When Southampton striker Charlie Austin lost his rag in front of the TV cameras earlier this season it was manna from heaven for journalists up and down the land – writes GARETH ROBERTS.
Still soaked in sweat and fresh from playing in a 1-1 draw with Watford, the Premier League forward’s passions were clearly running high as he criticised match officials and demanded a swift introduction of VAR.
“It’s ridiculous, they shouldn’t be in the game,” a furious Austin told television reporters. “We scored a perfectly good goal that was ruled out for offside. The officials cost us two points. They said it was offside, that is a joke.”
Wherever you where that Saturday afternoon in November, if you were near a TV, a radio, browsing the internet or flicking through social media, you likely saw Austin’s thoughts on the officiating that day as it was top of the sports news agenda.
It’s no coincidence that we see players and managers on TV at their most vulnerable moments when the heart is still pounding, adrenaline is still pumping and any injustice is still burning hard.
As more and more TV cash pours into the game, the broadcasters wield more power and demand more access.
And under agreed Premier League rules, many post-match interviews are now mandatory, especially when the game is televised.
While many found Austin’s forthright opinions entertaining, the headlines it generated were typically sensationalist – “Angry Austin”, “explosive rant” and the rest.
It was also very quickly a viral sensation online, set to Blur’s hit single, Parklife.
But while Austin escaped censure from The FA in this instance it was clear he was teetering on a tightrope of what was deemed acceptable by the game’s governing body.
It so easily could have resulted in a fine, while Austin may later look back at his actions and wish they were something he had managed to avoid.
Media training is often frowned upon by fans as many fear it could lead to interviews being too polished.
Yet that very training is now the norm at many top football clubs across Europe and further afield.
But should it be something that is offered to more young players no matter what level they play at?
Not only will comfort in front of the cameras and experience of difficult questions result in more interesting answers (and avoid a flurry of ‘erms’ and a cacophony of clichés), it could also lead to an interest in media work that could serve players well post-playing days.
Media access to football is only going to keep on growing, as fly-on-the-wall documentaries in recent years at Liverpool and Manchester City demonstrate.
Players should be prepared for it. Because when the cameras come calling there is no place to hide…