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On Jose Enrique, Context, and the Big Club Mentality

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Over the last couple of days, a mini-controversy of sorts has developed on Tyneside with comments made by Jose Enrique Sanchez at the center, and now the young fullback is saying that his quotes were "taken out of context."

In the original interview, Jose Enrique seemed to suggest that he would have an easier time accomplishing his career goals with another club, a view that obviously didn't sit well with Newcastle fans. (Scott Wilson, The Northern Echo) The media, sensing blood in the water, pounced on the story as well, leading JE to grant another interview, this time with the club's official website, to clarify his comments.

I've included some of Jose Enrique's comments and my own thoughts after the jump.

This sort of story happens in sports all the time.  An athlete has an honest sit-down with a reporter he likes (in this case, Jose Enrique was speaking to a reporter from Spain, his native country), says a couple of things he normally wouldn't say, and the next thing you know, he's claiming that his quotes were taken "out of context."  That's the code phrase for, "I'm sorry I said that because it obviously didn't go over very well in the room." 

So when JE pulled out the "My quotes were taken out of context" line today, I have to admit that I rolled my eyes.  Jose obviously realized that he'd taken a wrong turn into a cul-de-sac and was looking for a way to back out, I thought.  I still believe that there's a certain element of this going on (after all, athletes don't often go out of their way to clarify statements unless they're in some sort of trouble), but I don't think this is all spin, either.

Here's why: Aside from the sites that simply copy and paste stories and pass them off as their own, I found three major English papers that were reporting this story: The Northern Echo (linked above), MirrorFootball (Darren Lewis), and The Sun (Mark Irwin).  Of the three, one of them presents the quotes without severely editorializing.  The last one does an absolute hatchet job. 

Of course, it's not new news that the English football media will take a story, extrapolate it to its worst possible conclusion, and report that as fact.  However, I do want to attempt to take the remarks in question at face value, and that starts by acknowledging that yes, they have been taken out of context to some extent.  Here's the quote I want to focus in on:

They are both big teams and I'm not closing the door on anyone. I'm ambitious and want to play in the Champions League. I want to win things. I'm okay at Newcastle but I aspire to more.

This is certainly an understandable point of view, even if it hurts to admit it.  In the days after the sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool, I read story after story (including one or two on this network) that stated as fact that Carroll had moved up in the footballing world.  This sort of attitude drives me crazy, and it sort of reminds me of New York Yankees fans and their unbearable entitlement, but it's hard to argue with when you cheer for a newly promoted club who probably* won't even qualify for Europa this year. 

*To answer a question posed to me off-site after a post I wrote earlier this week: Yes, of course I would love to see Newcastle qualify for Europe.  Thinking they won't doesn't mean I'm not rooting for it.

That Jose Enrique feels that he would probably have to leave in order to accomplish his goal of playing in the Champions League doesn't anger me, because he's likely right, but that doesn't mean I can't be disappointed that he apparently doesn't want to hang around and be part of making that happen for Newcastle.  As he pointed out himself, he stuck with the team when they were relegated and has turned himself into a hot commodity by being part of the team that got itself promoted and hopefully will survive the round of cuts this year. 

I want the players that play for my favorite team to be ambitious, but I want them to be ambitious about improving the team they're playing for.  I love Jose Enrique, but if he leaves and his excuse is that he wants to improve his career by joining a different team, I'll honestly view him no differently than Damien Duff or any other player that left when the team was relegated: a player who wants success handed to him instead of earning it.  For now, though, I'll stand behind him and hope he stays.  I can only hope the Toon Army joins me.