Date:Saturday September 20 2008
I thought I`d venture away from the realms of CUFC for this week`s column. Partly as, with our week off, there`s not that much new to talk about and partly as I`m still in a 'reserving judgement` frame of mind, with the season still so young.
Instead, I turned my gaze upon the wider world of football and what caught my eye was the latest debate about referees, red-cards and 'Respect`.
First up let me deal with Danny Guthrie, as the FA clearly have not. It was malicious, premeditated and vicious. Perhaps it was out of character, perhaps it was 'borne out of frustration` but nonetheless Guthrie deserves more than a three match ban.
If we all went around kicking people and breaking legs every time we had a bad day at the office I expect a lot of us would expect nothing less than a P45 in the post. I`m not saying Guthrie should be sacked (bear in mind his club still pay Joey Barton`s wages) but the FA ducking this is issue is almost as cowardly as Guthrie`s 'tackle` itself. As the victim is a former U`s player, I`m sure I`m not alone in wishing Craig Fagan a swift recovery.
Secondly, John Terry. His red-card against Man City has been called 'ridiculous` in some quarters, not least by The Times journalist, Martin Samuel - he of the many bearded chins (though he`s finally found his razor it seems).
Most football fans are familiar with Samuel from his various columns in some of the best selling papers in the land - but I think he called this one wrong.
For those that missed it: after being beaten for pace, John Terry grabbed and hauled down the City striker, Jo, near the half-way line and was given a straight red. The critics argue that Chelsea had two defenders racing back who ensured Terry wasn`t the last defender, therefore not a 'professional foul`, hence shouldn`t be a red card.
There is no such thing as a 'professional foul` in the laws of football. These same laws apply to John Terry and your mate Terry in the Sunday pub league - professional and amateur alike.
What Terry did was cheat. He knew Jo had beaten him and feared the Brazilian would go on and score. He prevented that. Some would say that`s a good instinct for a defender to have. Whatever way you call it, Terry made no attempt to play the ball. His sole intention was to stop the player, by whatever means necessary.
A famous centre-half once distilled a defenders job into a sentence: "You can let the ball go past you; you can let the player go past you - but never both." - Terry, having seen the ball whizz past him ensured the player did not. Cheating, pure and simple.
What the laws of football do say is that preventing a goal-scoring opportunity, by way of a deliberate foul is a red-card offence. Making this call with the player on the half-way line would take a brave man, especially against the England captain, but referee Mark Halsey made that call.
The FA proceeded to completely undermine him by rescinding the red card. No doubt Halsey will end up refereeing in League Two as a 'punishment` next week. Terry? He`ll be back for an early 'title deciding` clash with Man Utd. Coincidence? Don`t bet on it.
I`ll admit it, I`m a hardliner. I`d even book players for appealing for throw-ins they know aren`t theirs (so annoying and dishonest). The apologists I debate this with inevitably end up at some point saying the same thing: "But it`d end up as five-a-side!"
What is this excuse? Peel back the layers and essentially it means: "They just get away with it, so we should just let them." Is this the thin edge of the same wedge that says: "Everyone else is cheating, we should too. Pass the steroids." The extreme end of the same thing - cheating is cheating.
Perhaps it would end up as five-a-side for a week or two (actually not possible under the laws. For my fellow pedants, each team has to have a minimum of seven players before the game is abandoned) but the players would soon learn.
Cheating = losing. That`s how it should work. Cheats never prosper and even if they do, as in the case of drugs cheats, they`re caught and punished, eventually.
Turning a blind eye to these incidents, hushing it up as 'part of the game` or 'taking one for the team` is just as bad.
Another argument is that if Terry had done it in an England shirt there`d have been far less hullabaloo. Perhaps. We all know that the partisan blinkers can have an amazing effect on one`s judgement - just ask Arsene 'I didn`t see it` Wenger.
We shouldn`t let club loyalties blur the issue though. We all love football as a 'man`s game`: crunching tackles; head in where it hurts; blood and thunder for 90 minutes plus - but cheating, diving and cynical fouls like Terry`s should have no place in the game.
Date:Saturday September 20 2008
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