Manchester City: Why BT Sport’s manufactured outrage at Mendy’s tweet failed to hit the target

It’s hardly a surprise that BT Sport sprinkled great heaps of Disney dust over Brighton and Hove Albion’s return to the top flight this weekend. Frankly, if they hadn’t they would not have been doing their job correctly. In the 34 years since the Seagulls last experienced football in the top division this thoroughly likeable club has been forced to endure relocation, financial ruin, and even final day dramatics in 1997 to retain their league status. Theirs is a miraculous return from the brink worth roundly celebrating.

Regrettably, however, every fairy-tale needs an ogre and that’s where Saturday’s visitors came in. The hoary old trope of cost comparisons was dredged up on numerous occasions prior to kick-off to fully illustrate the vast difference between the plucky newcomers and the – boo, hiss – villainous Manchester City who had turned up dressed entirely in banknotes. We were told that City’s bench cost more than Brighton’s stadium and training ground and their trio of new full-backs were more expensive than their host’s squad. On and on it went, stopping just short of equating the south coast club to nurses and war veterans or admitting that it was BT and Sky’s injection of billions into the top end of the game that lured over foreign ownership and created the unassailable chasm in the first place.

Once the game started this silly nonsense thankfully subsided, partly because the scene was now set but mainly because the star of the show had arrived: football was back in all its glory and from here BT Sport were onto a winner regardless. Should Brighton get massacred it simply embellished the pre-match narrative but if they somehow pulled off a shock win it would be underdog nirvana: ratings gold.

Only a problem quickly arose. Fully expecting Chris Hughton’s men to tear into their Premier League dream with passionate zeal Pep Guardiola surprised one and all by opting for the pragmatic. His three at the back easily switched to five at the first hint of danger and with Fernandinho offering further protection City were fully prepared for an onslaught that never came. Instead Hughton – a criminally under-rated coach – set out a well-drilled low block and with both sides looking to counter the natural order meant that City enjoyed the bulk of the possession but were squeezed of any room to create. Scant of incidents a perfectly entertaining game finished 0-2 pretty much as everybody expected.

With Goliath having beaten David but unspectacularly so this was the worst possible outcome for BT and perhaps it was projected onto them but it felt like their post-match round-up was a touch deflated. Kyle Walker hadn’t even taken out a wad of fifty pound notes and waved it into a Brighton urchin’s face for goodness sake.  In the studio Jake Humphrey and ‘the boys’ had to content themselves with patronising the hosts to within an inch of their lives and trawling through the chances, each with one eye on the clock to wrap things up. Tuesday offered Liverpool in the Champions League anyway: a chance to air a five minute montage to You’ll Never Walk Alone and replay Gerrard’s cracker against Olympiacos. It was all good.

Then though, from seemingly nowhere and presumably sourced by an intern just back from a year out saving the elephants, came salvation. It arrived in the form of a tweet by Benjamin Mendy, one of City’s ludicrously expensive full-backs who has yet to appear for his new side due to a thigh injury. For BT it was manna from heaven.

The tweet simply read ‘Bullet header’ accompanied by three emojis, two crying, one laughing and was a direct response to Lewis Dunk’s own-goal that settled matters late on.  Okay so it wasn’t Walker pretending to hobble off the pitch in victory due to the sheer weight of his wallet but it was as close as could be, dammit. The French defender was probably on, oh I don’t know, a gazillion times more than the impoverished and valiant Englishman Dunk and here he was mocking him on social media. The studio suddenly electrified.

I cannot ever recall a tweet being subject to discussion in post-match analysis on BT Sport. I may be wrong. I probably am. I just cannot ever recall that happening before.  Regardless, Humphrey seized upon the manufactured outrage with clear relish. Acutely aware that he has form for sniding on City – and suffering a backlash for doing so – the human blank canvas introduced the fake controversy then cowardly ran for cover. “I like him. I like his tweets. Stevie, if you’d care to put the dagger in…”

And Gerrard, like the good little media pet he has sadly become, happily obliged. The tweet was “disrespectful to a fellow professional,” the Liverpool ledge claimed, his face looking even more anguished than usual. Frank Lampard chimed in too, essentially airing a variation of the age-old favourite: “He’s not going to be happy with that.”

Personally, I think faking disgust at the behest of your employers at something Gerrard would probably chuckle at away from the cameras is disrespectful of a fellow professional. Indeed, throwing a newbie Premier League player to the wolves to further your own career is pretty sh*thouse behaviour. But the really intriguing aspect to this thoroughly predictable play was still to come.

Manchester City was supposed to be aghast at their new recruit’s actions. They weren’t. Their eye-rolled response was simply that Mendy was free to continue tweeting; to carry on interacting with fans; to carry on having a laugh. Their nonchalance derived not only from this clearly being a mild gust in an eggcup but in fundamentally knowing Mendy’s character which is as upbeat, fun-loving, and well-meaning as can be.

For anyone unfamiliar with the 23-year-old left-back he can best be described as a well-adjusted Mario Balotelli and his joking around on social media has already endeared him to Blue hearts. There was his tweet cheekily insinuating that Kylian Mbappe could be on his way to England. There was his filming of Bernardo Silva taking a wee. Furthermore his infectious decency shines through in the videos put up on the club’s website, qualities that are also apparent from his reaction to the supposedly offending tweet. “Sorry to the few people who got offended…was just banter nothing personal. Enjoy your night everyone #cmonCity’. When it was pointed out that Mendy would inevitably make an individual error himself as the season progresses he readily agreed and vowed to take his medicine in the spirit in which it should be intended.

There is a greater truth here too. That we – myself included – really should stop going nuclear whenever players dare to reveal their human sides. To give them the same allowances that are afforded to former pros who happily air opinions and indulge in mickey-taking. Otherwise, generally speaking, our puritanical, largely manufactured, outrage will only further alienate them into becoming automatons, uttering nothing more than safe banalities and predictable cliché. Otherwise we will end up with the social media we deserve: players tweeting the equivalent of a Manchester City two-goal win against a recently promoted side. And none of us will be happy with that.