Derek Johnstone’s attempt to mock BT Sport pundit Chris Sutton for having two bodyguards protect him at Ibrox, is one of the most cringeworthy pieces of commentary I have heard in a long time.
Rather than condemn those who threatened Sutton or highlight that Police and Rangers officials advised BT Sport to hire bodyguards for the former Celtic striker’s safety at Ibrox – the former Rangers player instead used it as a tool to hit back at Sutton after he was on the end of a broadside of criticism over his unwillingness to criticise anything about Rangers Football Club.
Johnstone, who is a paid Rangers employee through his hospitality work, has over the years defended and even supported David Murray, Craig Whyte, Charles Green, Ally McCoist and the current board and management team at Ibrox. His work on Clyde One and his paid employment with Rangers has clearly shown that there is a conflict of interest, as Johnstone [according to Sutton]‘fails to tell the truth’ and acts like a ‘Rangers puppet’.
We can dissect all of Johnstone’s comments over the years on Clyde One and Real Radio if you want, but my main issue is with Johnstone’s pitiful attempt to mock Sutton when his safety is in question.
Where was Johnstone’s criticism of those who threatened Sutton? Or why the club, that employs him in an ambassador’s role, felt the need to warn Sutton’s employers to hire bodyguards at a time when Sutton would be doing his job?
Whether we agree with Sutton’s comments is one thing, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to have his safety jeopardised because someone doesn’t like his opinions. Johnstone’s clear disregard for the safety of Sutton in favour of mocking him over the need for bodyguards, when he couldn’t counter the rightful criticism he was facing, shows the level of the man.
Former Celtic manager Neil Lennon was another who had to hire a bodyguard, because low life scum in this country thought they had a god given right to threaten him, send bullets and bombs through the post and attack him on the sidelines.
But Johnstone back then claimed that Lennon brought it on himself with his comments and his ‘antics’. Those antics being celebrating goals and those comments were criticising refereeing decisions which were wrong in his eyes – like every other manager does in this country and beyond.
From the very first day that Lennon signed for Celtic, the Northern Irishman was sent death threats because of the underlying knuckle dragging element within our game. Of course, Lennon was controversial, he was passionate and he was a fighter on the park. Does that give anyone the right to threaten to kill him?
I wonder what Johnstone would have said if it was Walter Smith, Ally McCoist or Mark Warburton on the receiving end of what Lennon had to face for 11 years? Yes, Lennon received 11 years of abuse, threats and on the end of numerous assaults from disgruntled Rangers and Hearts fans – one caught live on television, broadcast around the world.
Friday night’s tirade between Sutton and Johnstone was ideal for Clyde One’s ratings and its exposure across the country, it made a change from the usual suspects including Laurie from Dennistoun calling up saying the same old thing every week.
However, Johnstone really has to take a long hard look at himself. He claimed that Sutton has a tendency to shout down his critics or to disrespect professional footballers – but over the years Johnstone has done all of this and more as a pundit.
During his time at Real Radio, he was co-commentator alongside Ewen Cameron as they covered the Hearts v Celtic game at Tynecastle in May 2011. This was the game that saw Lennon attacked by Hearts fan John Wilson, who vaulted over the barriers and attacked the Celtic manager pitch side, after the Glasgow side had just scored.
Rather than condemning the Hearts fan for invading the pitch or even for attacking Neil Lennon, Johnstone focused on the Celtic manager who fought off the attacker. Claiming that the Northern Irishman ‘needs to watch himself as he got involved with the fan’ and that he was ‘kicking out’ at the Hearts fan. Nothing about him being the victim.
I wonder has Johnstone every apologised to Lennon over his ‘commentary’ of the assault?
Will Johnstone apologise over his mockery of Sutton’s need for bodyguards at Ibrox? Will he label the need for bodyguards as ‘grotesque’ as one journalist said a number of years ago when Lennon utilised ‘Big Kev’s’ services?
I doubt it very much as his ego would refuse to allow him to apologise.
As someone who has faced death threats and vile abuse online from certain elements over the years for my outspoken views and refusal to kowtow to the abusers, I find anyone who mocks those receiving threats as deplorable.
For individuals to hire bodyguards for their safety at the football is beyond grotesque, it is horrific that in 21st century Scotland we have individuals who believe that threatening anyone over comments is okay and those who try to excuse such threats, by claiming that ‘they bring it upon themselves’ or that ‘they need to rein in their passion’ to appease these low life scum.
Chris Sutton may have given Radio Clyde their best five-ten minutes of commentary in years and he may have knocked Johnstone down a few pegs from his Rangers soap box, but Johnstone has shown himself and the station up.
Maybe it is time to hire individuals who do not have a conflict of interest, who are not paid by clubs and who do not mock the need for bodyguards over a few words spoken or written.