confronted with a briefing that De Boer was interested, any self-respecting news editor would have immediately asked for a second source.

The aim in most news story is to provide balance. When a claim is made there is a presumption that an opposing, or at the very least a different, point of view should also be reported. That is not the case with most sports stories.

“It’s genuine speculation, guv’nor!” is the real deal.

Sports reporters should occasionally remember that they initially trained as news reporters and recall the standards of proof that were once drummed into them.

Rafa may be on his way. But have a pinch of salt on hand. For your sanity’s sake.



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