Martin Smith Column: Thirty years of hurt has not stopped us praising and grumbling just yet

It's three decades this month since the irrepressible Bob Jackson invented the football phone-in.

Tuesday, 8th November 2016, 5:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:47 pm
Bob Jackson broadcaster and journalist at home in Totley .

Oh what forces those velvet tones unleashed that day.

Little did Radio Sheffield listeners realise in November 1986 when they first heard the new ‘Grumble’ section of Bob’s Saturday teatime sports show - the ‘Praise’ bit came a few weeks later when a Wednesdayite called to eulogise a 5-0 Owls victory - that a new era was dawning.

The genie was out of the bottle and we’ve been chirping and chuntering ever since.

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Thirty years of hurt, never stopped us moaning.

Until that point the bile, spite and ecstasy of the average football fan had been stoically swallowed or unleashed in arguments in the pub, on the bus home or in echoing rants at the kitchen radio.

But since the genial Jackson opened up the airwaves to our endless emoting we’ve been slagging, bragging, trolling and extolling in public.

Now it never ends.

Fans still have the traditional outlets for their displeasure - some Wednesdayites booed their team after the 2-1 home defeat by Ipswich on Saturday and all-but 6,099 Blades voted with their feet by staying away from their team’s 6-0 demolition of Leyton Orient in the FA Cup a day later.

Time-honoured, blunt-instrument demonstrations of disquiet or displeasure. But now we have P&G, 606, TalkSport, Twitter, News Now, Facebook, a thousand fans forums and a billion blogs seething with opinion and comment. At its worst it’s pure poison. At its best it’s brilliant, engaging, enlightening and warm.

It reflects and represents our smart-phone-surveillance, social media-mad world where people are constantly quoted, overheard, videoed, and photographed - and then have to tell everyone all about it.

But sometimes people feel they can say whatever comes in to their fevered heads, no matter how hurtful or abusive and imagine their right to self-expression puts them above the law. It doesn’t.

Much better the subtle approach to sledging experienced by young and even younger-looking Sheffield golfer Matt Fitzpatrick at September’s Ryder Cup where a partisan American crowd gave the European players a rough ride.

Asked what the most offensive thing said to him on the course was, the 22-year-old thought for a minute and said that as he tucked in to a sandwich on one of the tees someone piped up, “Did your Mom cut off the crusts for you, Matt?’”