A few years ago there was a joke doing the rounds, which featured Manchester United’s Paul Ince bumping Arsene Wenger’s car in the car park at Arsenal before a game. When asked about the damage the bump caused, Wenger replies “I did not see ze Incey-dent”.
Wenger’s selective vision has long been something of a standing joke. Now, in a series of interviews splashed across this morning’s papers, he has admitted that – as many long suspected – he is not telling the truth when he says he doesn’t see the things his players sometimes do. He says it is because he sometimes “cannot find any rational explanation” for what his players do, so chooses to protect them by claiming he didn’t see particular incidents.
All of which is very sensible, and further underlines Wenger’s quality as a manager – something which I’ll readily admit to even as a Spurs fan. The papers seem to agree, with all concerned happy to endorse Wenger’s credentials not only as a manager, but as a thoroughly intelligent and decent man.
But, hold on a minute. Telling lies in football in order to further the cause has not always been looked upon so favourably. It would be interesting to hear what former England manager Glenn Hoddle has to say about the press pack’s conversion to the attraction of lies. When he managed the national team, Hoddle admitted that he sometimes lied about the team he was going to pick, or injuries to players, in order to mislead the opposition. For this, Hoddle was lambasted by a press corps whose outrage was barely containable.
I thought at the time it was perfectly reasonable not to give away your game plan to an opposition manager. And Hoddle is not the only manager to be “economical with the truth” about injuries. So why the double standards?
Part of the reason is because Hoddle was, in the view of the press, a prickly and aloof character; while Wenger is a charming and intelligent character who most people would be glad to be associated with. Which goes some way towards explaining why one man’s lie is looked upon more favourably than another’s.
The press pack were also outraged that they were being ‘used’ by Hoddle. Of course, none of them has ever found themselves in a position of running a transfer rumour which benefits a player, club or agent they happen to have some contact with. Oh no. It’s a funny old game, football writing.