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Colin Montgomerie missing so many tricks with his Twitter ‘ban’

Posted on 28 September 2010 | 8:09am

Many many words will be uttered before Ed Miliband’s speech to Labour’s conference this afternoon. The words that matter are those that he says, not all the speculation and hype. For now I have nothing much to add to what I said to Nick Ferrari on LBC and Nicky Campbell on Five Live this morning – many thanks to both for letting me plug Sunday evening’s night out with Kevin Spacey.

Instead I thought I might weigh in to the debate over twitter and sport following Europe Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie’s rather garbled statement on the subject.

I will quote it in full. ‘Not being a tweeter myself, we feel that tweeting and Facebook and all of these social sites can get one’s self into trouble. At the same time I think it’s important, the same as Corey [Pavin, US captain], that we focus on the job this week, and we are here to try and regain this lovely trophy that Corey has brought back for us. I think we have to focus on that job, and as Corey so rightly says, on Monday October 4, yes, you’ll find the team probably on social network sites. But not until then.’

I could spend a while deconstructing that whole passage but put simply, he doesn’t get it. And because he doesn’t get it, he thinks nobody else should. Without suggesting twitter is a religion – if it is, it is probably a transient one – Monty’s statement is a bit like an atheist manager saying believers shouldn’t cross themselves as they enter the field of play, or a vegetarian coach banning his players from eating meat. Or like Alex Ferguson saying because he chews gum, everyone has to.

The best coaches are control freaks. But they should work out what they need to control and what they don’t. Fabio Capello has learned some of that since the World Cup.

The US captain likewise thinks a twitter-free Ryder Cup team is likely to do better. ‘We talked about it as a team and we thought it best not to do it. We need to focus on playing and working on preparations and getting ready to play.’

Look, whether players tweet or not is unlikely to be the decisive factor. But the blanket ban that isn’t a ban – and the mistaken assumption that it can only end in tears – might at the margins affect the form and morale of those who DO tweet. Ian Poulter is a flamboyant character and a regular on twitter. My sense is that he enjoys it, enjoys the feedback and that probably helps his mindset.

Sport is a great area for twitter and the supporters’ experience is also helped hugely if they can follow some of the stars on the course and on their favoured sites. Ask cyclist fans who were able to add to their appreciation of the Tour de France the tweets of Lance Armstrong and others. It’ll be a shame if Stewart Cink’s 1.2m followers are denied his own tweeted perspective on the golf. 

And in a tournament that is as much about psychological pressure as technical skill, I reckon good use of twitter could be just one more club in the bag. What better place to play mind games, like the one I played this morning asking if Nicky Campbell wouold let me plug the event with Kevin, or just ask about Labour. It worked — first question re Kevin. One nil to me. I can think of loads of ways Colin and Co could use twitter to pile it on for the Americans.

One final point for Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin. There will come a point in the tournament, guaranteed, when one or both will find something to complain about in the way the mainstream media are covering them or some aspect of the contest. Twitter, with the following some of their top players have, gives them a great vehicle for response and for shaping their own agenda.

Finally, how lonely did Tiger look in that photo on the steps of the US team plane as players and their partners stood together and he just looked so out of it and all alone? You can have all the fame, wealth, success and women in the world, but there is something so sad seeing him there alone whilst his team-mates stand alongside their wives and partners.

  • Teresa

    Alastair, being married obviously didn’t make him happy though.

  • Peter Farley

    I am truly amazed Alastair. For once I agree with every word you wrote!

  • Helene Boyle

    I bet your friend Fergie feels exactly the same. Mind you, must accept Rio Ferdinand uses it well. enjoyed his spat with robbie savage recently

  • Mal Kingman

    Good point about the mind games … coaches and managers spend a lot of time thinking on this, and a carefully guided tweet could be just the thing. Think again Monty. Some of your players use it really well. So should you

  • Charles Jelley

    I very much enjoyed your interview with Nicky Campbell. Are you two related. You always seem to get on v well. I think the Labour Party could well do with the kind of skill you showed in using twitter to frame the interview and then basically being allowed to read out an advert for your charity. I agree with you that Montgomerie is showing a very old fashioned face of golf. I don’t really see him as a captain I’m afraid

  • Anonymous

    ps, I was being ironic about Fergie … can’t see him letting his playeers indulge too much in ths

  • Olli Issakainen

    Owen Coyle treated Burnley players as adults and gave them freedoms. The players responded by behaving well out of respect to the manager.
    Even people in Ancient Greece understood that fame, wealth, success etc. do not make people happyl. Other things, including virtue, are needed too. Today´s top sportsmen could learn a lesson or two from them. And hedonism is of bad taste especially during the era of austerity.
    Ed has been a leader for a couple of days, and already Labour in the lead in the polls! According to Lord Ashcroft´s poll, Labour must apologize for the “mess” before many people will vote Labour again. So Ed is doing the right thing today.
    He should also show that he is his own man by appointing Yvette Cooper as the shadow chancellor. We do not need any more “soap operas” in the party – this time between the Milibands and the family of Ed Balls…

  • Mark Wright

    Re: Your last paragraph

    Well would you have your wife or partner anywhere other than right by your side when there’s a Tiger on the loose?

  • Mark

    I’m a fan, but if there’s one person I wouldn’t listen to about how to set the right tone in a bid to win back a much coveted sporting trophy I think it’s you!

    Spear tackle anyone?

  • JCP

    You can not always use the same techniques that work in politics with sport though. For example, would you say it helped, hindered or made no difference to the Lions in New Zealand, for example?

    As for mind games – how more effective might be if there was now a comment posted Saturday night in the middle of the ban?!

  • Richard Brittain

    An interesting insight. I must admit, when watching the Tour de France this year, I did wonder if all of Lance Armstrong’s tweeting and uploading photos for fans and stuff may have just slightly affected his concentration. He crashed 3 or 4 times. It was probably just bad luck. In any case, he’s a great guy and I certainly enjoyed reading his stuff.

  • Ehtch

    Twitters aside, it’ll be an excellent, but wet, tournament. But October, in my Wales? Barking. Maybe that is the problem, the euros twittering that their cappacinos are being watered down…

  • Ehtch

    Rain! I blame the Tory institutional golfers myself to make ita bad show, a while back


    Jonathan, what did you say again?

  • Ehtch

    Cograts to Europe. Blimey it was tight in the end when Europe look to be well away at one point. I take everything back what I said previous, it has turned out nice in the end. Start Twittering again Euros.