A story in yesterday's MailOnline (full text at Bluewatch here) claimed that Carlos Tevez was about to make a "shock" Europa League appearance against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday night. The paper revealed that:
"Carlos Tevez could be set to make his Manchester City comeback in Thursday's crunch Europa League clash against Sporting Lisbon, with the striker looking firmly reintegrated back into first-team training on Tuesday."It would indeed have been a shock recall - as Tevez is not registered to play in the competition this season. After this fact was pointed out to the paper by at least six City fans in the story's comment section, the Mail realised its mistake (otherwise known as "dropping a complete bollock" in news circles) and killed the story. Anyone clicking on the original link yesterday found this unmarked grave:
Okay, I know that's just the standard "error" page, but legally speaking it does constitute an apology.
Undaunted by this setback, the Mail is now running another speculative story about Tevez's comeback which you can read (if you're a sucker for such things) by clicking on the image. To be fair to the Mail though at least it didn't try to beef up these stories with "a club insider claims" quotes.
Not so the Daily Star, whose sports reporter George Scott unleashed this bizarre story on the world yesterday. It claimed that Mancini was facing an "open revolt from his exhausted Manchester City players". Quoting a "club insider" the story claimed that:
"Instead of returning home immediately after the game, as is often the case, Mancini’s men stayed on in Portugal until Saturday and trained in the sweltering heat."As it was pointed out on Bluemoon, it was a pleasant 22°C in Lisbon on Friday but hey, as City's squad is made up exclusively of Eskimos, those were indeed unbearable conditions.
I had a long discussion yesterday with a City fan who's also an experienced newspaper journalist. He thought the Star's story was "complete bollocks" and that the quotes were made up (certainly the "insider's" claim that “this was a watershed moment in terms of the squad’s feelings towards the manager” has the feel of a manufactured quote).
Hot on the heels of this came another Star story, this one from sports reporter Jeremy Cross. It also quotes a "club insider" and claims that Mancini "has risked more anger from his fuming stars after banning music from the Manchester City dressing room".
My hunch, based on my own experiences in newspapers, is that both reporters are talking to someone who has a connection with the club (though to have two reporters on the same paper quoting a "club insider" is somewhat unusual considering how closely journalists guard their sources). However, I also believe the story is bollocks, and this leads me in to one of the problems of modern-day journalism.
There was a time when "standing up a story" meant establishing its truth. But in today's newspaper world of shrinking editorial resources and increased column inches and webspace, standards are not so high.
For example, a reporter writes a story linking a player to a multi-million pound move abroad. He then speaks to the player's agent who, appreciating that having his client linked with a lucrative move is not exactly going to harm his contract negotiations, confirms the story (either that or the story originated from the agent). It doesn't matter if the story seems unlikely, or is untrue. It has been "stood up" with a quote and more importantly, no-one is going to sue.
Now back to these two Star stories. My guess, based on the fact that direct quotes are used, is that both reporters have been talking to someone with a connection to the club. But what position they hold, or their reliability, is another matter. It may be a disgruntled youth team player, a security guard who's facing the sack or someone who works in the club laundry.
No matter that other papers aren't running with these stories of player revolts, or that a second source can't be found. If someone is prepared to be quoted, and those quotes are recorded on tape then that's good enough. The story has been "stood up".
Of course, I may be overthinking this one. It could be that, like the fan of the invisible man, the "City insider" is not really here.