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An open letter to Michael Sadgrove

3 April 2013 - 8:38pm -- Joseph

Dear Michael Sadgrove,

We have never met, and I am the first to admit that I don't know very much about pontificating. You do, and I respect that. However, I hope you will allow me to say something about your unsolicited letter to Paulo Di Canio as personally as I can.


My relationship with Paulo Di Canio goes back a short way. I am a Swindon supporter and when Paulo was appointed Swindon Manager everyone was all ‘oh this should be interesting’ but as a Swindon fan I was worried ‘interesting’ might take us out of league football for the first time in my lifetime. That didn’t happen though, quite the reverse.  Paulo took a freshly relegated team and took them back up as champions, taking in a Wembley cup final on the way.  Paulo brought passion, team ethic and success to Swindon and for that I am grateful.


All these weeks since he left I have wanted Paulo to do well. I’d have been chuffed if he got the West Ham job, and was sad when he didn't. But y’know, I suppose Sunderland’s okay... I know how much football success has meant to Paulo, who is rightfully proud of his managerial record so far.


But today I am wondering what to do. Your letter of objection raises very difficult questions. You see, I am a member of the human race.


Many of my fellow humans have been persecuted and vilified in the name of moral pontification. So I find your self-appointed role as moral arbiter for all deeply troubling. Moral indignation was nearly the undoing of the world. It has cost millions of innocent lives. The Church, who you (probably) say has been deeply misunderstood, openly colluded with it. You are said to wear a pointy hat and robe which speaks for itself. This all adds up to what I find baffling.


You say that you are not a persecutor, but it needs great sophistication to understand how the Church and other enthusiasts of faux  moral outrage such as the Daily Mail are ultimately much different. I can promise you that this distinction will be lost on the people of the North East where the Daily Mail is finding fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of its pernicious and poisonous doctrine. You presumably knew this before you put pen to paper.

But I believe that unless you clearly renounce pontification in all its manifestations, you will be associated with these toxic ‘pontification with no self-awareness’ tendencies we have seen too much of in this country.

In your letter, you had the chance to do this, to say in not many words what you thought.


No one asked you  where you stood on Paulo, but you offered an unambiguous response anyway. One sentence is all that it would have taken, but you took 14 paragraphs... I'm genuinely perplexed as to why you took this opportunity that wasn’t handed to you. Maybe your minders told you to stay on-message. But don't you see that this press call was about Paulo Di Canio, not your politics. Where a Premier League club is concerned, you really can separate the two. Sport, unlike politics and religion, are about all walks of life. Football is only deeply political if you make it so. To say otherwise may be naive, but isn’t it convenient?


Bishops aren’t  big role-models for the young. Your opinions are what you really want our children and teenagers to admire and emulate. And if this doesn't trouble you personally, should it not trouble those who appointed you? The Church now stands to actually gain support as well as see its standing and respect increase not just in this part of the world but internationally. Its sullied reputation has been hard won. I am just one of thousands who would like to see it get its own house in order before it starts telling Football managers how to think.  Perhaps you could have a word with our own government about the damage its currently doing to society? Just a thought...


So there it is. Perhaps I’m being too facetious, after all you are entitled to your opinion too.  it’s just that it seems to me there are far more important issues in Britain today than the personal politics of a football manager. I don’t know what Paulo’s politics really are, but he’s never seemed a hateful person to me. Certainly he has an enthusiasm for Mussolini, but I don’t know enough about what that means for an Italian to be any more disturbed than I am by Thatcher’s many admirers. In the end, Paulo’s views are his own and as long as he acts respectfully (which he has, apart from that time at Oxford, but we Swindon fans like him a little more for that...), perhaps he should be left to do his job (while he has one...), and you could start doing yours properly by concerning yourself more with those in your parish who have no job.


Yours sincerely,

Joseph Talbot

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