Whether that’s what we found during the BBC’s coverage on Sunday is a matter for the conscience rather than the critic. Whether a man deserves more than 45 minutes to digest the news of his termination notice having had it delivered by a virtual stranger before being grilled for his reaction in front of a live TV audience all depends on how personally you respect the right to quiet introspection in times of crisis. But then football doesn’t do much quietly these days. And as the game’s movers and shakers take a more influential role in the moulding of a national culture there’s a school of thought that says personal space is a luxury left behind in a forgotten age.
So goes the theory. And yet Gus Poyet was, at the most basic level, a working man carrying out his duties as defined by a confidential contract – a condition of which must surely have been that changes to that contract be carried out by the involved parties before the world is invited in to poke its nose around.
There’s room for a wry smile here, not at the expense of Poyet but at the spirit-crushingly two-dimensional approach taken by the BBC these days towards its journalism. Poyet’s face is a study in incredulity as the same questions roll again and again off Chapman’s vidi-printer and glance limply off the tired Uruguayan’s increasingly lifeless brow. If Poyet states his intention to appeal the decision once he states it a thousand times, before Chapman rather curtly informs him with barely a hint of sympathy that it will be very difficult for him to manage Brighton again after this. One would hope that Poyet is keeping his options open when it comes to seeking legal advice.
It’s difficult to know exactly where the presenter expects his policy of circular questioning will lead him and his audience, but it seems a fair bet that there is a certain level of frustration as his guest stubbornly refuses to break his composure and submit to the kind of histrionics that would kick this back-breaking anti-interview up a notch. Not known for displays of stoicism, it’s tricky to say whether Poyet is humoring his tormentor or just plain exhausted by his banality.
The real nonsense here of course is that there isn’t even a story to tell in the first place. Somewhere within the creaking bureaucracy of the relationship between a club and its manager there has been a breakdown in communications, the memo that was to inform the outgoing manager of his fate presumably lost somewhere in the thick, greasy membrane of lawyers, agents and the people who deliver quill-written messages on horseback pressed with a wax seal. Or something. But in its relentlessly desperate scrambling to find something to fill the close season emptiness (presumably the match we were all supposed to be watching at the time wasn’t considered worth the production costs alone), the BBC have taken a pot-shot at a ‘real life story’ and struck Poyet squarely between the eyes.