Jack the Lad: Keep on talking

21st November 2018

Loyal Swans fan and website columnist Jack the Lad hopes footballers keep on talking - without hands in front of their mouths.

Ever wonder why footballers are increasingly seen covering their mouths when spotted chatting off the pitch as well as on it?

Well, ask former Swans skipper Ashley Williams, he will explain exactly why, and will probably be doing it a lot more in future too.

The practice started on the pitch. With players becoming more and more aware of the increasing number of cameras focused on them they didn't want to give any tactical secrets away.

You would see them standing over free-kicks with their hands cupped over their mouths as they discussed what devilishly clever routine they were about to unleash.

Then it spread to after matches as players chatted to each other, wary that any unguarded comments may be misconstrued.

Next we saw them on the training ground, covering their mouths as they shared a private joke, just in case the cameras might catch what they were saying.

Now Williams has fallen foul of an unguarded moment caught on camera which apparently shows him making an off-the-cuff remark to fellow former Swan Joe Allen about a photograph showing Cardiff fans doing the 'Ayatollah' as they walked into the Cardiff City Stadium for Wales' recent clash with Denmark.

I won't repeat what Williams said, not because it is hugely offensive, but because it doesn't really matter.

It truly was an innocuous remark which really should be filed under the heading of ‘banter’ in the truest and most original sense of the word.

Perhaps an experienced international player and former captain of the Swans should have known better than to make any comment at all.

But the really sad thing about this is, following the reaction of some fans, it is likely that Williams, and many more players, will now become even more guarded about their comments.

We will see more players, managers and staff whispering and cupping their hands over their mouths in ever increasingly unnecessary situations.

It may get to the stage where you see Dan James and Joe Rodon shielding their mouths to discuss the merits of frozen peas over fresh ones as they stroll down the aisles of Tesco in Fforestfach.

You may laugh, but things are heading that way fast, and it is to the detriment of the players' relationship with the fans.

People complain that players at the top end of the game are getting further removed from the ordinary fan in the stands.

Footballers are also criticised for giving bland interviews, which give little or no insight into their opinions and personalities.

And who can blame them? If their every word, on and off the pitch, is going to be recorded, scrutinised and criticised, then they are going to restrict their comments to "it was a game of two halves, John", "we'll take each game as it comes" and such like.

As I said earlier, Ash probably shouldn't have said what he did, especially considering where he said it, but was it really worthy of the Twitter storm that ensued?

Some Cardiff fans claimed he wasn't fit to captain Wales and should never have done so having been born in England.

Really? One unguarded, jovial comment to a friend, which was shown out of context on a Uefa video, wipes out one of the most dedicated and passionate international careers we have witnessed in modern Welsh football?

Do we want our players to have personalities and opinions, or do we want them to be robots rolled out onto the pitch for 90 minutes and then put back in their boxes until the next game?

Yes, players need to use common sense and be responsible for their actions and comments, and Ash may consider himself something of a ‘mug’ for what he said, but on this occasion it really was a storm in a teacup.

C'mon you Swans!