You’ve got to hand it to Spurs, they played a blinder over Son. A masterclass in how to weave a story in a post-truth world.
The idea of ‘objective truth’, the concept that certain facts and events can be established as definitive has taken a bit of a battering in recent years. In the old modernist world, to establish a ‘truth’ you scoured sources, gathered supporting evidence and built a picture of what happened. The idea was to present a case so robust that it would be immune to challenge. The evidence supported the story and the story told the truth.
In the post-modern world, all that goes out the window. Facts or truths are unattainable as all evidence is relative. All that remains is perspective and interpretation. At its best this was a refreshing challenge to the dogma of modernists. At its worst, its relativism, the idea that my story is just as valid as yours, led inexorably to some dark corners.
If all this sounds a bit heavy, bear with me. In the aftermath of the Spurs game, most Evertonians have been left frustrated, angry and slightly bewildered by what has taken place with regard to Son and Gomes.
For those of us who watched the game, the chronology and the ‘truth’ is clear. Son got an arm in the face off Gomes. Annoyed, the red mist descended. Eager to exact some retribution to someone in a Blue shirt, Son went-a-hunting. First, he tried to get Iwobi but was too slow. Next, he zeroed in on Gomes, arriving so late for the tackle is was as though they were playing in different time zones.
The idea of inflicting such a horrific injury was likely not on Son’s mind. He might not be the saint the media makes him out to be, but he’s clearly not psychotic. But, importantly, the motivation for what happened is clear to Evertonians. It was a shithouse tackle, undertaken with little but revenge in mind.
If the media we consume was characterised by narratives rooted in objective truth, then that would be the story that was told. And likely, had that story been told, it might have made the job of rescinding Son’s red card that bit more challenging for the FA. But that isn’t the world we live in.
Instead, we live in one of competing stories, each of equal value. The Spurs narrative told a different ‘truth’. In their story, Son is simply a wonderful human being without a malicious bone in his body. The tackle was late but it wasn’t dangerous or motivated by anything other than getting the ball. And after he realised what had happened, he was clearly distraught. So distraught that there was talk of therapy, of him missing games.
The story was repeated faithfully by manager and players alike and, tapping into his nice guy image, repeated across the media.
We, as fans, waited for the real version to emerge. Surely someone would mention what had happened just minutes earlier? Surely someone would point out that Son, like most players, has snapped in the past, both at Spurs and Leverkusen? Surely, someone would say that Gomes is the only victim here and that attempts to represent Son as co-victim rather than transgressor are simply insulting.
But that was never going to happen. The Spurs PR machine was so good and the Everton one so poor, that the Tottenham narrative became accepted gospel. So, on Wednesday, when Son scored in the Champions League and made a show of public contrition, he was widely lauded. That’s the media and other fans praising a player who days earlier had nearly ended a fellow pros career and rather than accept blame and take a brief but fitting punishment had instead done everything he can to wriggle away from any responsibility or consequence.
For Evertonians, the key element in all of the above, and one that has left many slightly disgusted at the club, was Everton’s apparent indifference to what was going on.
From our perspective, the club should have been out there, shouting from the rooftops that what had occurred was a disgrace, that the player in question was blinded by thoughts of revenge and so a ban of three games needs to be the minimum he faces. Video of the whole affair, from the Gomes arm in the face to the shithouse tackle should’ve been playing on a loop on the club’s social media channels. We wanted to see interviews, by Silva, Kenwright and the players in which they emphasised that Gomes is the victim, not Son. Everton should’ve been clamouring for Son to pay for what happened.
But the club did none of that. Instead, it just meekly rolled over and let this terrible incident go unanswered.
If this was an isolated example it might be more forgivable. But it isn’t. In the last few weeks alone, there has been the silence over what happened to Gomes, silence with regard to the multiple VAR decisions that have gone against the club and after Richarlison was publicly called out for being a diver by Paul Joyce, cowardly acceptance of that claim from the manager.
Everton seem to have become the kind of club who will let you do whatever you want to them. Feel like testing out new VAR rules on us? No problem. Feel like slagging off our players for no apparent reason? Go right ahead. Feel like trying to end one of players careers without consequence? Well, of course you can.
In modern football, and in the modern world, you can’t be that passive. Or if you choose to be, you can’t then be surprised if you get routinely fucked over. Those who are the most adept, most forceful at putting their story across are the ones who are going to get their own way.
Take Liverpool and their ‘legendary’ atmosphere for example. Does anyone really think that Anfield genuinely has the best atmosphere in England? We all know that at times it is as quiet as a library, that chanting is often piped in, that the big noise only rocks up for the big games. But it doesn’t matter because Liverpool have excelled at spinning the narrative that it is the best atmosphere in the country, a story that is now widely accepted as being the ‘truth’.
Everton have got to wise up. The club needs to be out there fighting for attention, putting the Everton ‘story’ across, making sure that our narrative is heard. Sitting back and doing nothing, letting others do what they want with us is just shameful.
There is a palpable sense of anger around at the moment, a feeling that the club simply does not give a fuck. And that is not something that any football club should be actively cultivating.