A war of words over a newspaper story about the make-up of the Scotland men's football team – who are playing a crucial match this evening against the Czech Republic – continues today, with the paper behind the original tale, The Scottish Sun, defiantly defending its position.
Under the heading, ‘First again: We get team spot on’, the News International tabloid reports: “[Scotland manager] Craig Levein has confirmed the secret every SunSport reader already knew – [striker] Kenny Miller has been axed for tonight's clash with the Czech Republic in Prague.
“The Scotland boss named his team late last night and it's EXACTLY the line-up we predicted on Wednesday. Levein will hand QPR rookie Jamie Mackie his Scotland debut in place of in-form Rangers hitman, Miller. Mackie will be part of a shock 4-2-2-2 system designed to frustrate the Czechs.
“Levein had wrongly accused this newspaper of not wanting Scotland to win after we revealed his shock selection plan on Wednesday morning.
“Our fading rivals – unable to come up with any exclusive stories of their own – attempted to have a dig at us yesterday and accused us of being unpatriotic.”
The row between The Scottish Sun and Levein broke out publicly in yesterday’s newspapers when the red-top carried two huge headings on the back page: ‘RIGHT – We got it spot-on about shock plan to axe Miller in Prague’ and: ‘WRONG – Levein loses plot as he calls us traitors for breaking the story’.
The paper yesterday quoted Levein railing against its chief football writer, Roger Hannah, at Glasgow airport as the team and the media prepared to fly out to the Czech Republic: “I can assure you that the team hasn’t been picked. What I am annoyed at is that I question sometimes whether people in the media are actually interested in whether we win or not – getting a story and not even having the courtesy to ask me if there’s any truth in it.
“The story came from people, who in the past, I’ve been as honest as I can with – that makes me really angry.
“And I’m talking to you, Roger.”
Miller writes a column for The Scottish Sun.
Among the coverage yesterday by the Sun's rivals, the Daily Record used the heading, ‘Act of Treasun’, with the final three letters being a reproduction of The Sun’s masthead.
In today's Herald newspaper, Michael Grant writes: “Levein is smart enough to know how newspapers work and that no paper is ever likely to withhold what it believes to be an authentic exclusive, but that has not soothed his mood about the issue. The essence of management is control – including of the media – and this episode seems to have shown Levein that he has less of it than he’d like.”
He quotes Levein: “The players are in their own little bubble, they’re going about their work, they’re fine. [But] I am frustrated. We have a match to win here. Everyone should be pulling together, I don’t want any petty squabbles within in the camp or even without. I am the one that deals with all this nonsense, the players get on with their business. It’s just been a hindrance, that’s all. It’s taken up too much of my time. It’s been a minor irritation. But I don’t pick my team or base my footballing philosophy on what you guys in the media write. Anything that goes on between myself and the players is our business. Simple as that.”