Not many of you will have heard of Gregor MacGregor - a Scotsman who came south in the 1800’s to carry out one of the biggest frauds this nation has ever witnessed.
His most infamous and notorious scam was raking in hundreds of thousands from investors and emigrants who were manipulated into investing (often in the emigrants case- their life savings) in the up and coming South American economic power house of Poyais - a mineral rich nation located close to the Black River of Honduras.
This luscious and sumptuous country as MacGregor would convince many - was a land of milk and honey. With soil so fertile it would yield three crops of corn every year without fail and had nuggets of gold so big in the rivers and caverns that surrounded it, that one pan of water from the local estuaries would make you rich overnight.
Thousands invested, many more sold up everything they owned in England and sailed to this emerging, industrialising nation of wealthy merchants and friendly natives who had a particular fondness for the British. A fabulous opportunity for many in Victorian England where life had a penchant for the bleak and miserable.
The only problem was there was no such country as Poyais. It didn’t exist. It never had. The whole place was a figment of MacGregor’s inventive imagination. It was a gigantic and well executed scam, where a smooth talking Scotsman, filled to the brim of confidence and stuffed with well-rehearsed gold plated words of creamy smoothness, convinced the hopeful and the perpetually trusting that something amazing and transformational was around the corner if only they were willing believe.
Some 190 years later and another snaky Scotsman slithers along our shoreline with a relaxed charm and melodic words of creamy smoothness that titillate and tease in equal measure. Like all truly great serpentine manipulators and wily fraudsters he seizes on the most powerful weapon in his armoury. Like his historical countryman before him, he prays upon the one weakness that enables crafty sharks of such deceptive skills to truly be successful. Hope. To those uncertain of the future, he offers hope. To those unsure and indecisive he offers hope. To those who are desperate for any hint of optimism in the face of overwhelming disappointment, he offers hope. When all around you crave for the delicious fruits of hope, this core element of human desire becomes a scammer’s hottest commodity. Our insatiable lust for hope in the face of adversity enables the wise demon to sneak his way through the back door of human frailty and place his slimy feet firmly under our cautious tables.
Enter Mr. Martin Bain.
As a keen celebrator of football anniversaries, I happened to notice that it’s a year ago this very week that Bain in all his confident glory gave one of his classically reassuring interviews and intensified his mystical powers of crass manipulation to offer the Sunderland fans they very life affirming asset we desire more than any other - the hope of a brighter day. Indeed his words offered more than simple prospect or blind optimism, they indicated, transformation and a metamorphic transferal of fortune. On the hopeless coach of chaos, David Moyes, Bain offered the following gold plated words of diamond encrusted distraction:
David’s probably one of the top four (experienced) managers in the Premier League in terms of the games he’s managed.
He’s a builder, a guy who absolutely understands the need to win first and foremost.
A sharp analysis of his hollow words and its clear he’s using the well-rehearsed deceptive tool of key word indicators. Words that impinge on our psyches’, that cause an immediate subconscious reaction, because we instantly associate them with something else. In the case of the phrase ‘top four’ he’s using a massively verbalised expression that subverts the essence of the phrase into our footballing minds. Generally we relate these two simple words ‘top four’ with a high level of excellence, a chasing of the title and qualifying for the Champions League. Add the word ‘manager’ into that mix and suddenly subliminal images of greats such as Ferguson, Wenger, Mourinho et all spring to mind.
Sadly in a poll based on statistics and win percentages, carried out by the Daily Telegraph only a couple of months after this dreamy interview by Martin Bain, David Moyes did not make into the hallowed short list of the top four premier league managers since its conception. Indeed he barely scraped into the top 30, wedged between Roberto di Matteo and Tim Sherwood.
This claim by Bain was in short a mistruth - an inspired battle cry for Sunderland supporters to shove their considerable weight and power behind what in essence was a top four manager taking the reins of our club. This may have settled some nerves on Wearside but the elasticity of the statement stretched the truth to a snapping point. We knew Moyes was bouncing off the back of two infamous and dismal footballing failures. But we’re Sunderland supporters - we don’t need some glittery top four coach to authenticate our club or indeed our love for it. So we overlooked that slice of hogwash pie because while it’s a nice sentiment, we were actually much more comfortable with Moyes the ‘builder’ - the man who will immerse his pragmatic, practical and hardworking ethos into the blood stream of his club’s traditionally working class support base. Even using the word builder for me is a purposeful and specific effort to connect with the emotional attachment of the club’s overall demographic, knowing its working class inferences will link into our social consciousness.
Bear in mind at this point Moyes himself had already written us off as relegation candidates and, despite breaking our transfer record, claimed our squad was little better than 11 Sylvester Stallone’s from Escape to Victory. So from a squad building, top four manager we actually received a squad destroyer and bottom one manager - needless to say, also a soul destroyer of the faithful and idealistic. Quite a turn-around considering Martin Bain’s convincing and sinuous, oily sales rhetoric.
But at least Moyes knew how to win, first and foremost...
Thanks Martin, I think we can all laugh about that nugget of sheer malicious nonsense. Before he came to Sunderland his overall record shows he drew or lost 6 out of every 10 games. Not quite the winning first and foremost you promised, my friend.
Thing is - I and many others would have been quite satisfied with his win percentage if you’d been truthful, but to claim that winning was the FIRST and FOREMOST characteristic of David Moyes is like saying Hugh Heffner was first and foremost a liberator of women, rather than a mass encourager of chronic masturbation.
Twelve months on and we can genuinely assess the ‘land of milk and honey’ deception that Bain was fulfilling with his mock sincerity and slithery charm. On the anniversary of this interview what more can we learn from his falsely prophetic predictions and how can we interpret his duplicitous words? As I re-read his amazing boasts I began playing a little game as you can see unfold below, taking his public words and comparing them to the reality of the situation. If you have some down time at work or uni it’s a great way to while away a few minutes, re-translating Martin Bain’s words. You’ll have a lot of useful content.
MB: It’s an unbelievable fanbase. People like me can be patronising at times but I actually genuinely mean it.
Truth: I’m sucking up to the fans to misdirect their attention from what’s actually happening on the field. I’m denying I’m being patronising while single handedly patronising them.
MB: There’s pressure and you hope that you can make their Saturdays more enjoyable but I’m good with that.
Truth: It will be a hell of a long time until they enjoy a Saturday again but I’m good with that.
MB: I genuinely believe there’s a real desire, and that we can achieve great things together.
Truth: There is a real desire to be the biggest club in League One and once there we can achieve great things together.
MB: Fundamentally I have to do everything in my power to strengthen that squad.
Truth: I have no power to strengthen the squad.
MB: I want a winning mentality through the club because if we don’t start to believe we can win and achieve - it diffuses to other aspects of the club.
Truth: When I saw those great men Charlie Sheen and Donald Trump talk about ‘winning,’ it really inspired me. And plus all we have to do to win is believe we can. Screw budgets, planning and strategic analysis. Belief is what we really need and that’s free!
But what really sticks in my throat is his reference to and his alleged reverence of our identity. Which is what I intended this whole article to be about at the outset only to be motivated by the ludicrousness of our lamentable but hitherto relentless PR marathon man.
The football club has to be synonymous with its North East identity. I think it’s probably lost its identity at times trying to be a club it’s not.
I agree with the sentiments. The actual words - they have my full concurrence, my absolute affiliation. But his sly and disingenuous foreshadowing and the clear evidence from the last 12 months indicate that this sentence, the one sentence perhaps more than most to embed itself into our very hearts and souls really meant:
Truth: We are a middle to low income demographic with limited spare monies available for mass consumerism of our marketing products, stuck in the nether region of the country where top players won’t come. In scope, in ambition, in financial clout, we are a championship club at best and we’ll stick the white flag up now.
He’s confusing the coal covered grit of our traditional base with a lack of ambition. Like our cultural heritage of working class tradesmen and women, while noble enough, does not deserve to be invited to the black tie and ball gown glitter of the Premier League. I’m certain he’s arguing that he’s doing us a favour by aiding us in our exclusion from the elite league because like some intelligent council estate kid passing the entry exam to Eton, we may qualify for the top table but we wouldn’t feel comfortable being there. Somehow our identity is twisted to become our footballing Achilles heel and by having lofty ambition and attempting to have ideas above our station we thereby leave behind our identity. Like we’d have ship builders and pitmen turning in their graves at the thought of us being a marketable sporting brand and a community club with its roots still entwined in the local area. For me, we can be ambitious and still remain true to our roots - the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Martin Bain has no intention of connecting with our identity and wouldn’t know it even if his feigned interest were genuine.
In terms of his smooth talk and constant attempts to dupe and positively manipulate our hopes and exploit our strong identity, he’s learned little from the past 12 months. Only recently, familiar melodious and pretty words have dropped from his lips like a fraudulent poet.
Leave the finances aside for a second, and I look at the transfer window as a success. We looked at two words - desire and hunger.
Yes that’s right, let’s leave the most significant aspect of a transfer policy aside and look at two difficult to value and quantify measures of character. I’m sure Mourinho was thinking ‘we could spend 85 million on Lukaku, but we could get James Vaughan for 900 grand and just go all in for the hunger and desire.’
It’s all spin to justify the diabolical end. As if high transfer value means you’ve left hunger and desire behind and little value means that’s your packed with the stuff.
Bain also gave faint praise for Grayson:
We warmly welcome Simon to Sunderland. From the outset he demonstrated a tremendous enthusiasm for the job, and his desire and ambition to make this football club better shone through.
Yes Martin. Thing is he was at least your third choice that we know of. If his desire and ambition shone through, then why jump on a plane to Florida a few days before to beg Derek McInnes to take the job?
So much spin, it makes my head spin.
Martin, you seem like a nice enough guy and perhaps your intentions are honourable, but if you really wish to immerse yourself into the baptismal waters of our identity then please note this. Our identity is not just welded into images of past industries and working class flag bearing. Our identity is also synonymous with the regional character of our hardy people. Blunt honesty, integrity, probity and sincerity are every bit as compatible to our DNA as mining and ship building.
And that’s the rub. We were stripped of our pits - and survived. We were robbed of our ship builders - and survived. We can take bad news and survive. Not everything needs to be spun and re-spun, mangled and then re-sold as a glimmering product we can’t live without. You don’t have to promise us a fanciful land of milk and honey, we’re North Easterners - we have that already. Just be honest in your dealings with us and we will be fair in return with you. And by the way Mr. Bain, fairness and acceptance of a true friend are part of our identity too. You may learn that one day.