HARTY: Will he stay or will he go?

TO paraphrase the words of the great Mark Twain, it appears that reports of my demise have been grossly exaggerated.

At the beginning of the week it was reported via other media outlets that my time as a phone-in host on BBC SCR was about to come to an abrupt end.

Clearly, after nearly 11 years and over 500 shows, there will be a point when it is time for a change for both parties, but it appears whenever I take a week off due to either family or business commitments, it's open season on the internet.

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On the flipside of being the information super highway, the internet also has its obvious downsides.

Criticism is part and parcel of the media work I do, it comes with the territory.

In the past I have used the constructive parts to try to improve aspects of my shows, yet there are also the faceless keyboard warriors who continually snipe, yet hide behind their anonymity.

On the net a person calling themselves "Hove Lagoonery" can resort to character assassination, yet who is he, or she? Old or young, fat or thin, gay or straight?

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It doesn't matter because hiding behind a keyboard you can be whatever you want without any real comeback.

There's another "character" called Vegster, who has now moved beyond the realms of football and is posting certain aspects of my personal and family life on the net.

Is he some kind of stalker, a bitter individual or just a very sad person?

The bottom line is that I continue to enjoy my time working for the BBC, but nothing lasts forever.

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Despite the Albion's desperate league position I am looking forward to the next 10 games because in many ways a good old relegation scrap brings out the Churchillan qualities in players and fans, and subject to the occasional family or business commitment, the fans' phone-in will continue with me in the chair.

And on the subject of the team, it was a case of one step forward with the emphatic 5-0 win against the hapless Yeovil on Saturday, but then two steps back on Tuesday when the Seagulls were humbled at Walsall 3-0.

Like I said, in a perverse way a relegation scrap is far more exciting at this point of the season than mid-table mediocrity.

Not that good for the old nerves but still very entertaining, and yes, ever the eternal optimist, I still believe they will get out of it, but it certainly will go right to the wire.

Are we mellowing as a footballing nation?

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I ask the question because a 4-1 Manchester United home defeat to anyone, let alone Liverpool, would normally attract mass hilarity and celebration.

Maybe it's me, but it's almost because of Chelsea's purchase of success, courtesy of their Russian sugar daddy, United are now not the team we all love to hate now.

It's even gone as far as my hearing from dyed-in-the-wool football fans, from various clubs, that as a one-off they would love to see United win all five competitions, Carling Cup, FA Cup, World Club Championship, Premiership and Champions League, because of the sheer magnitude of the achievement.

It certainly is a funny old game...

And moving away from cyber geeks and the premiership fat cats, when it comes down to the brass tacks it's still a beautiful game, and that will be evident this Friday night, March 20, when Worthing United Under 18s host their Storrington counterparts up at Lyons Way in what should be a cracking game.

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Forget Ronaldo's diving, alleged spitting at the Arsenal or Neil Warnock's toys coming out his pram, get up to United in time for a 7.30pm kick-off and see football being played how it should be.


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