On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, Sean O’Driscoll mumbling quiet assurances that he was not going to Bramall Lane. Apologies to my family, but unless they’ve succeeded in catching and wrapping Natalie Imbruglia this is set to be the best present I will receive this Christmas. Given Viva Rovers is a website dedicated to all things Doncaster Rovers you may wonder why we have waited the best part of a week and a half to turn our attention to what is certainly the main story affecting the club. The answer quite simply is that I can no longer be bothered to play the game.
Back in January I surrendered any notion of a social life and effectively went on strike from my employers to spend three days glued to the nation’s sports media. The reason was Burnley’s hunt for a successor to Owen Coyle, and the sudden focus of that search on Sean O’Driscoll. I documented that drawn out process in a piece for this website which duly highlighted two things. Firstly, how much of a loss Sean O’Driscoll would be to Rovers should he choose to leave. And secondly just how little of the sports based media’s output can be considered to be ‘news’ as oppose to idle column-inch and airwave filling speculation.
Journalism today, thanks to 24 hour television channels and all-encompassing websites, is driven by numbers. What matters to most news outlets is the ‘hit count’ or the ‘viewer or listener numbers’. In this respect no news is not good news. No news is no visitors, no listeners, no viewers. So it pays for the media to stretch out stories and get the jump on their competitors by printing rumour and counter rumour as fact. Take comments slightly out of context. Stretch the interpretations of anything that is said. Why get one story out of a sound-bite when you can get two more follow-up stories speculating wildly about what was not said?
The past week and a half has seen Sean O’Driscoll again linked with another managerial position, namely the space left behind by Gary Speed’s ejector seat. This time I was not going to make the same mistakes. The 72 hours I lost to S*y Sp***s et al at the start of the year may have informed me very little but taught me much. Firstly networks and websites regularly give insult to the verb ‘understand’. They ‘understand’ developments in a narrative in the same way that I understand the gross domestic product per capita of Indonesia. Which is to say that they don’t but when pressed they will take a wild guess. The reason for this is that the word ‘understand’ comes across as being decidedly more professional and authorative than the much more truthful “takes a wild stab in the dark” or “has an inkling”.
This approach has been prevalent in the national media for some time and we saw it first hand in January when both the BBC and S*y Sp***s announced that Sean O’Driscoll was the new Burnley manager before backtracking in a speed and manner that would have even brought a tut of disappointment from Vince Cable. But of late we have seen the local media fall into the same bracket and that has disappointed greatly
I’ve long been a fan of Radio Sheffield and their football coverage. Even when Rovers dropped out of the Football League the station was their covering games live and has duly followed Rovers on the way back up through the divisions. But in the last fortnight Radio Sheffield has lived up to its name much more effectively than its purpose to cover the ‘O’Driscoll to United’ rumours with the well-being of Sheffield clearly more prevalent in their minds than the well-being of Doncaster. The station has effectively touted the merits of a manager of one of its region’s clubs to another one and in a BBC station, at a network that prides itself on fair and balanced reporting, this is deplorable.
So when even the local news networks could no longer be relied on for reasoned coverage I chose to shut myself off from this latest bout of managerial speculation until it had reached something approaching a conclusion. Not for me the local news, nor the near bi-polar mood swings of the messageboards as they won’t tell me anything I don’t already know. Were he to leave Sean O’Driscoll would be a huge loss to Rovers. I made my mind up in this respect three years ago as in the wake of Christmas Rovers tore first Northampton and then Southend apart in the space of three days at the Keepmoat and I’ve seen nothing since that would make me change my mind.
Yesterday, thankfully a line was effectively drawn with a statement on the official Rovers website. The statement informing all that O’Driscoll had not left to take charge at Bramall Lane included a quote from the Rovers manager; “I am not part of the process of Sheffield United appointing a new manager. All the speculation that has surrounded this over the past week is extremely unhelpful and disruptive to the players and staff at both football clubs and is very unwelcome.” So though it may not help the listener count for Radio Sheffield. Please move on folks. There’s nothing to see here. Help yourself to the Quality Street and concern yourself no more.