Stick Your Pathetic Campaign Where The Sun Doesn't Shine

Mike Hewitt

It seems that Sunderland have really annoyed The Sun, and in the process prompted them to remind us all why they are held in such low regard in the first place.

When you're as pigheaded and opinionated as I am, you tend to learn a little something about dealing with disagreement. When you write a blog or cover such an emotive topic as football, it almost becomes part of your everyday life.

You can't complain about it, of course. At the end of the day, you choose to put your views out there in full knowledge that it will inspire disagreement from somewhere. Usually, hopefully, there are people who agree, and that's always nice. But the responses you tend to notice the most are the varying degrees of disagreement.

First of all you have your casual dissenters. They just offer an opinion, often just a retort, and that's it. I like those. Then you have your strong dissenters, who tend to compose a lengthy and often stinging deconstruction of your view. I like those even more. Next come the passionate objectors, who are capable of summoning impassioned and often angry responses. Okay, I don't like those quite so much, but at least I can respect them.

At the very extreme of the disagreement scale are what you are tempted to describe as the bullies. Sadly, pathetically in fact, they fail to really aspire to that title. What they are, are wannabe bullies - the only thing in the known universe more intellectually bankrupt than an actual bully.

Enter The Sun newspaper.

Since Sunderland took the decision to ban The Sun from the club in response to one of their journalists (word used in the loosest possible sense) revealing Gus Poyet's surprise tactical plan for the recent game with Liverpool, what we have witnessed has been one of the most cringe worthy acts of wannabe bullying that has surely ever been witnessed.

First of all, they bitched. Oh how they bitched. Then they told tales. In fact the journalist contacted Sunderland's principle sponsor, Bidvest, essentially hoping to destablise the partnership to create pressure on the club to lift their ban. Naturally, all it actually prompted was sighs of pity at their wholly pathetic demeanour from just about everyone.

Then they tried to be clever, which is never a solid move for a wannabe bully. They announced that they would only refer to Sunderland as 'Derland' for as long as the media ban stayed in place. Oh... ouch... it just hurts so much. Make it stop. For the love of god make it stop before we are driven to extreme, desperate acts such as CONTINUING to not buy The Sun.

Right on cue, the next port of call for the sad little wannabe bullies was to start a few rumours. Granted, they were shit rumours, such as a full page story containing an 'investigation' which revealed the shocking truth that Sunderland's money gets paid into their current account. I think even they felt a bit embarrassed about that one, actually. I'm not sure how they couldn't.

Now we have the story about Ji Dong-won playing for the club without international clearance earlier on in the season. For this one, they did what the biggest bullies always do when they are failing miserably - they went and found a slightly smaller but slightly cleverer bully to help them and formed a little pack.

On this occasion it was The Mail, but don't let that fool you. The Sun still had the other half to the story - the background - and the man who got the Mail's 'scoop' was a former News of the World writer. Well isn't that just a lovely coincidence? Almost as big a coincidence of how David Coverdale just so happened to correctly 'predict' the biggest left-field Sunderland team selection in modern times. Amazing how these coincidences keep following them around.

The story itself was another total farce too. If you missed it, allow me to bring you up to date: Essentially, an innocent mistake happened months ago, was resolved months ago, dealt with months ago under the publicly available FA rules, and nobody has given a toss about it since. That's it.

Yet now, mere days after The Sun's ban from Sunderland, it magically pops up in the public domain with a strongly, almost savagely, sensationalist angle. That will be another one of those amazing coincidence things, yes?

Personally, I don't back media bans at all. The freedom of the press is paramount and ultimately good for the profile of football clubs, and that is what we want. Football journalists themselves also, for the most part, do a fine job. We have a very good relationship with the press here at Roker Report and it's an association from which we take a great deal of pride.

If I'm completely honest, I'd have rather the club just trusted the press more to present the Ji story at the time, but that's not my decision. Though, the same could be said of the Premier League too. After all, it was them who registered Ji in Sunderland's 25-man squad without apparently checking themselves.

Anyway, the point is, in this case I can fully understand and back why the club have made an exception and banned The Sun. I'm sure it wasn't a decision taken lightly and, frankly, given the way they have carried on since - lying, telling tales, attempts at bullying - can anyone really say that the club should be offering them the benefit of any doubt and choosing to trust them?

Here is an idea for The Sun to possibly consider... instead of going out of their way to try to throw their weight around and force the club into surrender and in the process definitively proving why the decision to ban them was justified in the first place, why not make attempts to repair the relationship? Why not try to develop some trust?

I don't care what line of journalism, blogging, reporting or media you are in, if you want a positive and trusting relationship with anyone then the burden of responsibility to create it lies with the journalist. That is something that even we have had to accept on little old Roker Report, so the self-proclaimed "Britain's favourite newspaper" have no excuses.

Ultimately though, it doesn't matter. Let The Sun tart around with their embarrassingly transparent campaign against Sunderland all they want. With every story, with every lie, with every sentence of sensationalist sham they throw at the club and, by extension, its fans, all it actually achieves is reminds everyone how pathetically paltry a loss they are to Sunderland coverage in general.

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