I will admit to having missed this "story" when it broke initially, likely because I do not follow Stephen Ireland's girlfriend on Twitter (so silly of me, I know) but apparently Alex McLeish is "seething" over a picture of Ireland posted to her Twitter account on December 22nd. If you have not seen it, I recommend keeping it that way because it is gross. But here is a link just in case you're the glutton for punishment type.
There are so many things wrong with this photograph; shirtless, meticulously man-scaped Stephen Ireland for one. His girlfriend's faux (oh please god let it be faux) snakeskin pants and zebra patterned socks are another. Hasn't anyone ever told her never to mix your animal prints? The aforementioned wallpaper is also deserving of another mention; in a different time, Stephen Ireland's interior decorator would have been put in the stocks and pelted with rotten avocados.
But there are two pretty big things not at all wrong with the photograph, and they just so happen to be the two things everyone that is actually upset about this is upset about. Stephen Ireland is a 25-year-old professional footballer. That he is lying in bed on a Thursday evening the day after a game with the next game nearly a week away with the mother of his child is just not something to get upset about. So what if he was having a drink? He's pretty clearly not drunk, just relaxing in bed with his girlfriend. The hookah is perhaps a bit more of a concern I suppose, but it's not as though the average hookah smoker is using it often enough for to cause any serious health concerns. I've never understood the appeal but if the people I know that visit hookah bars on occasion are any indication, it's not a habit that's going to end up having any measurable impact on his performance. If it were a cigarette or heroin or something, sure. But Michael Jordan loved his cigars all throughout his playing career, and it seemed to work out for him okay. (That gives me an idea: convince Stephen Ireland to switch to cigars. Perhaps His Airness was onto something.)
I suppose I can understand McLeish's annoyance; he's had to deal with more than a few incredibly dumb tempest-in-a-teapot "controversies" since taking over at Villa, in addition to the fact that people just really don't seem to care for him and the season isn't going especially well. With that being said, this quote is adorable in a curmudgeonly way:
It is not my world, the way the players live nowadays, with the tweeting and posting pictures of themselves and that.
I'm pretty sure my mom said the same thing when I tried to explain Friendster to her.
I don't really have a point here, other than to point out how stupid irrationally entitled fans can be sometimes. I know the old "they're real people too, why can't anyone understand that?" line is a cliche, but it's true. I know that after a crappy day at work I can be brought out of a funk pretty quickly by spending time with my wife, having a drink and not doing much of anything. Ireland having his best half of football in a Villa shirt only to be injured right before the whistle and then see the team lose in heartbreaking fashion would probably qualify as a crappy day at work. But to a certain (and generally very loud and outspoken) segment of the population, they want to see nothing but contrition from their team's players after a loss. Stephen Ireland smiling just 24 hours after a loss? OUTRAGE! It's just dumb. And the puritanical bent makes it that much more annoying.
I am not a Stephen Ireland fan, not in the least. I never understood why Villa wanted him instead of cash or, say, Micah Richards. He's clearly talented, but he's also something of a nutjob and just disappears for large portions of games. But he's entitled to do whatever the hell he wants in his personal life as long as it's not harming his performance. I see no evidence in this picture of that, and at least the photo of him wasn't at a non-existent funeral. Sometimes people are just looking for excuses to be pissed off. This sure seems like one of those times.