My Football Bugbears

Sky Sports Presenters: Jamie Redknapp and Richard KeysPost-holiday depression has inevitably led to another blog of moaning. I love football, but every fan has their own bugbears. Forget the Triesman affair, the poor World Cup display, the reduced attendances, clubs going to the wall, or the lower standard of club mascots nowadays. It’s time to deal with the real issues, by confronting the true problems in the English game. I wonder if I’ll mention the media?

Firstly, the media. Why do some people get away with murder (not literally)? One manager stands out above all others in this respect, Mr “wheeler dealer” himself. There are those in the press corps that still push for Harry Redknapp to be made England manager. Those pushing for it tend to be his mates of course, like Steven Howard at The Sun.

I mean what could possibly go wrong? I see no problem in appointing a man due at crown court to answer charges of cheating the public revenue.

It’s now clear Capello is going nowhere, but the clamour will hibernate before bursting back into the tabloids in 2012.

Of course Redknapp says it was a simple misunderstanding. And I think we can all relate to that. I mean, which of us hasn’t had a simple misunderstanding with a friend or colleague in the past that has ended up in a court appearance six months later? I still have a chuckle when I think about the time I misunderstood some directions a friend gave me, and one thing led to another and before you knew it I was applying for bail in crown court. A simple misunderstanding. Similar to the misunderstandings that led to hundreds of thousands of pounds of transfer fees never being accounted for at West Ham. Or to the misunderstanding that led to him getting a percentage of all profits on player sales at Portsmouth that led to £100,000 for the sale of Peter Crouch ending up in an offshore account of his. Misunderstandings.

We all know Harry doesn’t get involved with transfers – he leaves that sort of thing to the chairman (and in other news, I’m married to Heidi Klum and invented the traction engine).

It is the same with certain players. Some players will be the devil incarnate, some can do no wrong (they will usually be English).

And that leads me on to Paul Scholes.

Continue reading about Paul Scholes on PAGE TWO…

So as the opposition player is being resuscitated at pitch-side, we get to hear Andy Gray chuckling about how tackling “isn’t Scholes’s strong point”. And as the ambulance dashes away from the ground, sirens blaring, we get over the replay the opinion that “he’s a tad fortunate to avoid a booking for that.”

But of course Scholes was never going to be booked. A pat on the back from the referee and a gentle warning are more than sufficient. And “Stevie G” can scythe opposition players down from behind, and get no more than a gentle chiding from both the referee and the commentators.

Last week Yaya Toure was booked for over-celebrating a goal by shockingly holding his arms aloft while standing still. Steven Gerrard meanwhile, having equalized against United, was allowed to sexually molest a camera (again), with not even the hint of a booking to follow.

Imagine if Joey Barton made such crude tackles every game? There would be an outcry. And yes, I know Paul Scholes has been a model professional, loyal to his team, kept his head down, shunned fame etc while Barton has had the odd indiscretion. But who of us can honestly say they have never stubbed a cigar in the eye of a colleague, or pulled our pants down in front of a braying football crowd or argued with a teenager on holiday or gone to prison for assault or sported an inappropriate moustache on a football field? I know I have.

But for some reason, it’s match commentaries that have me tearing my hair out. So let’s start with one of my greatest pet hates – here’s football expert (stop laughing at the back) Tony Cascarino to explain, as he discusses Ronaldo’s red card against Manchester City a couple of years ago.

“It’s a red card, but I just wish, for the sake of entertainment, that referees used common sense sometimes.”

A note to Tony Cascarino, Andy Gray et al – to me, the “common sense argument” is complete and utter rubbish – referees should never use “common sense”, they have to adhere to laws, and we can’t have each referee interpreting laws according to their views, their interpretation of what common sense is, as this differs from person to person.

The referee is there to apply laws of the game, and with an assessor in the stands, his job depends on it.

Am I the only person who felt nauseous at Mark Clattenburg ignoring a blatant penalty for Chelsea at the end of the Blackpool match last week because it was 4-0 and the match was about to end, and would have had to send a player off? Nauseous at him laughing with Drogba and then high-fiving and hugging him? Maybe it was just me.

Continue reading about football phrases I hate on PAGE THREE…

And then there’s:

“The linesman put up the flag late there”

Big deal! I don’t care if he puts it up immediately, 2 seconds later, twirls his flag in the air before doing a somersault with triple pike, followed by the splits and finishing off with his own unique rendition of Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”, ably assisted by the Royal Philharmonic’s saxophone section before moon-walking up the touchline and head-butting the fourth official. All I care about is that he gets the decision right. What is of less importance is that the linesman raises his flag within 0 .6 of a second.

Bu t without doubt, the greatest pet hate of the lot?

“I’ve seen them given…”

A strange thing happens when I hear this during a game, usually after a penalty claim. I start hyperventilating, can feel my (left) leg twitching, and get this overriding urge to smash my television in with a baseball bat. Fortunately I don’t own a baseball bat.

I have seen Andy Morrison sent off for licking Stan Collymore and Kevin Horlock for walking in an aggressive manner, but it doesn’t make it right. I always thought commentators and co-commentators especially, are supposed to be there to provide analysis, to inform the viewer if you will (I said no laughing at the back). I’ve seen them given is the most pointless, unhelpful comment it is possible to come out with.

Either it was a penalty under the laws of the game, or it wasn’t. There are only a few instances that straddle the line between penalty and non-penalty. I’ve seen balls cross the line and a goal not given – should we not allow any goals anymore? Afterall, I’ve seen them not given.

Next, it’s….. “he’s not that sort of player”.

Well it didn’t take long in the new Premiership season for this old chestnut to raise its ugly head. It seems that according to certain journalists (Neil Ashton for example, who called Joe Cole’s card a disgrace – he’s not that sort of player, you see?) and pretty much all commentators, a referee should not punish players according to the severity of the foul. Oh no. He should first do a character assessment, and then decide from the player’s past history and career stats what his motivation was for the action.

Thus if he is a player of sound reputation, the benefit of the doubt should be given to him. If he’s had a career littered with controversy, then obviously he meant to maim his opposite number, as players with past red cards don’t make clumsy tackles, so he should immediately be sent off.

Seems pretty fair to me.

(Did you know Joe Cole helps old ladies across the street in his spare time? Makes that red card seem all the more ridiculous now, doesn’t it?)

Oh, and whilst we’re at it, the severity of the injury is irrelevant to the punishment, as this is down to luck. You could fly in studs first at someone’s standing leg and do them no damage, or nick a ball off a player and they could snap their cruciate ligaments. Some journalists seem to struggle with this concept.

And then there’s “If he’d done that in the street, he’d be in prison”.

I struggle to put into words how utterly, utterly cretinous this statement is. I hope it is self-explanatory to you. If you ever utter these words, take a good, long, hard look at yourself, then punch yourself in the face.

Jamie Redknapp and Richard Keys feel my wrath on PAGE FOUR…

A personal favourite is “If you raise your hands, you are asking for trouble”.

Really? Where does it say this in the laws of football? I wasn’t aware you had to keep your hands down at all times. You learn something new every day.

Jamie Redknapp extended this “made up laws about raising body parts” theme at half time during the top, top Liverpool v Arsenal match by commenting that by the letter of the law Cole had to go as his feet left the ground. Perhaps you’d like to point out this law to everyone Jamie? You know, the one you’ve just made up.

Oh and then there’s “You should never be beaten at your near post”. Rubbish – said by people who have never played in goal.

I must also mention football players having hissy fits and trying to start a fight when opposition teams don’t put the ball out when a player is down (usually with a grazed shin pad). I imagine the new(ish) rules were explained to them in full, which just goes to show how utterly stupid most of them appear to be. Of course the irony is that if they regain possession of the ball whilst the player is down, then they will rarely put the ball out themselves. Though at this point the player in question tends to make a miraculous recovery.

I sigh every time I hear crowds shouting “handball!” when the ball goes within 5 yards of an opposition player’s midriff. This is a football match, not a pantomime, and you are older than 5 years old. Stop it.

What next? “He’s behind you!”

Then there’s Sky having a league table after one match. Richard Keys proceeded to give the limpest excuse I have ever heard for this the other week. He said they showed the table so that they could point out that Blackpool were top for a couple of hours.

Two points. Firstly, who gives two hoots if they were? Blackpool fans maybe, but I imagine they were already aware of the fact.

Secondly, is he claiming they wouldn’t have shown the table if Blackpool hadn’t been temporarily top? Yeah right.

I also hate the debate over which is the best league in the world.

Who cares? I don’t. I just care where my team comes in its league. Whether that league is the best or 4th best in Europe is of little concern to me (and how do you define best anyway?).

And what’s with nicknames on the back of shirts – no, no , no. Little Pea??? (a mistranslation of his lifelong prostate problems). What next, your twitter username on one sleeve and personal website address on the other? Soon there’ll be 5 players on each team with SHAGGER on their back. And the other day, a commentator called Gerrard “Stevie G”!

Sack him! Now!

I mean, what next?

“And Scholesy passes it to Giggsy, back to Berby who lays a delightful ball to the Roo, he clips it to Ferdy, left to Gibbsy and he lays it to the Little Pea, who scores….”

Bugger off.

Oh, and when the clearest of clear penalties is awarded, why does one member of the team it was awarded against still think it acceptable to moan at the referee, as if we are witnessing one of the great miscarriages of justice? And why does this irritate me so much? And why is it always Darren Fletcher?

And why do managers moan at 4th officials? Why Arsene, why??! What did the particular decision have to do with him, eh?! Does it make you feel better shouting at an official? You might as well blame the tea lady. Grow up.

And finally internationals on a Friday. Wrong. Only Tranmere Rovers can play on a Friday night, that’s the law.

I need a lie down.

Howard Hockin