Welcome to the first of Groan’s rants, a regular vent at those stupid little things that wind us all up when watching the beautiful game, be it the actions of a player, an official, a manager or an authoritarian figure. It could be something really small, or a burning issue that has had us infuriated for years.
The first such rant has nothing to do with the actual 22 players we all watch. Believe me, they will be the subject in the future. But not today. There are plenty of onlookers who infuriate me on a regular basis, and this particular piece concerns either their utter idiocy or their inability to see exactly what is in front of them. Shall we begin?
We all watch a lot of football on television, and there is no doubt that you, like me, prefer some commentators and analysts to others. Whether it is David Pleat’s complete failure to pronounce foreign names correctly, Jamie Redknapp’s desperate attempt to compliment Chelsea in every sentence, even if they aren’t even playing, in some blatant ’employ me’ plea, or Steve Claridge’s complete nonsense, I have no doubt that you find yourself as irritated with them as I do at times.
But what really annoys me is when they cannot see what is clearly in front of them. How many times do you see a foul given, and a slow motion replay shows either contact or no contact, yet the ‘expert commentator’ claims the complete opposite of what the footage shows? Are they even watching the same pictures?
In the recent United-Chelsea game, Mikel was (somewhat harshly) sent off for a dangerous tackle. After the match, Jamie Redknapp spoke over the pictures, claiming that he didn’t think the referee thought it was two-footed. At the exact moment he was saying those words, you could easily tell, without lip-reading expertise, that Mike Dean was saying ‘Two feet. Two feet’ to the Chelsea players by way of explanation. The two-handed gesture he was using made it even clearer. But apparently not clear enough to Redknapp.
On Tuesday, in our game against Steaua, there was a curious incident where Cesc (I believe) was fouled by Ovidiu Petre, while seconds earlier Van Persie had been flattened, off the ball, by Ionut Rada. The referee blew for a foul, and instantly ran up to Rada and booked him.
The commentators were adamant for ages that he’d booked the wrong man. Even live, I could see what had happened, with the replays making it clearer, the cameraman even focusing on Van Persie being taken out. Nonetheless, they banged on about the ref booking the wrong man, saying that Petre should’ve been sent off for a second yellow. The fact that Petre hadn’t even picked up a first yellow also seemed to have slipped their notice.
Sometimes I really wonder whether they’re watching the same game we are.
If the analysts are bad, then the managers are even worse. You wouldn’t think it’d be beyond a professional, top flight manager to actually know the rules of the game, would you?
Tell that to Mark Hughes and Alan Curbishley.
In the Blackburn-Chelsea game, the latter had a goal disallowed for offside, despite the cross being played while Kalou was a good two yards behind the action. Coming from behind the pass, there is no way Kalou could’ve been offside, as clearly defined in the rules. It wasn’t even a close call.
But after the match, and after watching replays, Hughes proceeded to make himself look exceptionally ignorant:
“The goal was offside. He was only about half a yard or so, but he was offside. Obviously Chelsea won’t be too happy with that but if you watch it again, I think you will see it is offside.”
No Mark, if you watch it again you’ll see that it was clearly onside. I suggest your bedtime reading should be a little book that tells you all about the game you profess to work in.
Hughes isn’t the only one. After Ljungberg had a goal disallowed against us at the weekend (again wrongly, in my opinion), Curbishley started on the familiar old sentence of there not being ‘daylight’ between the two men.
“There’s no clear daylight between Freddie and the defender”
But, as Left Back correctly pointed out after the weekend, this phantom ‘daylight rule’ doesn’t exist. Never has. Yet managers and analysts harp on about it as if it’s the ruling these days. It never has been. Get over it.
Now before I have too much of a go at referees, let it be understood that I recognise theirs to be an extremely difficult and thankless task. In fact, I have no problem with them making mistakes, after all, I watched Alex Hleb all last season and forgave him so I’d be a hypocrite to moan about snap decisions being wrong.
But it’s a whole different kettle of fish when they don’t even apply the rules properly, especially when those rules are there to protect them or the game itself.
Let’s start with a topical one. It is, as it has been for many years, a red card offence to lay hands on a referee. I remember years ago, Emmanuel Petit got sent off for putting his hands on Paul Durkin’s shoulders. And you know what? Durkin was absolutely right to give him his marching orders.
But have you noticed how often it happens now? It has been going on for two to three years, and while such a gradual build up makes it difficult to suddenly enforce the rules, there are times when the line is so flagrantly crossed, that action must be taken. I’m talking to you, John Terry, you utter disgrace. In case you are unaware of the reference, when Mikel was sent off in the incident I described earlier, Terry saw Mike Dean pull the red card from his pocket and grabbed his hand in a pathetic attempt to stop the sending off from occurring. That’s right, John Terry physically tried to restrain an official. How was he not sent off? And how have the FA decided that he has no case to answer?
He should’ve been ordered off, and vilified. Imagine if Patrick Vieira had done the same thing a few years ago – would there have been uproar? Absolutely. The man is not fit to lead England, with this kind of behaviour, and his constant hounding of match officials.
But it is not just red card offences that are routinely ignored, oh no. In case you need reminding, it is an automatic booking to pull an opponent’s shirt, or to dive. I support both rules, because both are cheating actions, not accidental fouls. You intend to cheat when you pull a shirt, you intend to cheat when you dive. So both should be bookings.
So why do we see, week in week out, incidents when referees indicate a shirt pull or a dive, and don’t produce a yellow card? I saw Mike Riley doing the generally accepted ‘he dived’ action with his hands a couple of weeks ago, but no card was produced. When Pompey got a penalty against Liverpool for a blatant shirt pull a fortnight ago, the referee walked around, explaining the decision with hand gestures, but booked no-one.
Why not? What is the point of bringing in these rules if they aren’t enforced? The rules are there to stop this sort of thing happening, so why when the refs see these incidents occur, do they not act properly? They haven’t misread the situation, they’ve seen exactly what has happened, but simply decided not to enforce the rules.
However, their reluctance to book people for these acts makes it more surprising and gratifying to see them do it from time to time. Witness Daniel Alves in the recent Arsenal-Seville match. Clichy fouled him in a nothing challenge, and the Brazilian begged the referee to produce a yellow card. The refs response was to book Alves. I cheered. It reminded me of another European game from a few years back, where Lauren picked up a yellow the same way, and later got a second. I still think he deserved it, and applaud referees who stamp out this nonsense. It is the only way.
Until next time.