After Manchester City had beaten Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final, I was keen to soak up any footage I could of the day, and stumbled onto youtube. On there, the FA had uploaded a video showing a tunnel-cam throughout the day, a look behind the scenes. It was strangely hypnotic, devoid as it was of commentary. Players arriving, managers chatting, Robbie Savage chatting to Micah Richards for some reason, and then Paul Scholes being led to the dressing room by an official after being sent off.
It was that moment that an old thought popped back into my head. It’s always the little things that I spend too long dwelling on, the banal details behind the action, and there is one utterly insignificant thing that has always intrigued me (and probably no one else).
What does a player do when he is sent off?
Does he sit there in full kit, awaiting the arrival of the other players so that he can apologise? Does he wait by the door ready with a spirited invective about how hard done to he was? Does he get the bath running? Does he get changed and go and sit on the coach? Or just hide from the “gaffer”?
It must be a lonely place to be. Imagine being sent off after 5 minutes, and having to sit there for 40 minutes stewing on what you have done and how it has probably cost your team. Take Neil Taylor of Swansea, who as I type has been sent off for after 90 seconds in a crucial play-off semi-final game. He’s got a long 45 minutes ahead of him in the dressing room. Maybe red-carded players dig out their massive headphones and listen to yet more music – footballers seem so obsessed with listening to music that they are usually still doing it when they get off the coach, when they wander into the dressing room, and no doubt when they are putting their kit on.
I always thought that dressing rooms (of wealthy clubs at least) would have TVs, so that the match could be watched in there. But Manchester City put their own tunnel cam video on the official website this week showing the night of the Spurs match, and Wilson Palacios, off injured in the first half, could be seen loitering around the tunnel area in the 2nd half watching the game on a monitor. Couldn’t he have just gone back to the bench?
What struck me most about the video though was the friendliness between the players. I don’t expect them to blank the opposition, but as they lined up to go on the pitch, the scene was far more relaxed than I imagined. Harry Redknapp stopped for a chat with Mike Summerbee, Dzeko was catching up on old times with Modric and Corluka (I think it was them), and Shaun Wright Phillips and Defoe were reunited after what was clearly too long apart.
And am I overreacting to see a Spurs player smiling as he walked down the tunnel after the game? Probably.
There’s a famous clip, widely available on youtube, of the tunnel before a Manchester derby a good few years ago. Peter Schmeichel is by this time the City keeper, and he goes up the line of United players, shaking hands, meeting old friends. Then he gets to Gary Neville, the captain at the front, and Neville, sporting his hard-man face, totally blanks a rather bemused Schmeichel.
Just pumped up for the match perhaps, focused, a true professional. Because clearly shaking an opponent’s hand will destroy his focus and drain away his ability. And to him, Schemichel had done the unthinkable, and joined THEM. Neville reinforced what most think of him anyway, and his majestic levels of concentration didn’t work. City won.
But back to that City v Spurs match, and briefly away from the hectic tunnel. This week saw another bug-bear of mine. Why oh why to some fans is virtually every other match now a “must-win” game?! This is especially true near the end of the season of course. This week I heard endless times how Manchester City v Spurs was a must-win game for City. It was nothing of the sort. If they had lost, they still would have been 4th. If they had lost at home the following week, they would still have been 4th. Even if they had failed to beat Bolton on the last day of the season, it was conceivable that other results would mean they would still finish in 4th. Must-win games are just that – games that, without any doubt, HAVE to be won, MUST be won. As I said, it’s the banal things that get to me.
On Saturday, you could perhaps argue that the FA Cup final for City (and City) is a “must-win” game. The big question is this though: how will Tony Pulis pull off a baseball cap/suit combo for the FA Cup Final? And while I am on the subject of suits –how pathetic are managers who wear a nice suit on match-days just when the big boys are in town? It’s like getting the expensive china and cutlery out when your wealthiest friends are coming round for dinner. Your other friends can eat out of a bowl.
Anyway, whatever happens in the FA Cup final, the tunnel-cam video will again be a must-see. It’s the future of entertainment, trust me. I just look forward to the day they do dugout-cam and manager’s office-cam.
FootballFanCast.com WORLD Exclusive, Robbie Savage’s Face in a Baby Scan