Football FanCast columnist Phil Wright reacts to the news that Blackburn Rovers have been charged by the FA and feels that maybe Mark Hughes outspoken views on officials may have some baring on the constant victimisation, the Ewood Park club seem to face.
The Football Association, as a result of their players' behaviour, has charged Blackburn Rovers with misconduct during the game with Newcastle on March 1st. The FA has alleged that Rovers failed to ensure that their players and officials conducted themselves in an orderly fashion.
It appears that the FA have laid the blame for the spate of ‘handbags' firmly at the door of Blackburn Rovers, as Newcastle United haven't been made to answer a similar charge. This brings up the question about whether Rovers are unfairly treated by the Football Association and their representatives.
Any impartial observer could see that both teams got involved in a melee after a scuffle between Pedersen and Beyes over a throw in. Photographic evidence shows Habib Beye pushing his forearm into the throat of Morten Gamst Pedersen, yet inexplicably both players were booked. Understandably, the Rovers bench reacted to this by leaping to the defence of their player. It's inconceivable that one team could be singled out for a misconduct charge in the situation.
That said this is nothing new to Rovers, highlighted by the fact that they are once again sitting rock bottom of the fair play league, as they have done every year since Hughes took charge at Ewood.
The facts would seem to suggest that Rovers are a ‘dirty' team, however, this is simply not the case. Even during their worst period, when Hughes employed a five-man midfield with Aaron Mokoena, a man who has earnt the nickname ‘The Axe', in a holding role as Rovers fought tooth and nail to stave off relegation the side was never intentionally rough. It's clear to me that they've been unable to shake the stigma of comments made by Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, two managers who's words hold considerable sway. The infamous ‘bully boys' quote is particularly memorable, especially when allied to a Metropolitan bias from a journalistic point of view.
The accusation that the current Rovers side are a physical team is particularly laughable, especially with a midfield corps that contains Bentley, Pedersen and Tugay. You couldn't find three less threatening professionals if you tried. Indeed, earlier this season at Ewood Park, Portsmouth's team of giants intimidated Rovers out of the game, resulting in a comfortable away victory. Everton too are easily more physical than the present Rovers side yet receive little media coverage of the fact.
Any cynical tactics being employed by Blackburn either cannot explain the number of bookings away. If anything, the side is honest to a fault. Bentley aside, as he went to the Robert Pires school of diving, the Rovers side play the game fairly. In fact, cynical play is something that officials are reluctant to punish teams for, which would explain why Arsenal retain their high position in the disciplinary table. Here, Arsene Wenger, has moulded a team that will use any means necessary in order to gain an advantage, yet they are rarely pulled up for it. One could argue this is an advantage of being a top four club and the bias that comes along with it, but many teams in the league play this way.
It cannot be a coincidence that since Hughes took charge Rovers have been at the bottom of the disciplinary table every year. One wonders if Hughes' propensity for speaking his mind regarding decisions that go against his team has influenced the way officials deal with Rovers. Call me a ‘blue and white tinted glasses' conspiracy theorist if you must.