I interviewed new Baggies boss Alan Pardew for talkSPORT last week and it was a surprise but, nonetheless a pleasure, to hear him talk about how the art of defending is disappearing.
Any week you on Match of the Day you can see highly paid so called defenders turning their backs when a free kick is taken or ducking their head when jumping to challenge a striker for the ball.
Yet even worse and something I detest is so called tough defenders going down with minimal contact and then rolling around pretending to be injured. I don’t know if you have noticed but it would also appear that the fair, within the laws, shoulder charge has all but disappeared from the game.
Do we really want a game with minimal contact? Having said that nobody wants to see players deliberately trying to injure an opponents with over the top tackles and they should be dealt with retrospectively and severely.
However surely we all want to see a game with genuine physicality and tough tackling? But to have that we need honesty from players and managers and for me therein lies the problem. We are all very quick to judge the referee and shift all the responsibility for honesty in the game onto his or her shoulders. Players cheat and then quite openly say “I gave the referee a decision to make”. Which leads nicely onto the diving and cheating that goes on in the game in all divisions but in my opinion even more so in the Premier League. However I accept that the media scrutiny and spotlight might make it appear that way.
Many wrongly think that diving only occurs when you have not been touched by an opponent. I would extend that to those who go over at the most minimal of contact and roll over and over holding whatever piece of their anatomy they think will most convince the referee that it was a serious foul.
Isn’t it embarrassing to also see the Physio and club doctor run on to the pitch and “treat” these con artists?
We were told that the FA were intent on cracking down on players who dive or whatever they call it? Eradicating simulation or trying to deceive the officials? Most supporters thought it was fantastic news and eagerly awaited a more honest game. However it is as bad as it ever was and yet nothing appears to be done retrospectively as they promised. Without any doubt or argument any player found guilty of diving, whether or not he won a penalty or was responsible for an opponent being red carded or not, should be retrospectively punished.
Furthermore, in my opinion, any club whoever it is who is found guilty of their players diving on four or more occasions in any one season should be deducted 3 points. I say four occasions but it could be three four, five or six but it has to be a number that puts fear into clubs whether they be fighting for a European place or fighting relegation
This is the only way you will eradicate this malaise of the game. However the reality is it will never happen because the Premier League in reality run the game although the FA believe they do. The Premier League generate all the revenue and simply would fight any changes that would be likely to upset the big clubs in my opinion.
Just look at the comments of Stoke boss Mark Hughes after his team’s defeat by West Ham United that left me angry and disappointed yet not really that surprised. One of the Hammers players had dived without any contact whatsoever and although Hughes was angry with the referee he actually called the player “clever”. The word I am sure he was looking for was “cheat”. Why are managers so reluctant to criticise other clubs players for diving? Well in my opinion it’s simple; because they would want their own player to do exactly the same given the opportunity.
And surely the players can make a stand or are they complicit with the manager in believing that cheating is OK because its “professional” In days gone by and I don’t mean ancient history but even in early premier league days players would sort out their own issues in the dressing room without the manager present. Players who were shirking, not trying, not focused, not concentrating would be told in no uncertain manner that it was unacceptable and to sort themselves out for the good of the team. However on the pitch those same players would encourage and help him through a game but would still remind him of his responsibilities. They were a team on and off the pitch even if one or two may not have liked each other when it came to winning games they were in it together. The question I would like answered is where does it start in a players career-where does it become the norm to cheat? Is it academy days, development squad, or first team? Severe punishment is what will stop it and not just a financial punishment.
However players who deliberately try to injure opponents should also be severely punished. At the weekend two Spurs players should have been given a red card Dele Ali and the media darling Harry Kane for shocking tackles in their game against Manchester City. The FA should look at that and other such tackles and retrospectively ban the players even if the referee only issued a yellow card during the game.
It is time to stop the referee from having too much to think about and allow him to concentrate on spotting those tackles that are dangerous to the safety of the opponent and dives that are dangerous to the credibility of the game.
Can I take this opportunity to wish you and yours the safest and merriest of Christmas’s whatever your teams colours.
Thanks for reading my rants and diatribes over the last year. What an up and down 12 month’s it’s been after starting so full of promise and expectation. The managerial merry go round has been non-stop in this area. So what would our clubs like for Christmas?
Blues boss Steve Cotterill and Baggies boss Alan Pardew I am sure would each love a selection box of chances, goals and points please.
Villa boss Steve Bruce would like an injury free second half of the season with Jonathan Kodjia and John Terry fit again.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo would like an injury and suspension free second half of the season.
And I am sure they would all like their owners to say yes to signings when the transfer window opens-Over to you father Christmas.