First things first. Lee Bowyer can’t and should not be excused for his horrible challenge on Bacary Sagna during Birmingham’s recent defeat to Arsenal. It was sickening to watch Lee Bowyer carry on in the game, and continue to leave his boot in on Sagna at every available opportunity. Not for one minute is Alex McLeish defending his player’s behaviour, but has he landed on a point that shames the FA? Are the bigger clubs getting away with the same kind of challenges that the smaller clubs are being punished for?
It would be unfair to Birmingham if we highlighted all of the decisions Birmingham have had over the past two seasons and said that it is a case of swings and roundabouts. Lee Bowyer should have been sent off against Manchester United, something Sir Alex Ferguson stated after the game. Bowyer knew he was under the media spotlight, so why did he commit such a reckless crime? Against Arsenal, either Bowyer was looking for Sagna or the full back found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully Mcleish is not trying to gloss over three serious incidents, one against Manchester United and two against Arsenal, and try to deflect attention away from his player. Bowyer was handed the right punishment, he must accept that.
Alex McLeish wasn’t happy with Samir Nasri’s stud high challenge on Stephen Carr, and feels the bigger clubs are getting away with decisions.
“I don’t like to see trial by television,” said McLeish. “But, if we’re getting tried by it, then everybody has to be tried by television.
“We are just looking for fairness. We’re not defending anybody if they have made a bad decision (challenge) on the field. We’re not going to defend anybody.
“But that wasn’t slowed down by television. Slow that down, I’m sure you will think it looks a bad tackle.”
Personally, I feel McLeish has a point, but not with the Nasri challenge. Football is a contact sport, we hear it all the time, but if we slow down incidents we could condemn any challenge. As Andy Gray said a couple of weeks ago, every challenge can be perceived as dangerous. Lee Bowyer’s challenge was a red card in super fast motion or super slow motion. However, Alex McLeish does raise a point. There have been challenges this season that the top teams have got away with. Look at Jack Wilshere’s horror lunge on Nikola Zigic and Gary Neville’s slice on Matthew Etherington. Both players got away without punishment in these incidents, but had it been a player with a ‘reputation’ would managers have been more inclined to push the FA into action? We can cast our minds back to September and Arsene Wenger’s interview about tackles in the English game. Wilshere’s must have fallen into his ‘horror challenge category.’
It is definitely something that the FA must look at. Punishing players by television evidence will be good for the game. No longer can players make off the ball elbows, horror challenges or inflammatory gestures and get away with it. Granted, it is not a method of protection, as the player will not be sent off during the game, but it will hold players to account. Cricket has a similar system in place, and the game is played in a hard but fair manner. Football should continue to embrace these disciplinary measures but it must be on a fair playing field. Alex McLeish will lose Bowyer for three games, but Wenger could have lost Sagna for a great deal longer. The FA, in this case, have got it right.
The top managers get the most media coverage, that is something that we have to accept. So if a poor challenge is made on one of their players, they have a larger platform in which to call for action on such an incident. We just have to trust the FA that they do make the right calls on these incidents. The system may not be 100 per cent fair, but our game will be better with, rather than without it.
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