Hot on the heels of an open letter printed in the Daily Telegraph last week by football writer Henry Winter, urging Arsenal’s owner Stan Kroenke to enforce change at the club, I read another open letter written by the Daily Mail’s Rik Sharma.
Entitled ‘An open letter to Fernando Torres’, Sharma’s missive outlines why, as a lifelong Chelsea supporter, he is urging the misfiring striker to leave the club in the summer and return to Spain. Sharma explores in considerable detail Torres’ time at the club, from the initial excitement of his arrival in the January transfer window of 2011, to the early doubts about whether the £50 million man was worth the fee, through to the growing resentment amongst Chelsea supporters towards his attitude and general demeanour and finally, the nadir of Torres being booed off the pitch on his 100th appearance last month.
Chelsea fan or not, the article is interesting reading, if nothing else for the way it catalogues the sorry decline of a player once feared as the best in his trade (as a Liverpool supporter, I still hold some cherished memories).
But reading Sharma’s impassioned appeal, so soon after Henry Winter’s very public call to arms to ‘Silent Stan’ Kroenke, made me question whether we are seeing the emergence of a new fashion in football journalism. That is, emotively infused appeals from the journalist as ‘football fan’ as opposed to observer and reporter.
Of course, the wider concept of the open letter is nothing new and indeed, self-penned appeals seem to be de rigueur amongst Premiership club owners at the moment, most notably with Liverpool FC’s John W Henry’s and his letter to supporters in September 2012 apologizing for the club’s transfer policy.
It is clear however that the concept of the open letter in the back pages is an increasingly popular journalistic vehicle through which to frame opinions, and generate debate online. Perhaps the emergence of the trend is no surprise considering the rise of the football fan as commentator and opinion-shaper himself, through blogs and football forums. It will be interesting to see how many other open letters will appear between now and the end of the season, especially as we head into the ‘business end’ of the year with passions often at their highest and gripes at their worst.
My own open letter? Why oh why can’t Liverpool string a few wins together, Brendan Rodgers, just for once!
Words by Ciaran McCale