I Have To Be Professional, Not Impartial – Stan Speaks
On Sunday in Villa Park, when Fabian Delph warmed up in front of my commentary position, I just looked on as fellow Villa fans rightly gave him a sledging.
I was working of course, and talking about the general state of on-field play, but…
in my heart I wanted to boo the kid if I’m being honest.
Why? Well Fabian let Villa fans down not once but twice, and the excuses given by some Manchester City fans in his defence are laughable, only for their blue moon shaped glasses they wear when having the audacity to lecture other football fans.
Let’s imagine a very real scenario that could pan out at the Etihad. David Silva is offered, and signs a new City contract, he then takes to City’s number of well polished social media avenues to be pictured with the following statement bearing his name, signed of by him.
“I F**KING LOVE CITY YOU KNOW, I’M AS LOYAL TO CITY AS THE DAY IS LONG, I’M A MAN OF MY WORD, I LOVE CITY, I’M LOYAL TO CITY ETC ETC”
This ladies and gents, is what Fabian Delph did, not once but twice. So City fans, put yourself in Villa fans’ shoes and imagine how you would feel if Silva had mugged you off twice then was seen at Real Madrid’s training complex wearing the famous white.
Exactly, so we understand each other now then.
As for me staring at this lad doing his sprints in front of the Villa faithful, and inside wanting to boo my heart out, there is a fine line of course, that of fan, and broadcaster.
Only once in my 12-year broadcasting career have I let fan overtake broadcaster – Chelsea v Villa a couple of years ago.
My co-commentator called the win for Chelsea after JT scored with seconds left to put Chelsea 3-2 up, a season in which Villa were again struggling, had played really well and were going home with nothing. Ciaran Clark pops up with 5 seconds left and I screamed “YEEEES, YEEESS!!” at the top of my voice to celebrate an unlikely point.
At that point, on air, I apologised for being unprofessional. Unprofessional not impartial or neutral, as commercial radio nor television want anyone on their airwaves who do anything other than offer consistent analysis, insight, fair-minded criticism of both teams, and a passion for the sport.
I prove all of this week in, week out, over 12 years, which is why I guess I get nominated for well respected awards in my industry annually, nominated for two already this season.
Anyway, lest go back to Fabian.
He chose to write how loyal he was, he chose to take part in an eve of season photo shoot and loyalty statement, he chose to say he loves Villa, the fans, and he’s a loyal man, nobody forced him, no gun to his head, so Villa fans rightly, in the only way they could told him what they thought of his betrayal.
So where did this leave a Villa fan and professional broadcaster in the press box commentating on the game, when the inevitable happened and Mr Delph entered the pitch?
I put my right arm out, pointed my thumb downwards and showed my disapproval as a fan of 38 years. I then took the mic, and suggested that Delph, motivated by the crowd, may well go on to score due to the “law of the ex”. He nearly did.
So proof, if any were needed that…
a fan, a passionate football man, and award-winning broadcaster can exist in the same time, in the same place in the same game.
A first time listener would never know who my allegiance was to as I am professional which is my only remit, informed and fair to both.
Some fans confuse 21st century broadcasting ( Neville is a fan, Jeff Stelling a fan, Carra is a fan, etc etc etc, and all broadcast professionally with a delicious hint of natural bias at times) with the BBC remit of impartiality, which means the BBC in their charter must be impartial in all they do, so fans with no clue lump that rather old-fashioned (it’s football after all, we are all fans aren’t we?) view with the more realistic view that broadcasters and journalists can do their job well, with passion and insight and fairness but still have a known allegiance to a club.
It’s called honesty, and my belief is that is what fans like and enjoy about the best analysts and pundits, that despite having an allegiance to a club they can still constructively criticise their club in their job. Indeed, so much so that only last week I was of course relieved of writing a column at Villa, for being… yup, constructively critical!
As for my views on Fabian Delph, they were mirrored yesterday by 40 thousand Villa fans..
he mugged us off, not once but twice, and my thumbs down was my way of letting him know.
When Benteke comes to Villa with Liverpool, I guarantee he’ll get a muted round of applause, no snakes, no fuss. Why? He didn’t try to bullshit the supporters who paid his wages, twice.
There’s the difference, but all know this other than those wearing Elton John sized blue moon specs.