All Good Sport Between Scottish Sun and Daily Record

Broadcaster Setanta has a little known sports show called the Press Box in Scotland which affords print hacks a chance to go on air and share their views on football with the nation.

They give most papers a chance to have their prized assets take the chair and pore over the big stories of the week.

It just so happened that last week, the guests included Bill Leckie of the Scottish Sun and Graham Spiers of The Times Scotland – both News International titles.

And it also co-incided with perhaps the biggest Scottish football story of the year so far – the public mauling of national boss George Burley for losing his first game in charge – by sections of the media.

Leckie has to be included in this charge, it is only fair to point out, while Spiers was among the few to point out how ridiculous it was to attack Burley so soon into his reign.

It would have been a decent enough debate anyway. But what made it a great, compelling piece of TV, was the fact that they fairly ripped into their rivals at the Daily Record.

The Record had ran this story by Keith Jackson suggesting that players were unhappy with Burley being manager, stating that Lee McCulloch would refuse to play for him.

Where Bill Leckie and Graham Spiers took great delight was in accusing the story of being a pile of mince, especially as the player – clearly surprised at the furore – claimed as much later.

Spiers went so far as to questioning why the tale had run at all, suggesting some anti-Burley agenda in operation at Central Quay.

While Leckie – who once worked for the Record – appeared to take even greater delight in ripping the story to pieces.

Not only that, he mocked its follow-up too, generally accusing the Record of either making up tales, spinning them or simply being poor at their job and short-changing readers.

Clearly that suited the agenda of both guests and their respective newspapers so it was no surprise that – given the chance on TV to score an open goal or two – they fairly rammed home the corporate message – Scottish Sun and Times Scotland, good – Daily Record, bad. Very bad.

It was relentless.

And there was not a thing the Trinity Mirror paper could do to defend itself.

As you might expect, it may just have ruffled a few feathers at Record HQ, a place not generally known for taking criticism well, and especially not when the entire sports department is under increased pressure thanks to a unionised work to rule being enforced.

Which may go some way to explaining today’s puffery on the website which indicates tempers have finally frayed, straws have been broken and that the gloves may very well be off.


But while the caption under Record man Jim Traynor’s image might be full of bravado and come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough leanings, the copy it is linked to would indicate otherwise, explaining as it does if not quite apologising, for why they went in full boots against Burley in the first place.

Of course, Traynor has progressed his own media career through Radio Scotland, and will no doubt have plenty of opportunity to vent his spleen against those terrors of Queen Street if he so wishes.

But it all seems very, well, tabloid. Doesn’t it?

Which should mean great entertainment for the rest of us to come.

In all seriousness, though, it raises a few other questions.

Are we, for example, really back to the ‘good old days’ when papers will take any opportunity to take a pop at each other in order to score points and grab circulation?

Is it open season on rival journalists just for fun?

Did the Record and Keith Jackson deserve it?

Or do questions have to be asked about ridiculing fellow newspapers professionals in such a public and, some may argue, unnecessary way?

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