Monday, January 9, 2012
Human nature. Damned thing. Personally I think certain people this week forgot it even existed.
A plethora of footballing figures have been affected by the bastardisation of human nature – and as far as I can tell only Mick McCarthy comes out of it all with any credit.
McCarthy, Frank Lampard, Joey Barton, Neil Warnock, Bradley Johnson and a collection of match officials have, to varying degrees, taken centre stage during yet another depressing week for our game.
I’ll start with Messrs Barton, Warnock and Johnson, the key figures in Monday’s farce at Loftus Road, with supporting roles from referee Neil Swarbrick and his assistant, David Richardson. First, a quick recap of the script: Barton and Johnson have a disagreement, like two young bucks in the midst of a rutting season they come together, head to head. Barton twitches first, Johnson moves away, does a quick examination for any damage and, rather later than everyone anticipated, Mr Swarbrick is alerted by his assistant to the aforementioned confrontation.
Gist of conversation?
Assistant: “Joey’s only gone and headbutted him, or at least he looked like he did – silly so and so. Will he ever learn?”
Swarbrick: “That’s a straight red then. What about Johnson?”
Assistant: “No, he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Off goes Barton to Tweet his discontent to the world. Post match Warnock says things about Johnson that, if it hadn’t been a football situation, might well be one for the legal beagles, for whom words like cheat and con are bread and butter.
Ten minutes before this was being played out at Loftus Road, there was controversy at Molineux, after the squeaky clean Frank Lampard crunched into Wolves’ Adam Hamill. It was a horrible tackle, one which deserved a straight red, no question. Lampard knew he was to be punished, but when referee Peter Walton pulled out a yellow card the reaction from Wolves boss McCarthy was one of absolute incredulity. Don’t forget, he’d seen his midfielder, Nenad Milijas, sent off by Stuart Attwell for a far less dangerous tackle on Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta six days earlier.
Did Barton’s previous come back to haunt him? Did the referee, subconsciously, decide that it was Joey Barton, therefore it must have been a head-butt, it must have been an aggressive act?
Did human nature come into play?
Did Lampard escape the red card he deserved because he is generally perceived to be a fair player, because he rarely causes problems for referees? Did Mr Walton have that at the back of his mind when he let him off? And the fact he plays for Chelsea?
Did human nature come into play?
And what of Milijas, a player who, with all due respect, most of us wouldn’t recognise: was he dealt with unjustly because of who he is, because he plays for Wolves, and because the other party was a well-known footballer who wears an Arsenal shirt for a living?
Did human nature come into play?
This isn’t “have a go at a ref” day – more, why don’t we understand the difficult situations they work under? They’re only human.
Managers of big clubs wield lots of power. People listen to them, people in authority. The manager and the club is important. Some more than others. But can match officials avoid the presence of that little devil on their shoulder that tells them not to upset the big cheeses? Does the cumulative effect of dozens of post match tirades from angry managers eventually erode the senses at the very back of their minds?
I do feel there is something in the claim that big clubs get away with things more often than the so-called smaller ones. It’s a reputation thing. Which is perhaps why Barton was punished with a red card and then failed to have it overturned on appeal.
• HOW CAN YOU CONFUSE GRANT HOLT AND POOR OLD PAT?
Grant Holt and Pat Butcher, she of the large ear-rings and death bed scene in Eastenders.
Bet you never thought you’d see their names in the same sentence, let alone hear them lumped together on radio.
Hearing them discussed by Talksport’s former footballer turned racehorse trainer turned pundit Micky Quinn this week was somewhat surreal, especially as it came at the end of a programme on fishing, presented by Keith Arthur.
Here’s what the drive to work was interrupted by ...
Quinn: ”I was very upset last night. I watched Eastenders. Fat Pat died. I didn’t know whether I was more upset with United or City getting beat or Fat Pat dying. I love Fat Pat.”
Keith Arthur: “I tell what I did say this morning – Grant Holt is the current generation’s Micky Quinn, isn’t he?”
Quinn: “Is he? I thought you were trying to compare Grant Holt with Fat Pat. I didn’t know where you were going there.”
Keith Arthur: “He’s a large player, he’s a stocky player, he puts himself about. He’s not over-big, he’s not over-fast.”
Quinn: “I have to say he does a bit more than I did – he holds the ball up well.”
Fortunately, the conversation ended right there. Grant Holt, Pat Butcher, Micky Quinn – too bizarre.
• THAT’S COMMON AS MUCK, LUIS
Luis Suarez used the word “negro” seven times in around two minutes, according to the FA commission report which investigated, and found him guilty of, racism against Patrice Evra.
That’s SEVEN times.
Suarez says the word is commonly used in his homeland of Uruguay. If that’s the case, one assumes Liverpool staff would have heard him use it before, on the training pitch or in the dressing room. If it’s common usage you’d expect that, wouldn’t you?
Did nobody think to tell him it wasn’t acceptable language in this country? Or did they ignore it?
I suspect we know the answer, given the club’s vehement defence of the player.
• HOWARD’S WAY
Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard didn’t look much like a shock goal scorer when his long punt bounced over Adam Bogdan and into the back of the Bolton net on Wednesday night.
Howard benefited by the sort of winds which made me think I was going to see next door’s car come flying through my window any time soon, although I have to say the bounce that took the ball over Bogdan’s head was extraordinary.
But he looked like one of those chaps who has just scored against a beloved former club and refuses to celebrate. He hadn’t he just felt sorry for Bogdan – a remarkable example of the way the goalkeepers’ union works. I found it rather touching.
• STONE ME . . .
Headline of the week on the football circuit has to be from Watford’s official website.
Relating the tale of two young players who have had their loans at neighbours Wealdstone extended, www.watfordfc.com wrote “Youngsters Stay Stoned”.