On Monday, something on social media caught my attention and immediately got my back up. It was a picture of an extract from The Secret Footballer's latest book in which he talks about Sunderland.
Specifically, it was him declaring how Sunderland were a club that no one inside the game had any respect for.
I've transcribed it below, although I've also subedited it to correct spelling errors because, apparently, the publishers didn't consider it worth doing themselves. Suppose that immediately tells you its value, but I digress.
Let me tell you about Sunderland. Nobody in football has any respect for the club. Don't get me wrong, they did once, but they don't now.
Today, Sunderland is a pygmy club - a club that could easily be in the Championship given its aspirations, a club many feel is making up the numbers and has no intention of doing anything other than that. And, to be honest, that annoys people in the game.
We can't all win the Champions League but, fuck me, we can do a lot better than throw huge sums of money at shit players in order to preserve our Premier League status.
Let's just consider that for a moment. Now, no one will argue with an assertion from anyone that Sunderland are a poor Premier League team, least of all us. We know it. In fact, we live it.
But to say "nobody in football has any respect for the club"? Really? That's where you are going, is it?
Are we to understand that Margaret Byrne, Sunderland's chief executive who is a member of the FA Council, the Premier League Legal Advisory Group (LAG), the Professional Football Negotiating and Consultation Committee (PFNCC), the Football Regulatory Authority (FRA), and the FA's International Committee commands no respect ‘within football'?
I suppose it was a lack of respect that compelled the Premier League clubs to back Ellis Short's revolutionary Financial Fair Play proposals as well, was it?
The fact that the likes of Martin O'Neill, Dick Advocaat and Sam Allardyce, highly experienced and respected managerial figures in the game jumped at the chance to manage Sunderland is also, presumably, despite a crippling lack of regard inside the game for the club, yes?
I can only assume that the near constant stream of appreciation and respect aimed at Sunderland's absolutely incredible traveling support up and down the country is simply a misunderstanding?
And that's before you even examine the actual text itself, which only contains six sentences yet still manages to completely contradict itself. How, precisely, can the terms "no intention of doing anything" and "throw huge sums of money at players" be reconciled?
The answer is, of course, that they can't, and it's also apparently completely forgotten in this 2015-published book that "no intention of doing anything" Sunderland were at Wembley in a major cup final in 2014.
But the real issue with this is not the content, but the source.
Do I have a problem with someone calling my team worse than rubbish? No. How could I? I call them worse pretty much on a weekly basis. I don't even have an issue with someone saying Sunderland are a crappy club, to be honest. They'd be wrong, but someone with an honest, proudly stated opinion is something I can at least live with.
What I do have an issue with, however, is someone who sits in the shadows beneath a sheathe of self-proclaimed secrecy, cowardly taking snipes at anyone they want whilst claiming to speak for an entire industry and without having the bollocks to stand up and accept accountability for their words - then believing themselves in a position to lay down judgement on what kind of behaviour is worthy of respect.
That, I take issue with.
The Secret Footballer has been around for a while now and was never anything more than a gimmick even at the start. Now, he's just a parasitic footballing fad, whose only known agenda is to sell books to fans and garner the kind of public attention that his actual name presumably can't.
If he wants to preach about respect, maybe the mirror, not the general public he holds in such scant regard he won't even reveal his name to them, is the appropriate congregation.
Fact is, until The Secret Footballer grows the stones to actually reveal his identity so the credibility of his stories and claims can be verified, he is nothing more than just another anonymous attention-seeking nobody with a mouth.