What has The Spectator got against Marcus Rashford, whose work for charities and securing free school meals for impoverished children during the Covid crisis have been widely admired?
Well, I suppose he forced Boris Johnson into making an embarrassing political U turn on school meals, which would have annoyed the Tory magazine.
A couple of weeks ago, when there were thousands of racial slurs on social media against the Manchester United striker and two of his black England colleagues who also missed penalties in the European final, they didn’t write about that.
Instead, they cast doubt on whether there were any decipherable racial slurs on the mural of Rashford in his home town which had brought hundreds of messages of support for the player. The mural had certainly been defaced. Why should The Spectator be concerned that so many people wanted to register their opposition to racist attacks?
The magazine is now evidently claiming, or about to claim, that he gets some commercial benefit for himself by securing sponsors to support his campaigns. So what? He is a hugely rich and caring footballer who doesn´t have to bother with exploiting his popularity for financial gain.
There couldn’t, of course, be any racism in these attacks on Rashford, could there? It´s funny, though, that I can’t recall any magazine probes into the motives of rich white men who give money to charities, or articles about the tax benefits they get for doing it. The footballer may feel entitled to ask with Ali G.: “Is it because I’s black?”
In any event, the magazine is on a loser if it wants to trash Rashford’s reputation. I am reminded of the time when the same magazine, then edited by Boris himself, cast aspersions on Liverpool after the Hillsborough disaster. Boris had to go on his hands and knees to offer a craven apology to the Scousers.
Rashford’s dignified response to The Spectator surely hits the right note: “Why can’t we just do the right thing?” I would amend that sentence slightly to ask: “Why can’t The Spectator just do the right thing and find better targets than a man who is clearly more of a saint than a sinner?”
Put your faith in Gatland
One would have to be crazy to challenge Warren Gatland’s selections after his bold and heavily criticised choices won the first British and Irish Lions Test match, against all the odds, over world champions South Africa. But there are still crazy people out there doing it.
When the first Test team was announced, the great Sir Ian McGeechan, who has done more for the Lions as a player and coach than anyone else, admitted that only six of the players he chose were in the team. Ronan O’Gara, veteran of three Lions tours, said he had only four.
This made me feel very smug because I got only two wrong: I had Liam Williams at full back instead of Stuart Hogg and Tadhg Bierne at blindside flanker with Courtney Lawes on the bench.
I can’t fault the three changes Gatland has made for the second Test tomorrow, though I feel sorry for Ali Price, who has done nothing wrong at scrum half. I suppose there was always a chance that the Springboks would get after him, as Maro Itoje did for England against Scotland, interfering with his pass or charging down his kicks. Conor Murray is certainly experienced enough to fill in securely.
My only query about Gatland’s first selections was not putting Mako Vunipola on the bench for his powerful presence around the field. He only got there because Lynn Jones, the Welsh prop, had pulled out before the start. Now Mako is the number one loose head prop, instead of number three, with Jones not even on the bench, demoted from number one to number three without even playing.
This only goes to show how tight is the competition for places, how close the contenders are in some positions, and how hard it must be for Gatland to get it right. Although I was in favour of trying Elliot Daly at outside centre, his replacement, Chris Harris, is physically stronger and well worth a place.
I’m glad the head coach has resisted the pressure to bring back Taulupe Faletau at number eight instead of Jack Conan. The Irishman is bigger and ran and tackled hard, while Faletau, one suspects, may be just past his best. I have less confidence in the omission of Liam Williams, either at full back or on the wing, but perhaps that head injury he suffered in one of the earlier games is still troubling him.
Anyway, all will be revealed tomorrow. And no, even at the risk of being called “chicken,” I´m not going to forecast the result.
Stop this rating nonsense
While on rugby, I wish newspapers would stop the ratings they give to players after internationals. I heard Will Greenwood say on TV last weekend that he had been in press boxes and seen these ratings already prepared before the match.
I suspected that when I saw the ratings in the Sunday Times after the first Test match. I wondered how any sensible judge of rugby could mark down Courtney Lawes as a 7 when he had played the game of his life.
The clincher, though, was Lynn Jones, the Welsh prop, who was also given a 7 when he didn´t even play. He had dropped out through injury just before the match.
Get yer ´air cut!
You wouldn’t recognise me from the picture at the top of the page. I haven’t had my hair cut for many months. The problem is that only two people are allowed to cut it, and neither has been available.
One is Petra, who ran a salon in Puerto Pollensa. When she retired, she trained her successor, Raquel, to do it. But Raquel has had a baby and is on maternity leave. I just hope she gets back to work before anyone trips over my flowing locks.
Just call me Grandad
Note to my six grandchildren, three boys and three girls: please go on calling me Grandad. The judgement of an employment tribunal that use of the word is insulting about a grandparent’s age and therefore discriminatory is so absurd that I can’t find printable words to describe it.