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Veteran sportswriter fears new generation of footballs hacks lacking perspicacity

By Hamish Mackay

November 2, 2011 | 3 min read

Veteran Scottish sports writer Glenn Gibbons has accused a new breed of Scottish soccer reporters of lacking perspicacity in assessing the talents of young players.

In his weekly column in The Scotsman, Gibbons explains that what has got his dander up is the growing tendency to paint too rosy a word picture – the latest instance is Celtic FC’s young winger James Forrest being compared to the “peerless” late Jimmy Johnstone.

Points out Gibbons: “Forrest, of course, is simply the innocent, most recent young winger wearing green and white hoops to be acclaimed as the reincarnation of Johnstone.

“Before him, it was Aiden McGeady, who had smart feet but, after six years in the Celtic first team, was still demonstrating that he had much to learn about how to play professional football.

“Forrest may turn out to be a more productive player than McGeady. Unlikely as it seems, he could even become widely recognised as a greater player than wee Jimmy; but he won’t be another Johnstone, because nobody before or since has played like him and it is already clear that Forrest, like all his predecessors, bears no resemblance to the little giant.”

Whilst appreciating fans are always seeking new heroes, he muses: “There is also the possibility of a generational kink, affecting not only younger supporters, but also those youthful members of the media whose reference points in the matter of judging and correlating levels of performance may have been seriously weakened by immersion in the ever-declining standards of the Scottish game over the past 20 years or so.

“There is, too, the customary tendency among reporters and commentators of all ages and every era to rush towards premature acclamation of emerging ‘talents’ who prove to be quite useless.

“Nor, it seems, does any number of exposures of mediocrity – as provided by SPL teams’ ignominy in Europe and their embarrassments against First Division opponents in the League Cup – slow the broadcasters’ stampede towards exaltation of bad players.”

Referring to Celtic recent 4-1 win over Hibs, Gibbons points out: “During the second half of a match in which a dreadful, feckless and sluggish Celtic team (both physically and mentally) found some improvement against a desperate Hibs side who, astonishingly, actually managed to deteriorate after the interval, the young BBC commentator, Liam McLeod, clearly became a little over-excited as he talked of Forrest “terrorising” the home defenders.

“Turning to Craig Paterson, the ex-Hibs defender riding shotgun, he asked: ‘Craig, just how good James Forrest has been this season’?”

“Like most former players except the wonderfully brutal Graeme Souness, Craig was too polite or too mindful of his young colleague’s enthusiasm to give the correct answer.”

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