Football FanCast columnist Richard Buxton feels that Steve Bruce’s words are likely to fall on deaf ears.
Sunderland’s 2-2 weekend draw was dogged in controversy after Kenwyne Jones was sent off after pushing Hammers’ defender Herita Ilunga.
The Congolese defender fell to the ground in spectacular fashion after Black Cats forward Jones had shoved him during a challenge, prompting Andre Marriner to brandish a straight red.
Steve Bruce was understandably outraged at the dismissal after Ilunga had made a meal of the incident, forcing West Ham’s medical team to rush to his aid. The former Manchester United captain believes that top flight officials need to take a leaf out of rugby’s book.
Bruce said: “A rugby player wouldn’t fall over like that; get an ice pack like that, for something as trivial as that. I’m embarrassed by his actions really and would certainly be embarrassed if it was one of my players.
“Fair enough, he’s pushed him but he goes down as if he has been pole axed. Refs have a difficult enough job without all this carry-on which is creeping into our game: this diving, this play-acting, trying to get people sent off.”
Unfortunately these comments will go largely unnoticed by referees’ chief Keith Hackett after a month which saw referees put under the microscope over several decisions; including the Beach Ballgate saga which handed Bruce’s Sunderland all three points against Liverpool.
Liverpool themselves were involved in a stop-start match against Manchester United the following week which saw Marriner acting very whistle-happy as tackles flew in thick and fast. Two red cards were handed out after Javier Mascherano and Nemanja Vidic both committed their second bookable offences.
Rafael Benitez’s much maligned side were on the receiving end of more disciplinary problems when his side travelled to Fulham as Jamie Carragher and Philipp Degen were both sent off. There were similar problems in other Barclays Premier League fixtures at the weekend. When Everton took on Aston Villa, both sides played a highly physical game to cancel each other out leading to frantic feet flying in left, right and centre. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov was sent off for a challenge which in reality only warranted a booking.
The foreign dominance of the game now dictates that a foul now requires continental theatrics, regularly demonstrated by Cristiano Ronaldo during his time at Old Trafford, as standard. Such is the convincing art of the diving that referees don’t know what is real and what is not. Bruce has the right idea about learning lessons from rugby but he should have looked more to the video replay option they have which would clamp down on the play-acting.