As so often with Leeds United, a fine win capping a great performance is possibly going to be overshadowed by a storm in a teacup, and on this occasion the person brewing up the trouble is a pundit on the lamentable Amazon Prime live coverage of United’s game at West Brom. Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further. The gender part of this argument is sod all to do with my opinion of what’s been said in the wake of Leeds’ impressive 5-0 demolition of WBA. The pundit concerned, one Karen Carney, is self-evidently a woman, but that has nothing at all to do with the vacuously stupid remark she made after the match, to the effect that Leeds United probably secured promotion last season thanks to the initial COVID lockdown, which interrupted football for around three months. The break gave us a rest, you see – just us, nobody else, apparently. I’ve heard some crackpot theories in my time, but that one really takes the biscuit.
At the risk of introducing a few facts into this issue, when facts appear to be anathema to Ms Carney, Leeds United, after an earlier rocky spell, had just reeled off five successive wins immediately prior to the cessation of the league programme, recording clean sheets in all of them. When football resumed, with Leeds nicely rested according to Karen’s world view, United proceeded to lose their first game back 0-2 at Cardiff. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, with the more pessimistic Leeds fans bemoaning the COVID break, which seemed to have robbed us of the impetus we’d generated before lockdown. Happily, Leeds hit form again, and that Cardiff defeat was our last, as United recorded seven further wins (two of them with a blistering post-title winning hangover) and one solitary draw to win the league by ten clear points. Ms Carney’s enormous intellect seems to have missed the fact that this was the levellest of level playing fields, with each club having had the same “break” in their programme; it was always going to be down to which club handled such an extraordinary, unprecedented situation with the most resolution and professionalism. Let the record show that that was Leeds United, beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Given the above – and I’d be interested or more likely amused to hear any counter arguments – Karen Carney’s comments on Tuesday night were a hymn to rank amateurism, lazy, inaccurate punditry, and gross stupidity. And yet various people are screeching in horror, because the official Leeds United Twitter account had the nerve to mock this hapless woman’s ridiculous comments. To his eternal credit, Leeds owner Andrea Radrizanni took ultimate responsibility for the club’s tweet, rejecting any criticism of it on the grounds that Carney’s comments were “completely unnecessary and disrespectful to our club”. Well, quite. And well said, sir.
As usual, though, various parties are leaping on the misogyny bandwagon and claiming that it is so, so wrong to out Carney as a fool in this way. There are various problems with this. Firstly, Carney is not the only person to have been berated or mocked by possibly the most laconically witty and barbed club Twitter account of them all. Gabby Agbonlahor has had some this season, and quite rightly so, for his various inane remarks before and since United’s 3-0 dismissal of his beloved Villa. I’m acutely aware of this, because I had my say about that one, as I did more recently (on Twitter) when another inept pundit, Andy Hinchliffe, spoke fluent rubbish in and around Unted’s home game against Burnley the other day. For some reason, Messrs Agbonlahor and Hinchliffe did not immediately have the distaff side flocking to their defence – I wonder why?
Speaking rubbish on a public platform and then having people of any gender defend you because you happen to lack a Y chromosome is hardly unknown. But it’s not healthy and it’s not helpful – I’d go so far as to argue that it’s absolutely inimical to the cause of equality which I, for one, happen to hold dear. If you’re prepared to stand up and voice controversial (ie crap) opinions, then you have to be equally prepared to be held accountable for them. Either that, or we’re heading down a slippery slope whereby people who dress neither right nor left are able to say what they like with absolute impunity, as long as it’s merely crass and stupid, and not actually actionable.
Personally, I’m sick to the back teeth of lazy, amateurish comment as applied to my beloved club, particularly hoary old myths like Marcelo Bielsa‘s teams “always blowing up”. It winds me up beyond belief, whatever the provenance. When I saw Karen Carney spouting such arrant crap tonight, that was the flavour of my resulting ire – that here was another clueless pundit nicking a living by peddling easily disposed of myths about Leeds United. The only time her gender struck me was when I thought to myself, you’ve done the other female pundits no favours there, lass. I truly believe that it’s harder for a woman to make a mark in an area such as football punditry than it should be, because of the preponderance of men, some of them pretty poor fish like Agbonlahor and Hinchliffe. That being the case, a woman really should try to avoid the same lazy and cliched approach of her male counterparts, lest she strengthen the argument of those Neanderthals who hold that women should have no place in football. I certainly don’t hold that view, and that is why, when I hear the likes of Carney talking rubbish and being disrespectful of honest professionals, I will call it out – just as I have with equivalent male idiots. Gender is no excuse, and it’s no magic shield either. Those who argue that it should be need to radically rethink their own view of exactly what equality is all about.
Marching On Together