Date: 23rd October 2007 at 1:50pm
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Football is a game all about opinions, that’s the beauty of it. That’s why the game of football permeates ones conscience beyond just the ninety minutes of game time, beyond the pristine turf of professional competition, like a badly poured pint, it spills over into the pubs, offices, building sites and hair salons the world over. But, before I overindulge in the romance, that can also be the infuriating thing about football. While one craves debate and diversity of opinion, some people are just bloody well wrong aren’t they? So these are what I consider to be footballs’ most annoying myths and why they are so frustratingly incorrect.

England has a rather endearingly warped view of what constitutes gamesmanship. For instance, commentators and supporters the nation over are entitled to fits of rage when a player walks up to a referee brandishing an imaginary card in order to get an opponent booked. Fair enough, it’s poor sportsmanship and undermines the match official. But why then is it so perfectly acceptable for a player to leap to his feet from a challenge and, in clear view of the viewing public, tell the referee, ‘ah, that’s gotta be a booking ref!’ Why is it that demanding to have an opponent booked orally is fine, but a mock gesture indicating the self same point offends our sensibilities so much? My guess is that the imaginary card brandishing is more of a continental trait, and of course, that automatically makes it vile, dirty and unbecoming. But when a proper English gent like Gerrard politely demands sanction, or when the ever affable John Terry spits and screams it into the referee’s face, that’s quite alright old chap? It’s a conundrum I’ve posed to pro fox hunters, what is the difference between fox hunting and bear bating? It’s a valid metaphor for this footballing anomaly.

No it doesn’t! It does not say that in the rules, this is something Andy Gray and sky sports have made up and everybody has blindly followed like baying sheep. A handball is judged in the same way as a foul. If a defender ‘accidentally’ trips a player in the box, it’s still a penalty isn’t it? It is not the referee’s concern whether he intended to trip the attacker. It is the same with handball. The condition for a handball is supposed to be where the predominant point of contact comes from. Allow me to elucidate, ‘ball to hand’ is not handball, in the same way that it is not a foul if the attacker kicks his opponent’s foot and falls to the ground (a la Pires v Pompey, or Owen v Argentina), because the point of contact is the attacker. However, if the defenders arm is out and the ball travels from anything other than pointblank range it is handball, just like a trailing leg can clumsily fell an onrushing striker.

See above, another to the littany of sky sports manufactured rules that everybody has cottoned onto. While a two footed tackle should always be a straight red, one leg can cause sufficient damage. For instance, Mark Noble’s challenge on Alex Hleb a few weeks back was a deliberate attempt to injure another player. So why should he be allowed to stay on the pitch simply because he perpetrated the act of violence with one foot? You can break an opponent’s leg with one foot, just like you can kill somebody with one bullet.

A rather topical one here, particular to present day rather than footballing folklore in general. But Martin Jol’s job should not be under threat right now, Daneil Levy’s should. Putting all rivalry aside and curtailing my childish sniggering behind my hand for a second, I do genuinely feel sorry for Jol. He has been the Spuds best manager for some twenty years, delivered them their two best ever Premiership finishes, and yet he has been sickeningly stabbed in the back by Daniel ‘Iago’ Levy and his board. At a time when Tottenham had created a platform to build on, stability was crucial to see if they could get to the next level. But Jol’s good work has been undermined by a chairman who has made his job entirely untennable and shaken the confidence of the whole place. Levy inhabits a fantasy land, no club will break the quantopoly of the big four until possibly Chelsea, United and Liverpool’s benefactors bleed them dry. Spurs, Everton, Villa and the like missed the boat ten years ago when United, Liverpool and Arsenal saw a league about to inherit unimagined riches and clung onto its sugar coated gravy train. The money and power of the big four is simply too much and fifth is the best Spurs can hope for for now.

There is no doubting Alex Ferguson’s credentials as a manager. But I do resent this myth of him bringing through the ‘Golden Generation’ which went on to deliver United the treble. While his management of that side was flawless, they were not his fledglings. It was Brian Kidd who was in charge of United’s youth policy in the early nineties, he brought through Neville, Scholes, Beckham etc. Since Kidd left his post at United, can you name me a world class product of United’s academy? Since the demise of the Golden Generation, Fergie has relied on the chequebook to survive.

This man is possibly my most detested character in my footballing lifetime. His sanctimony and posturing simply knows no bounds, both as pundit and player. I’ve seen dirty players in my time, but even as much as I hate the likes of Robbie Savage, at least he does not pretend to be anything other than an irritating twat. Shearer’s air of pretense was underpinned by a taste for violence rarely matched, throwing elbows to all and sundry, but moaning like a little bitch the second someone smelled one of his perfume scented farts. It is rare that I ever feel delighted to see a piece of footballing thuggery, but one example bares repeating. In a Carling Cup match against Grimsby, Shearer threw one of his trademark elbows into the face of Mariners’ defender Jason Whittle (naturally, the commentators responded with ‘oh, good old Alan, what a pleasure that must have been for Whittle’). Whittle exacted a swift revenge minutes later, smacking Shearer right in his kisser. Shearer moaned and whinged throughout the entire match, going as far as to visibly offer Whittle a fight after the game, then bleating to his mates at sky about how harshly treated he had been. It was a wonderful moment of poetic justice. I only wish Neil Lennon could have had the chance to kick him in the face. Shearer was an egotistical and difficult player, going as far as losing Ruud Gullit his job for having the temerity to drop him. When the F.A threatened sanction against him for his appalling act of violence against Neil Lennon, he allegedly (a word I use out of obligation more than anything) threatened to retire from the England side. Now as a pundit his marvels have included articulating his desire to see Wayne Rooney punch Ronaldo. Together with his disgusting appraisal of Estonia’s defending with a dismissive, ‘ah, bless em,’ on last week’s BBC coverage. Karma has once again intervened as England beg for Israel’s scraps to qualify for Euro 2008, bless em.

I’ve visited St. James’ Park many times, it is just as quiet as any other ground in the country. The media perpetrate this legend of the passionate Geordies, but not one of their UEFA Cup games last season reached more than 50% capacity. I also have found them to be hostile and distasteful. The most trouble I have ever seen at Highbury (given that I was born in 1984), was when Newcastle came to Highbury for a cup tie in 2002. I’ve seen a number of Arsenal players stretchered off at St. James’ and all were roundly booed on their journey to the tunnel, I can think of no other set of fans that consistently does this. When Robert Pires was stretchered off in front of the Geordies in 2002, he was spat on and serenaded with homophobic chanting. Newcastle observe a supersillious superiority complex which probably made them Alan Shearer’s ideal club.

In the words of Johnny Rotten, ‘I carn’t even be bovvered…………..LD.