I go out for one day, literally one day, and something happens. It’s always the case, I can sit at my screen four days a week and on the fifth day news breaks.
Whilst it means I don’t immediately react, it also means I have time to measure my response. I was in two minds as to whether to comment on the ‘Freck’s comments’ situation or not. I may not have done, but I wouldn’t want to be accused of ignoring potentially negative situations and being too club-friendly. That said, Terry might ring me on Tuesday and tell me I’ve got Freck to interview so I do have to be mindful that I’m fair to all parties.
Now, on first read, they’re not great comments. I don’t understand people swearing and getting angry on social media; I’ve seen more than a few comments suggesting he ‘effs off’, but I think they’re twice as outlandish and reactionary as the comments themselves. This outwardly ‘Lincoln City through and through’ persona that some supporters like to put out there is transparent and at times, frustrating. I’ve seen angry comments from fans demanding he be stripped of the captaincy because he isn’t truly one of our own, when they’re watching out for a Premier League team’s result at the weekend just as much as Lincoln. One, and I’ll mention no names, has a tattoo of a Premier League club’s badge on his body and is lashing out at Freck for having a fondness for a club he’s played for before.
The word for that is hypocrisy.
A handful of supporters I respect have also got very angry with the comments and, to a degree, I can understand why. At first read, they’re not great. If you haven’t read them, the one that i think most are angry about are these:
“If I had my way back then, I would still be there now. I could not ever see myself leaving. For so long, I loved playing for Rotherham and that football club, but I’m a Lincoln player now and will be trying to get the points for them.
“Although a 1-1 draw, with me scoring would be nice.”
On first glance, this looks to be Freck saying ‘I’d rather still be with Rotherham and I’d like us to draw at the weekend’. Coming from our club captain, that wouldn’t be great.
Something doesn’t quite ring true here for me though. I’ve interviewed Lee a couple of times and he’s not the sort of player to make outlandish statements that could offend supporters. If anything, he’s the opposite. He’s one of the players who considers his answers in an interview, one who almost flicks on the ‘auto-response’ button when he’s been quizzed on the record. He’s been around the game long enough to not be controversial and to know the stock answers to certain questions.
He’s also a Lincoln lad and he simply wouldn’t deliberately slur our supporters or the club. I imagine a number of those who are angry haven’t fully considered how a comment can be taken out of context. That isn’t me being patronising either, I just hope that the people who I respect who are angry take a moment to consider the other side of the debate, as I have done with their thoughts.
This is where I admit something about my profession if you can call me a journalist (my media accreditation card for Football League World suggests I am, so let’s go with that). Journalists, in the main, want a headline that people will click on for advertising revenue. It’s why you’ll see some papers, such as Gloucestershire Live, writing something like ‘Former West Ham, Walsall, Aston Villa, Birmingham and Preston man signs for Bognor’ – they want to get as many words into a headline that will make people click on it. Just ‘Bognor sign midfielder’ wouldn’t get pulses racing, but casting the ent across the other clubs gets hits. If you see Lincoln City in an article title, you click on it, right?
Occasionally, some comments packaged in such a way they attract lots of attention can be just as effective. Tell me, how many of you have found the Yorkshire Post article and read it today? Job done then, isn’t it? The comments have had the right effect. Online news agencies don’t do what they do just to keep you informed anymore, not like when they used to be in print. Now, they’re all about ad revenue. Here is a test; count up how many words you find in the average website article on a news site these days. I read one about our club yesterday that was 189 words; with a 63-word quote. Is that news, or is it a way of getting you to click on something with a genuinely minimal amount of effort?
By the way, the paragraph above and this line together add up to 149 words.
What I’m saying here is you must consider the motives behind the articles and how the so-called ‘papers’ deliver content these days. I always try not to be sensationalist and this article will run to around 1600 words. Why? Because I want to examine situations and give you something to consider (also, I write way too much). I don’t make enough off the adverts to bother tempting you in with a paragraph disguised as an article, I’m not like Vitals who get hundreds of thousands of clicks through a forum either. My purpose is to talk Lincoln City, sensibly and honestly.
I’m not saying Freck’s comments have been butchered or deliberately misrepresented, but I want you to consider the industry and how it works.
I said on the podcast yesterday I thought a draw would be a good result. Now, if you were so inclined, you could write that in such a way that it looked as though I was saying I wanted it to be a draw. Let’s say I spoke to someone and said this: ‘I have links with Rotherham my ex is from there and I love the place. Given the fact we’re away and Rotherham have just come down, a 1-1 draw would be an ideal result for me, it’s such a tougher game for City.’
That could be reported as: ‘I have links with Rotherham, I love the place. A 1-1 draw would be an ideal result for me’. I know that’s a hastily-constructed example, but don’t believe for one second that sometimes there is an element of artistic license with these interviews. I’m not saying that’s happened here, but I am saying that context is everything.
The truth is, a 1-1 draw tomorrow would be a good result for us. I’d go beyond calling it ‘nice’ as Freck did; I’d be chuffed to bits with it. Does that make me a pariah like some people have labelled Freck? No, of course not.
Danny can see that as well. In his press conference this afternoon, he said: “He was part of some big moments in their history and naturally there will be an affinity.
“I understand and respect that. Lee started out here and ultimately wanted to come back here. He loves this football club and anyone who knows him will know how close Lincoln City are to his heart.
“If people want clarity, I’m respectful because I don’t like giving these stories oxygen. Ultimately he said a draw would be really good for Lincoln City and I agree with him.”
It’s important to remember that at no point did Lee say he didn’t want to come back here when he did, and when he did come back he said he would only ever leave Rotherham for one club; it’s not a new revelation. His exact words upon returning to Sincil Bank were: “It’s been a difficult decision (to leave Rotherham) but football moves very quickly. If I was ever going to leave Rotherham, there was only one place I wanted to be.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Steve Evans, and I enjoyed playing under him. But when it comes to a football decision, if you’re asking me would I rather go to Mansfield Town or Lincoln City, the obvious choice is here.
“I’m delighted that Danny and Nicky have given me the opportunity to be here and I’m excited to be back.”
I feel that maybe, just maybe, some people want to be offended and angry at a member of our squad. I can see how his words have upset some fans, I think others follow the crowd a bit, but I feel the situation needs to be taken in context. I know, 100%, that Lee Frecklington would not prefer a draw to a Lincoln win tomorrow. I know, 100%, that he’s committed to the club.
I actually feel really saddened that there has been such anger directed towards him. His contribution last season might not have been as extensive as he would have liked, but let’s not forget that his endeavour, and goal, drove us to the 2-1 win against Bury at Sincil Bank in August, a game which had we not won would have seen us finish level on points and goal difference with Bury.
He was also sensational against Exeter away and Notts County at home. Yes, he’s had his injury concerns, but I find it disappointing that his contribution to our title win has been almost brushed aside because of some comments that may (or, admittedly, may not) have been misinterpreted or misconstrued.
I sincerely hope that when he does return to fitness and gets back on the field that he’s treated exactly the same as he was before this unfortunate interview. After all, he’s not said anything we either didn’t already know or don’t think to be true ourselves, not really.