The gaffe-prone ex Manchester City CEO was certainly the architect of his own downfall, but the ex-England striker took what appears to be more than a passing interest in the furore, and he wasn't the only one...
Around the time that Garry (two Rs) Cook mistakenly included Dr Anthonia Onuoha in a distasteful e-mail in October of last year the Chilean miners were emerging from their long tortuous ordeal 2,300ft beneath the earth. Cook must be tempted to crawl into that very same hole this week.
Though the brouhaha was nothing more than a calculated revenge ambush by recent enemies accrued his resignation was ultimately unavoidable. His position lay untenable. Even those like myself, who remain incensed by the mechanics behind this manufactured ‘scandal’ have to cede that in the end Cook was the architect of his own downfall.
For a man whose job involved public relations the gaffe-prone former Manchester City CEO really should have known better than to squirm and make excuses when the media wolves were baying at the door.
Refusing to admit blame is never the wisest strategy and the dark corners of celebrity haunts are strewn with the carcasses of former big-cheeses and famous folk who were eventually pushed onto their sword for doing likewise.
When the sh*t hits the fan you admit your discrepancy, apologize profusely then defiantly ride out the storm. Isn’t that precisely what the Murdochs did recently when News International was reeling beneath the weight of public outrage at revelations that the company hacked into the phone of a murdered schoolgirl, the bereaved families of dead soldiers and, allegedly, victims of 9/11? By taking this approach, and by switching their laughably pious and judgemental hyperbole from the front pages to the back for awhile until their odious actions fade from memory, it allowed them this week to successfully condemn a long-term target out of his job. The fact that The Sun newspaper had the shameless nerve to whip up a media storm based upon them taking the moral high ground so soon after their sister publication genuinely appalled the nation with its immorality does not surprise me in the least. The fact that they’ve gotten away with it however does.
Last season the Sun’s coverage of Manchester City went far beyond objective reporting and into the realms of an obsessive vendetta.
Cook should have learnt from the masters of his own demise. He wasn’t forced to resign from his post on Friday because of the highly crass and insensitive e-mail he sent to the cancer-suffering mother of Nedum Onuoha last year. He went because of the lie that followed. Perhaps he believed that by bringing the word ‘hacking’ back into the nation’s psyche we would tut in disapproval then move on. Based on recent evidence who could blame him for that?
It’s The Sun Wot Won It
Last season the Sun’s coverage of Manchester City went far beyond objective reporting and into the realms of an obsessive vendetta. It made perfectly logical business sense to do this. City were no longer the popular likable club of yore and were now being widely accused of ‘ruining football’ with their excessive spending sprees the likes of which no-one had ever before witnessed. In a lot of people’s eyes they represented everything that was wrong with modern-day sport – money over matter – and what’s more, by using their extraordinary wealth they began muscling in on the established elite of clubs who, for far too long, were used to having everything their own way. Noses were being put out and with a large percentage of the newspaper’s readership being made up of supporters of these clubs The Sun, natural predators that they are, spied an opportunity to lead the charge. They were not alone by any means but The Sun being the Sun…well let’s just say that subtlety and half-measures are not really their bag. They really went for it with relish. Attack after attack. Lie after lie. Being a City fan I suddenly realised how it must have felt for Kinnock in 1992 or Major five years later.
They even appeared to coerce their star columnists to join in with the hate campaign, something that Harry Redknapp – at the time managing a team fighting for fourth spot with City – and Ian Wright – fresh from a protracted war of words with Garry Cook concerning his son Shaun’s contract dispute – seemed only too happy to comply with.
The full weight of the propaganda machine whirred on, churning out a welter of exaggerated stories and negative spin until finally the club had enough. In December of 2010 Cook banned Ian Wright from Eastlands and the tabloid was threatened with legal action and a ban themselves.
This is not unheard of. Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United have regularly imposed embargos on individual reporters and publications. In their case it works. The journalist dutifully serves his time then falls back into following the party line.
No awkward questions and no criticising the club without due cause.
The frustration for Onuoha and his circle of representatives – including his mother – must have been immense.
Perhaps if City had been more hard-line in their actions around this time things would have turned out quite differently but alas - because they were not yet part of the established elite - it was deemed more important to try and keep the media sweet. At this stage – and this remains so today – City required the media far more than the tabloids needed the club and its fanbase. So the strategy appeared to be to take the hits on the chin and hope they got bored of using City as a punchbag. They didn’t.
Match-reports aside, the coverage of the club so far this season has been nothing short of astonishing. An alien with a penchant for tabloid journalism would assume that Manchester City was a virulent disease. And now – through his half-baked Blairite attempts to both punish and seduce - things had turned a little more serious too for Cook. He was now considered an enemy.
Consider the (possible) source
Kia Joorabchian is not a licensed football agent. Instead he advises players and clubs on transfers and contracts. He is, what you might call, a fixer. Best known for his close links with Carlos Tevez his working relationship with Garry Cook and Manchester City deteriorated spectacularly last year due to the ongoing Tevez ‘will he stay or will he go’ debacle. Another powerful enemy for Cook.
The BBC reported last month that three clubs had shown interest in securing the services of City defender Nedum Onuoha. Joorabchian is described in the article as being Onuoha’s ‘representative’ and is quoted as saying this on the matter "I'm not surprised at this level of interest, because Nedum has proven that he's a very good player”.
One of those clubs was Everton who pursued him to the point of nearly finalising a loan deal just prior to the transfer window closing. The Merseyside club however wanted Onuoha’s wages subsidized by City, something that City were not willing to agree to.
The frustration for Onuoha and his circle of representatives – including his mother – must have been immense. After a long drawn-out contract dispute here was an opportunity to replicate last season’s fine showings at Sunderland rather than languish at the end of a long queue that contained many superior talents. More than likely it meant at least six months festering in the reserves.
Kia Joorabchian has since gone on record denying he was Onuoha’s representative. In fact he has denied ever meeting the player. Which makes his quote above bizarre to say the least.
It would be very interesting to view the e-mails of any random Sun journalist over that eleven month period
Consider the timing
When the story broke last week about Cook’s errant missive Dr Anthonia Onuoha told SunSport "When I opened the e-mail it was the worst day of my life. Even worse than being diagnosed with cancer."
It would be wrong of me to cast aspersions on this comment so I’ll leave it to your own judgement. However, let’s assume that receiving the e-mail was indeed more upsetting than hearing the news that she was blighted with such a God-awful illness. That very much implies a quite considerable amount of hurt and anguish. So why wait eleven whole months before disclosing the e-mail? Especially when, during this time in October 2010, Dr Onuoha was entrenched in a series of bitter contract negotiations with Cook and Administration officer Brian Marwood on her son’s behalf. It is fair to say that’s one hell of a trump card to produce in such matters.
Could it be that in the intervening months exterior forces came into play? An alleged representative of Onuoha who openly despises Cook perhaps? A newspaper staging a prolonged smear campaign against a football club with a grievance against its CEO? The dark stars aligned themselves and the resulting hoary non-story was expertly packaged as a fresh scandal, complete with fake outrage from the glorified comic.
The Sun did what they do best – what they’ve always done best; they wiped off the slime from their gutter dwelling and donned a dog-collar borrowed from a middle-England vicar. They screamed with righteous indignation - incidentally it would be very interesting to view the e-mails of any random Sun journalist over that eleven month period – and, rather distastefully, they sought the views of recent cancer sufferer John Hartson who understandably was disgusted at the e-mail. The fact that it was Cook gently chiding his colleague Marwood NOT Dr Onuoha was of course never mentioned. They then drafted in their old mucka Wrighty – good old Wrighty with his score to settle – to pen one of the most ridiculous diatribes ever committed to print. Please see the link provided. It really is a beaut.
Lastly they let things simmer, allowing the C word to take hold on their readership who statistically have all been effected by the terrible illness in some way whether through family, friends or themselves. The C word lets not forget that was written about in jest by a big bad businessman.
Joorabchian, The Sun, Ian Wright….Obi-Wan Kenobi’s comment as he describes Mos Eisley springs to mind. Cook never stood a chance.
The relative ease in which a tabloid newspaper with ulterior motives secured their scalp this past week should very much concern us all. Because on this occasion it was the CEO of a largely disliked football club. Next time, who knows? Hounding out an unpopular England manager by photoshopping him as a turnip is one thing – it could be argued that’s part of their M.O as the ‘voice of the people’ – but when the morally bankrupt Sun can simultaneously settle personal scores and set the agenda within football with such uncontested glee it becomes a troubling shift in power towards a media we cannot, and should not, trust.
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