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Chris Lakey: It’s a straight red for Stan Collymore

PUBLISHED: 16:38 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:39 11 October 2018

Local media at work at a Norwich City press conference with head coach Daniel Farke Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Local media at work at a Norwich City press conference with head coach Daniel Farke Picture : ANTONY KELLY

If I were a fish, I’d be long dead. I bite: as soon as someone drops a bit of bait in front of me, that’s it. I’m grabbing it.

Stan Collymore at work Picture: PAStan Collymore at work Picture: PA

It’s why this week, when a tweet appeared making a wholly inaccurate suggestion about our coverage of King’s Lynn Stars speedway team, I jumped back with a response. I actually wanted it to develop into a twitter spat, because I felt quite strongly about it (and still do).

It didn’t materialise, sadly, so I guess the protagonist got what he wanted from me: a rise to the bait, tasteless as it was.

I shouldn’t get involved in these things, but it happens and I feel I have a right to defend myself or my colleagues if necessary, not that they can’t fight their own battles.

Sometimes, though, restraint must be exercised, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Sometimes as in the following case, it is better to explain and/or defend fully rather than jump on twitter and abbreviate a response.

This week, the former footballer Stan Collymore tested many local newspaper sports writers to the limit with a tweet that was remarkably offside.

In a twitter conversation about Steve Bruce’s exit from Aston Villa, the role of the local media came up, with a claim from someone that in Bruce’s case, the local media treated him rather too well.

Collymore’s response is what brought the pitchforks out...

“Which is why you shouldn’t follow any local press whoever you support. Most are fans, most don’t want to be kicked out of the weekly press conference by being critical, some become pals with the gaffer, some look for jobs in the club itself. Self serving sycophants.”

Wow. Where to start?

While there was social media ‘support’ of our lads here at Archant Towers which prompted something of a positive response from Collymore, he most definitely needs to have some evidence to back up a huge sweeping statement.

Yes, I’ve seen local sports writers get close to their subjects – it’s what we do. It is our job and if we don’t, they won’t think about us first when there’s a story.

At the same time, there has to be sufficient detachment so that when a difficult situation arises, the tough question can be asked.

We’ve all had to ask a football manager if he thinks his job is on the line, whether he believes himself still up for the job. We’ve asked players why they are playing poorly.

And it isn’t just football: Stan, go and stand in front of an angry heavyweight boxer and ask him why he didn’t perform to his best. Ask him if he believes his career is now over. Go on, Stan. Have a go at that.

Be the first person in a crowded press conference who dares ask the difficult question.

I’ve witnessed a local reporter come to verbal blows with a manager because he queried his view of a match. I’ve seen them shouted down by managers because they asked ‘the wrong question’. It happened to me more than once with one particular Norwich City manager. But I didn’t stop asking the question. And nor do my colleagues and nor do many sports writers throughout the country.

I don’t support Norwich City, never have done, and his suggestion that ‘most are fans’ is incorrect. Yes, you get a soft spot for the team, but I know many sports writers who aren’t fans of the club they cover.

Collymore also does clubs and managers a discredit: he is suggesting they deliberately get the local media onside to protect themselves.

And as for ‘some look for jobs in the club itself’... I can only assume he means that clubs have recruited media officers from the local press and forgets that those are likely to be the most qualified people to do that particular job. Have a think about it, Stan...

I can only assume he does not know how many hours sports writers put into the job, the pressures they are under to fulfil obligations for print and web, to get the best viewing figures, to get everything right, to know the game of football (and, by the way, that is not a skill exclusive to ex-players), to understand what went right or what went wrong in a game, to transmit the information to readers and viewers in the best possible fashion. And then to deal with the crap that is sometimes thrown at them on social media by people who should know better. Just because they aren’t so-called celebrity broadcasters who are so far up themselves they can completely ignore it all. We have to live alongside the good, the bad and the ugly of football.

And that social media crap includes you and your tweet, Stan, who now stands guilty of the biggest insult of all: lazy journalism.

Self serving sycophants, eh? You’ve had a shocker here, Stan, a real shocker.

On the wrong track

It was a pleasure to head west to Saddlebow Road for King’s Lynn Stars’ attempt to make history and become British champions for the first time.

That they failed was down to the events of Sunday afternoon and Monday evening.

Niels-Kristian Iversen crashed in Poland on Sunday, so was ruled out of Monday’s play-off final at Poole when a couple of controversial refereeing decisions went against the Stars, who had to overcome a 16-point deficit in the return on Wednesday – without Michael Palm Toft, who was injured on the south coast.

You know it’s a big meeting at Lynn when the car park is getting close to full by 6pm. As I sat in my car making a meal deal disappear my mind wandered back to years gone by.

The pits area was pretty much open for viewing and wandering, the car parks a bed of mud, as was the centre green. The fence was just that, a four-foot wooden fence, and if you wanted to sit down to watch the action, you took your own seat.

The centre green is now centre concrete - nice and neat and safe and clean. The fence are padded on the corners and protected by a second, higher fence.

There is a very big screen at one end (the one we used to call the beet factory end) and there are stands aplenty from which to view the action from on high. There is a long room up some steps for officials and the like and on Wednesday there was a room for the media, complete with loo and refreshments. And there were a few visits from joint promoter Robin Brundle asking whether we all had everything we wanted.

Not everything is new, of course, but for anyone who thinks speedway hasn’t moved on, it is an eye-opener.

Some things don’t change: Lynn still haven’t won the title, which, by virtue of finishing top of the table in the regular season, they deserve. The play-offs involve four teams, but there are only seven in the Premiership. Lynn finished 19 points ahead of fourth-placed Belle Vue, who were level on points with Poole. Who are now champions. Thanks to the play-offs.

A lot of things have changed in speedway: hopefully, the way the sport decides its champions will also change.

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