Tuesday, November 29, 2011


The death of Gary Speed – a highly successful footballer with a burgeoning career as an international football manager – came as a massive surprise. How immensely sad that a talented man of 42 would apparently take his own life. How sad for his family. How many platitudes on social media websites.

One of the worst things about the rise and rise of the world wide web is that every brain-dead slob with nothing unique to say has a voice. In the last few days alone I have read speculation as to the cause of death and debate as to the relative merits of the minute of applause versus the minute of silence. It is quite outrageous. Whatever happened to quiet dignified mourning? Celebrity culture is king in a nation of people who think Jade Goody rather than George Orwell when you mention the words ‘Big Brother’. Admit it – within seconds of hearing the sad news at the weekend, your second reaction after ‘how sad’ was…..‘how did that happen then’. We are conditioned to being scandalised. Shame on you. Shame on me. Shame on us. Unluckily, with the Leveson enquiry in full, tawdry swing the chances of you finding out an awful lot more are limited these days. Unlucky. Guess what - it's none of your business and it shouldn't be discussed outside of a court room.

And we all have to be seen to be publicly mourning too. Status updates. Tweets. Few of which offered much more than useless platitudes. ‘How sad’. Yep. ‘How sad for his family’. Yep. Minute of applause at the Reading game tonight. Speed was too good a player to play for Reading or Peterborough. But it is safe to say that he wasn’t an all time great in the context of the game of football. What would happen if the Afan Lido manager topped himself. Would there be a minute of applause at Reading vs Peterborough then? Or is there some sort of tragedy/celebrity matrix which decrees which lives will be commemorated with silence or applause on a national scale?

Ever self-important, Football has to be seen to be making a gesture, always. Back in 2003, before Reading’s first game of the league season the news came through that Jimmy Davis had been killed. I’d never heard of Jimmy Davis, but he was a young Manchester United player, 21. No age. Dutifully, at Portman Road a few hours later we were all asked to stand and fall silent for the death of someone very few of us had really heard about. Would we have been asked to do so if it were a young Maidstone United footballer I wonder? At the eventual inquest, it came out that Davis had been more than twice the legal drink-drive limit and had been driving at speeds of around 120 mph. Sorry, I really don’t necessarily feel the need to pay silent, reverential tribute with 20,000 others to someone who gambled with their life – and more importantly the life of others – in the way Jimmy Davis did.

This blog post is not intended in any way as a sleight on Speed who was a very good footballer and a man who always came across as respectable and respected in his gaudy profession. It is more a lament at the state of a nosey nation of curtain-twitchers so captivated by the need to know about the fallibilities of those presented to us in the media as perfect. I am shocked. I need to let everyone know I am shocked. I desperately need to pay my respects to this person I did not know but who happened to play a sport I happen to follow to a high standard…..but obviously I don’t really care enough or know enough or really feel moved enough to attend the funeral or line the streets. We love a tragedy in this country. We love to consume it, analyse it. I blame Diana. Or more accurately, Phillip.


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