Football: Football's Monster Mouth Ready to Rile for Another Season ; Not Just Listeners but, It Seems, Managers like Sam Allardyce and Sir Alex Ferguson Fly into a Rage over the Opinions of BBC Five Live's Top Commentator. Is He Ridiculously Self-Important, or a Radio Star? BRIAN VINER INTERVIEWS
Green, Alan, The Independent (London, England)
As attention switches back from international to domestic football, the questions that have been left simmering for the past 10 days come back to the boil. Can Manchester United hold Chelsea at bay at the top? When will Arsenal start winning? Can Everton compound their bright start by winning tomorrow's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park? Can Martin O'Neill continue to work his alchemy with Aston Villa? And which Premiership manager will be first to be outraged by O'Neill's fellow Ulsterman Alan Green?
Last season it was Everton's David Moyes who got the huff first with Five Live's robustly opinionated commentator and phone-in presenter. Green wrote an article for the Cork Examiner, later reproduced by the Liverpool Echo, in which he argued that Moyes, instead of raising expectations after Everton's fourth-place finish the previous season, should suppress them.
"I was full of praise for Everton but I argued that they should keep their ambitions within bounds," Green recalls. "The Echo had a fit. Why should we pay our licence fee for this joker, they asked, even though the article had nothing to do with the BBC. After that I got death threats. Someone even got hold of my personal email address. It was absurd. And as it turned out, I was right, not that the Echo ran a piece at the end of the season saying, 'By the way, what Greeny said in September wasn't that far off the mark'.
"It was upsetting because I have a long association with Everton. I remember being on their coach in 1986 when Liverpool won the Double, and Everton very unfairly were runner s-up in both competitions. I remember the dual parade around the city - I don't know who thought that one up. There was the Liverpool coach ahead with everyone bouncing up and down, and the Everton coach like a morgue. I remember asking Pat van den Hauwe for a word.
"He said, 'Fuck off!' To which Inchy - Adrian Heath - said, 'Pat, come on, this is Alan'. He said, 'You can fuck off, too!'" Green chuckles. "So it hurt me that a good relationship broke down last year but it won't stop me going to Goodison for the derby, and I like to think that the Ever-tonians around where I sit, who are all well-established season ticket-holders, will view me with some favour."
Whether they do, or whether they don't, Green's standing with some of the Goodison faithful is not helped by the perception that privately he is a Liverpool fan. I should add that I'm one of the faithful myself and I've never considered him biased. Besides, there are Liverpool fans who think he's a Manchester United fan. And United fans who think he's just about anything but. What nobody now mistakes him for is a fan of Bolton Wanderers, whose style of football he described last year as "ugly", adding that he would certainly not pay to watch it. The Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, went ballistic when he heard, even calling on the BBC to issue Green with his P45.
"I just try to reflect what I see," Green insists. "And the choice of word - 'ugly' - was appropriate. I was highly critical of the way Bolton played for throw-ins and free-kicks, and I might add that I was totally supported by [his co-commentator] Chris Waddle. I said that I wouldn't pay to watch it, but that it worked and would help Bolton qualify for Europe, which at the time it looked as if it would." When Allardyce subsequently hit the roof, Green was astonished.
"His words were, 'I would not wish to say anything that would encourage the BBC to employ him'. I'm also told he tried to take action within the League Managers' Association and was laughed out of court. That was reported to me by other managers, a number of whom quietly said to me, 'You're absolutely right, you know'. I certainly don't take back a word of what I said. I also wonder whether Sam might think that [the episode] harmed his chances of getting the England job? Not because it was about me, but because it was about Sam and criticism. …