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Opinion: Context is key

Another Evatt quote blown way out of proportion?

Bolton Wanderers v Mansfield Town - Sky Bet League Two Photo by Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Yesterday, a clip of Ian Evatt’s pre-match press conference was posted to Twitter by BBC Radio Manchester Sport. During this clip, which only lasts 32 seconds, Evatt says “It’s been a problem at this club for years. We can’t keep talking about the past, it’s about what we do going forwards” before discussing today’s opposition, Tranmere Rovers. There was no indication of the previous dialect or question he was asked, but some fans quickly jumped onto this and took his comments as a negative.

This didn't sit right with me. I think it is unfair for any media outlet to post such a short snippet of an interview without offering any supporting context. As with social media, news travels fast and is often blown way out of proportion, which is exactly what I believe has happened here.

Shortly after the soundbite was posted, some supporters were quick to jump on the back of Evatt’s comments and given the lack of context provided, you can understand how they may have interpreted the quote. Some took his comments as if he was blaming Wanderers fans for “living in the past” and suggested Evatt was almost telling supporters to focus on the present rather than reflecting on the more successful times.

Many pointed out that, given the club’s position in the bottom half of the fourth tier, there isn’t much to enjoy at present. We’re founding members of the Football League. We’ve won the FA Cup on four occasions. We’ve reached the last 16 of the UEFA Cup. We’ve had the pleasure of having worldwide icons represent our club. We are 13th in the all time English Top Flight league table, ahead of 10 current Premier League clubs, despite not being in the Premier League for almost a decade. The history and heritage of Bolton Wanderers is what makes this club so great. It is the reason our love affair began. To suggest that the current manager would tell supporters not to reflect and cherish these times is preposterous.

Firstly, there is no way that could possibly be what he meant. When the manager arrived at the club last summer, he spoke volumes about our rich history, the size and stature of the club and his desire to bring the successful times back to Bolton. With a heavily divided fanbase, I don’t believe Ian would want to add further pressure from those that are yet to be convinced by him.

In Yesterday’s article by the Manchester Evening News, there were more quotes of Evatt’s interview. In response to a question asking what he expected of Tranmere and whether the 3-0 loss in December is fresh in his mind, Evatt responded: “It’s not fresh in my mind. All that’s fresh in my mind was the training session from today and moving on to Saturday. It’s been the problem at this club for years that we can’t keep talking about what’s gone on in the past, it’s about what we do moving forwards and we have to go to Tranmere with the positive mindset and try and get the right result on Saturday.” This suggests that the problem he is referring to is talking about previous results, rather than the sweeping generalisation of our history that many suggested.

It is important to go into today’s game with a fresh mindset rather than getting bogged down about the result last month. The focus needs to be on the task at hand and not being beaten before a ball is even kicked.

Truthfully, no one will know exactly what Evatt meant by his comments until he is asked to clarify, which inevitably he will. I understand why these types of clips are posted. It’s social media. To use one of Ian’s favourites, “it’s the nature of the beast.” Soundbites like this get traction and that is what’s so heavily desired in today’s media. It would be similar in print. You can almost imagine a paper headline reading, “‘FORGET THE PAST’ SAYS EVATT.” It would sell papers. Journalism has evolved. The difference is that an article would provide full context and the headline would just be labelled “clickbait.”

My issue with these out of context snippets are the responses, it makes the manager’s job significantly more difficult. We’ve seen similar clips gain national attention this season and some of the responses to this latest clip have been toxic to say the least. That being said, the fans aren't to blame for reacting the way they do, it’s normal. Those that post such clips should at least provide some context or the full quotes/interview. One response read, “This isn’t the first time this season that Ian has been clipped up without context to make it look like he has said something drastic.” It does feel at times that those that post these clips are almost pulling the pin on a grenade and waiting for it explode, which when it does, they benefit from.

Ultimately, if the results were better on the pitch, then his comments wouldn’t have been dissected and scrutinised at every opportunity. But, this hasn’t been the case. The team have not met the high expectations set prior to the start of the season and because of this, Ian Evatt has come under fire from some supporters. What doesn’t help is that fans’ perception of the manager can be influenced by these soundbites and when taken out of context, could cause additional, unneeded issues. The judgement of the manager should be left to results, performances and if it’s personality that you like to judge, full interviews.
I find it disappointing that during a time where Evatt has come under scrutiny for the performances and results - and at times, rightly so - clips like this have been adding fuel to the fire without showing the full picture. Hopefully, in future some context can be given before these clips are posted.