What to say if you liked it
The loveable former football pundit Big Ron Atkinson got a chance to clear his name of being a racist through a voyage of enlightenment.
What to say if you didn’t like it
The bigoted former pundit is given the chance to clear his name in a series of stage managed meetings that are designed to get the horrid little man back on our screens before the New Year.
What was good about it?
• Despite his best efforts to the contrary, Ron indicated he doesn’t hold actively racist views but is instead guilty of an ignorance of contemporary racial sensitivities, and while this doesn’t excuse his outburst, it at least offers the hope that he could change his ways.
• Adrian Chiles’ narration didn’t seek to offer any sort of opinion, but if Ron ever swerved off into the lane of untruth, he steered the show back on line by highlighting Ron’s lies. This was notable in a radio interview when Ron claimed he didn’t swear, but Chiles immediately corrected him.
• The good mix of views from former footballers who worked under Ron such as Cyrille Regis, John Barnes , Bob Hazell and Carlton Palmer who seemed to give him the benefit of the doubt, but also chastened him for what he said.
• The revelation that this wasn’t the first time that Ron had been caught making racist remarks while he thought he was off air. In the 1990 World Cup quarter final between England and Cameroon, he had called a Cameroon defender “brainless”. At half-time, he conferred with commentator Brian Moore to gauge if he had “got away with it”, only to compound the gaffe by concluding: “I’ll only get in trouble if his mother’s watching in Africa up a tree.” Ron says of it now: “It was a jokey thing.”
• The attempt to put Ron’s views into a sociological context through a racial awareness meeting in Birmingham attended by people of his generation, where the views expressed were a little to the right of Mussolini.
• Darcus Howe’s analysis of Ron’s problem: “He can’t use the barbaric language of the past and get away with it now.” He suggested Ron should be punished by going “to Manchester United for two weeks and clean Rio Ferdinand’s boots.”
What was bad about it?
• Ron’s infuriating denial that calling a black man “nigger” causes offence . Even when Ron’s former player at West Brom Brendan Batson implored him to understand that “nigger” is the only word for which he would physically assault someone for calling him, the message still didn’t get through. Ron also didn’t see the difference between calling Desailly a “frog” and a “nigger”.
• Ron’s selective memory that first became apparent in his assessment that Rui Costa once “murdered” Roy Keane in a Champions League game between Fiorentina and Manchester United, when if anything Keane “murdered” himself with an awful back pass that let in Gabriel Batistuta for a goal.
• The odious Max Clifford offering advice about morality and decency.
• The pointless trek to the commentary position in Monaco where Ron made his fateful remark, which seemed almost to aid his dubious view that the location may have been in some part responsible for his “aberration”.
• Darcus Howe’s suggestion for Ron’s future career of “writing sports reports for the National Front” was perhaps overly harsh.
• Despite meeting all manner of people from ethnic backgrounds who told him why his words were so offensive, Ron showed little sign of changing his core beliefs and seems happy, like tabloid newspapers, to blame his crucifixion on “political correctness” and not his own flawed views.