Twelve months was all it took. From almost within grasping distance of the cloth Europe’s top table, to dangling over the pit of relegation; finger nails clawing desperately at the ground halting the descent in nick of time. Just how do you explain going from a 5th place finish to 16th in a single season? A mammoth 24pts difference in no more than twelve calendar months. Even by the unwanted historical standards of the Newcastle United rollercoaster, the ascent to descent process has been staggeringly dramatic – but as every ascent can be taken without question, every dramatic descent demands an answer. Unsurprisingly, it’s complicated…
As early as August last year it was becoming apparent that things weren’t running smoothly, but as vociferous attention was draw towards the stuttering lack of investment in the playing staff an equally troublesome problem in the way of squad fitness grew largely unnoticed. In an intentionally bullish season preview in mid-August, it was noted:
“…pre-season preparations for the squad itself have again been lacking finesse. Hastily arranged, then re-arranged fixtures altered destinations drastically – a long-haul to South Africa became neutral friendlies on European soil with a strange frequency. Add into the mix the extended holiday for those on European Championship or international duty and all of a sudden games were falling at inconvenient times to reintroduce players into the cycle. Some players, particularly Marveaux and Steven Taylor gathered valuable playing time – adversely key figures Cabaye and Ben Arfa received mere minutes and once again look unlikely to start the season fully fit.”
The problem was there to be seen, and an early season fixture pile-up involving Europa league qualifiers and a still open transfer window only served to distract eyes from that particular problem. The inability to add players capable of first team duty to the squad in the summer has been lambasted, righty, throughout the season – but through our woeful preparations a ‘paper thin’ squad simply became an ‘unfit, paper-thin squad’. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail…
With this ‘unfit, paper-thin’ squad embarking what ended up being 52 game season, in retrospect it’s little surprise the injuries came thick and fast. Of the 15 remaining players that travelled to Everton on the final game of the 2011/12 season, ten (2/3) suffered injuries during this season which kept them out for more than two consecutive games. Most, and examples come no better than Tiote, Cabaye and Ben Arfa, were plagued by injury and lack of fitness for large portions of the season, if not the entire season itself. Injuries are always to be expected – the case of the desperately unfortunate Ryan Taylor a timely reminder; however the correlation between poorly conditioned players and the extent of injuries is striking – even with the well documented demands of a Europa League campaign which regularly saw a raft of youngsters take to the field in the place of our league starters.
Heavy hope was place upon the youngsters at the fringes who held glowing individual reputations. The likes of Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson had made positive cameos in the season(s) previous and were to have their big chance as the games piled up. However, the big chance turned out to be simply a big ask, as their predominant use in the cup competitions yielded a sour cocktail of nerves, positional indiscipline and flat lack of ability. Simply, it was too much, too soon – the defeats to Bordeaux and Brighton in the cups bringing heavy criticism from Pardew, which was mostly justified. However the expectation placed upon them by using so many youngsters in one go does beg the question of was much more really expected of them? Either way, the hope that the youth would shore up the squad’s lack of investment faded quickly and as injuries arrived to the senior players, the youth mostly entered the fray as nothing more than a name to fulfil the required squad quota.
Injuries were a popular gripe for reigning manager of year Alan Pardew, and at least until the influx of players in January there was sympathy for him. The cracks had spread further than he cared to admit though; a perplexing early season insistence on making a 442 formation work without the benefit of a single winger capable of providing service to the forward line (or a full team for that matter) saw play degenerate into the ugly and direct with the score-lines to match. The problem was the more Pardew persisted the more his eye was drawn away from the fundamentals of why it wasn’t working. His post-match (typically post-defeat) reasoning becoming increasingly desperate, bemoaning lack of fitness and lack of experience on an almost weekly basis in the first half of the season and European participation for almost the entire season, when viable plan A (let alone a plan B) didn’t exist. That is of course unless a viable plan A consists of firing the ball directly to the forwards from depths of 20,000 leagues under the sea…
As said, sympathies could have been offered for much of what he was having to work with, but in blunt truth NUFC were underperforming from the off and never rose above 10th position from as early as the start of October – 6 games into the season. Even when a drastic change of tact presented a Newcastle side playing the ball out from the back to comfortably beat 10 man Wigan (numerical advantage noted) the improvement in play was scrapped in favour of the kick and rush nonsense that had reaped so little reward earlier in the season. And as if the basics of play weren’t failing enough, the specifics in team selection and strategy both before and during games were frankly inexcusable – the personal pinnacle of which saw Shola Ameobi be selected, by choice, to face the carthorse that is Ian Harte in a Reading side that was as weak as any to visit St James’ Park in living memory.
But that was only the surface of the problem. On multiple occasions it appeared from a far that despite working with most of the players for well over a year, Pardew didn’t seem to understand them all quite as much as you’d expect. Natural poacher Papiss Cisse was shoved to right wing; attacker Sylvain Marveaux was deployed in a covering role against the buccaneering Leighton Baines; passing midfielder Vurnon Anita was simply played anywhere – and in one game changed positions no fewer than three time. Jonas Gutierrez and Chieck Tiote can never claim to have been in good form over a reasonable string of games this season and yet were picked without question – Vurnon Anita and Sylvian Marveaux hit form only to be benched or not involved at all.
The players themselves cannot hide either. Alan Pardew and his coaching team has rightly shouldered much of the blame, but at the times he did get the game plan right there was many where he was let down by the indiscipline and astonishing errors of his players. Cheick Tiote turned a stroll in the Stadium of Light into a flat draw; Davide Santon and Steven Taylor went hand-in-hand in personally costing a potential Europa League semi-final place at the real Stadium of Light in Lisbon. The thrashing at home to Liverpool may have had some manager input, but the surrender of the players that day stole the show at a level of effort that no professional should ever sink as low as. It could be argued that by that point even the players had just had enough of the season…
So, where did it all fall down? The simple answer is there isn’t one. Luck with injuries can be countered by the scandalous conditioning and equally scandalous lack of investment at the beginning of the season. The mid-season influx of players can go some way to arguing the squad ended the season strong enough, but how much could have seriously been expected from players that as yet haven’t even been in Newcastle upon Tyne for a full six months? Was too much hope misplaced upon progression of the youngsters or have we only served to terminally destroy the confidence of young lads who were used up in frantic desperation? As the season has drawn to a close, Alan Pardew has received a barrage of criticism – little of which he can claim to be unfair, but those he relies upon have ultimately let him down as much as the reverse is true.
As complex and intertwined the problems have been this season, the simplicity is; aesthetically, statistically and emotionally, it’s been ugly. Ultimately, fortune favoured us enough that a combination of last gasp goals and other team’s ineptitude combined to help us narrowly avoid relegation. And whether they are or not, lessons must be learned save for the next time we’re not fortunate… Good riddance to 2012/13.
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It is often said that a true measure of any person is how they respond in the face of adversity. Some of us are candid enough to admit that they don’t handle pressure particularly well. As Alan Partridge once confessed “Anyone who knows me professionally will know that under pressure my work does suffer”; yet others seem to thrive on it. At Newcastle we perhaps discovered that about many of our players in the aftermath of relegation in 2009. At that point the rats/sinking ship analogy was given a sick note and signed off for 6 months due to exhaustion from overuse. Yet as much as the likes of Duff, Owen, Martins and Bassong showed their true character, we also got to see the true mettle of players like Nolan, Smith, Coloccini, Harper, Gutierrez and others. None of them had done a great deal to impress up to that point but the strength of their character as individuals played a huge part in our ability to come straight back up and deliver a decent first season back in the top flight.
There was something of a changing of the guard in that respect just under two years ago. The “big characters” were moved on or found themselves marginalised. The nature of the dressing room changed and in Coloccini we had a captain who led with calm authority. Not one for barking instructions or putting a rocket up the arse of an underperforming team-mate, Coloccini’s style as captain has been to lead by example. Yes, we were lucky to be relatively injury-free last season but the fact is in 29 of our 38 league games we either kept a clean sheet or conceded just 1 goal. That comes from having a well-organised defensive unit. It cannot be overstated just how important Coloccini was as part of that, both as a player and as a personality.
You can even trace that form through to this season. Far be it from me to speculate as to exactly what has gone on in Coloccini’s personal life but it’s hard not to look at the Liverpool away game in early November as some sort of turning point. Up to then, while we hadn’t been brilliant this season we’d looked fairly solid at the back barring the Man United home game – but I’m going to file that one away under “Shane Ferguson at left back”.
By the time Coloccini returned to the side things were starting to unravel horribly. Shipping 20 goals in 8 games, the defence looked to be a complete shambles, with our captain being one of the worst offenders. Stories emerged about problems in his personal life and we slowly had to come to terms with the compromise that we were going to lose him at the end of the season. Gradually, with his future at the club apparently resolved, Coloccini seemed to return to form and up until his injury against Southampton, the defence started to look a little bit sturdier once again.
However, that most recent absence seemed to coincide with the team beginning to fall apart at the seams. Stories of Pardew “losing the dressing room”, cliques, instability and general unrest. In the aftermath of farcical displays against Man City, Sunderland and Liverpool the silence from the players was deafening. Pardew increasingly a lone voice at the club, aside from the obligatory “We’re gonna win next weekend for the fans” soundbites every week from Shola and Taylor. It wasn’t just media silence, either. Anyone watching the Liverpool game, for example, could clearly see that it was no ordinary defeat – this was more than just a bad day at the office. Players were hiding, they weren’t talking to each other, heads were dropping and no one on the pitch was doing anything to lift their team-mates. It dawned on me after that particular game that we’d pretty much gone through an entire season without hearing from any of the club’s nominated captains. Coloccini retreated completely post-November. Meanwhile other than a few quotes about his own personal exhaustion/depression issues, Yohan Cabaye has basically maintained a very low profile at a time when the club appeared to be in freefall.
Coloccini’s back injury, coupled with the widely-held assumption that he’ll get his wish to return to Argentina this summer, offered Cabaye a window of opportunity – an audition, if you like – to prove himself as a captain. He seems the obvious choice in so many ways: regular first choice player, at the heart of the team, respected (seemingly) by our French (and non-French) contingent – lots of boxes ticked. Yet, and perhaps I’m being harsh, I feel that he’s failed his audition. Just as the team last season seemed to reflect the calm authority of its captain, the team this season has reflected both Coloccini’s chaotic state of mind in the winter and, more recently, the apparent tendency for Cabaye’s head to drop in the face of adversity. Things might be better next season, but that Alan Partridge quote does appear to apply to Wor Yohan to some extent.
Yet, looking around the squad, the alternatives don’t exactly jump out at you. The manic, constantly suspended/injured Tiote? The chaotic gung-ho Steven Taylor? The omnipresent Shola? The barely-speaks-a-word-of-English Sissoko or Cisse? Gutierrez would perhaps be a contender but he doesn’t appear to have either the motivational power of Nolan or the serene aura of Coloccini.
While much has been made of nationality in recent weeks, perhaps it’s character and personality where the real issue is. Effectively this then becomes the main focal point of our summer recruitment. If Coloccini is on his way, we need more “captains” playing for us each week. Otherwise a bad start to next season will prove extremely difficult to turn round.
Author: Paul McIntosh
Follow Paul on Twitter @mcintoshpaul
On Thursday this week the nation’s press will get an opportunity to meet Alan Pardew for the press conference ahead of the West Ham game. Once the horror show against Liverpool has been discussed, talk will turn to player availability for the coming weekend. The excitement will be palpable as we find out which of our knackered players are getting closer to that long-awaited comeback. In other words, it’s Thursday, it’s five to two, it’s time for Knackerjack. A little reference for the teenagers, there…
As is often the case when teams have a disappointing season, the number of crocks in the squad is one of the first lines of defence. Undeniably it has been a factor, certainly compared to last season when Krul, Simpson, Coloccini, Cabaye, Gutierrez and Ba all managed at least 32 league starts and even Williamson’s return to fitness dovetailed almost perfectly with Steven Taylor’s achilles injury. The fact is, injuries barely played a part last season at all. Competing in the sphere of tiny margins as we are, it made a huge difference. Look back through last season’s league games and see how many you can pick out as being truly impressive, exciting victories. Maybe half a dozen, several of which were when Cisse & Ben Arfa hit top form in March/April. Much of what was achieved last season was based on grafting and grinding out points. Taking a battering at Loftus Road, Ewood Park and Old Trafford but escaping with a result, for example. Keeping 19 clean sheets in the process.
Consistent team selection was vital in turning defeats into draws and draws into wins: that’s not rocket science, just as it’s no great revelation to point out that when injuries do bite as they have this season you soon see the impact on results and, eventually, confidence. The hope back in the summer was that our squad players – largely untested last season – would be a year older, a year wiser and ready to step up if needed. What we’ve since learned is the likes of Ferguson, Tavernier, Sammy Ameobi and Bigirimana simply aren’t up to the job, at least not yet.
While injuries can’t be cited as the sole reason for a season of disappointment it would be churlish not to recognise them as being an issue . What is slightly more difficult to ascertain is how well the injuries themselves are being handled by the club.
Let’s look at some examples. Here’s a string of numbers for you: 1, 3, 7, 3, 4, 1, 1. Those numbers represent runs of consecutive league games Cheick Tiote has managed this season. His most recent unexplained knock caused him to miss the game at West Brom ending his “run” of one game. That run consisted of his lethargic, rusty display against Sunderland a week earlier. We know from experience that Tiote takes a good 2-3 games to get fully “warmed up” after an absence. Perhaps it is nothing more than bad luck. Perhaps he really has had seven separate injuries in eight months. Probably nothing more than mischief-making to suggest his injuries are being mis-managed.
How about Hatem Ben Arfa? His hamstring strain in late November seemed to be a bad one. Little was said about an expected recovery date. Then, out of the blue, less than three weeks later he’s back and scoring at Craven Cottage. Subbed on 70 minutes “to protect him for the coming games” according to Pardew. We didn’t see him again for three months. Back he came, again somewhat out of the blue, and straight into the starting XI on the plastic pitch of the freezing Luzhniki Stadium. Again subbed in the second half, again he disappears for weeks afterwards. Over a month later – he reappears once more for the game at home to Benfica. Looking decidedly out of shape, “Fatem” has now made four consecutive cameos and is apparently “on the verge” of starting a game.
Davide Santon; tweaks his hamstring at the (real) Stadium of Light, appears in the starting XI against Fulham three days later, lasts 17 minutes before his hamstring goes completely and his season is over.
Fabricio Coloccini; Another vague prognosis following bone damage in his back. “In contention” for the Sunderland game. “Pencilled in” for the West Brom game. “Return postponed” until the Liverpool game. It goes without saying he missed that one too. Who knows, maybe he could have helped keep it down to 5-0…
Ryan Taylor; desperately unlucky to sustain a horror injury back in August. Back in training this month, building up fitness, when a relapse effectively rules him out of the whole of NEXT season.
Yohan Cabaye; Started the season slowly (after 20 minutes of pre-season game time), missed the horror run of winter form but is now back in the side playing every week despite looking utterly wrecked in the second half whenever he plays. It’s worth noting that we’ve picked up an average of 1.32 points per game when Cabaye starts. Contrast that with 0.62 per game when he’s absent and you can understand the temptation to pick him every time. However, whether he’s carrying an injury or simply lacking in stamina there’s no denying that he looks shot after an hour or so whenever he’s played lately.
I have to reiterate that this could all be nothing but bad luck. However, what’s consistently frustrating from a fan’s point of view is the lack of information (or indeed sheer misinformation) that comes from the club. Are the medical staff handling the injuries properly? Are these delayed returns because the rehabilitation isn’t as it should be? Is Pardew deliberately withholding information in order to facilitate “surprise” returns like those of Ben Arfa? Does Pardew even know when players are due to come back? Is it club policy not to announce when they expect a player back from injury?
One thing that’s true of all football fans, particularly when things aren’t going well, is that they want honesty and clarity from their club. Maybe I’m not reading the right newspapers but I truly don’t know exactly what has been wrong with Tiote this season. I have no idea what led the club to believe that Coloccini might have been almost ready three weeks ago when he’s now a “probable” for the trip to West Ham. No one really seems sure why Ben Arfa was deemed fit to play that game in Russia (taking a month to recover) when anyone in the world could see it was a risk.
The problem when information is withheld or when information is vague is that it gives the impression you don’t really know what’s going on. At a time when growing numbers are questioning Alan Pardew’s ability to do his job I feel that this is one area where he, and the club as a whole, could claw back some ground with the fans. A bit of clarity and openness around the injuries within the squad would have perhaps increased faith in the job Pardew is doing. It might even have encouraged a bit more sympathy for his plight – something he could really do with just now…
Author: Paul McIntosh
Follow Paul on Twitter @mcintoshpaul
This time last year Newcastle were on an upward trajectory. They’d built on a good start based on defensive stability, added some flair and clinical finishing, and maintained their position in the pack chasing the leaders. They’d found a way to play that was effective and suited the personnel, and were pushing for Champions League qualification. Punching at their weight for the first time in years, the club finally seemed to have staff in key areas who were good at their jobs and working together to achieve common goals.
All that has fallen away over the course of a season which has got worse the longer it has gone on. Even if relegation is avoided this term, a continuation of form will rule out a second escape next year. The trajectory the club is following now is one of an airliner that’s lost its bearings, powerdiving towards the sea. We’re assured those on board aren’t following the instruments blissfully unaware of what’s approaching, but are they looking out of the windows powerless and panicking? Either way a change of direction is paramount.
Those few short months have changed the club for the worse. A disappointing summer ended with insufficient reinforcements added to allow the squad to challenge in all competitions. Put another way, the deficiencies of the squad meant that performances in one competition had to suffer to enable progress in another. Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse were swapped from last season, Cisse playing wide with Ba central, in an attempt to keep Ba happy. The switch wasn’t successful in terms of results, and Ba left in January anyway, by which time Cisse had lost the form which had made the side so dangerous in the second half of last season. This contributed to Alan Pardew’s major problem, that tactics which had worked well last season stopped being as effective. Playing on the break away from home failed when at one end of the field the defence was less stable and thus less solid, and at the other the attack’s efficiency, the ability to take more chances than they missed, was reduced too. Newcastle’s away form has been woeful. One win all season in the league, 9 points from a possible 51, is the record of a team not just in trouble but dangling below the trapdoor. Without the three last gasp league game winners at home they would already be deep in trouble.
The heavy derby defeat has focused attention on Alan Pardew. He’s claimed the criticism both of himself and the team since has been unfair. I agree in the sense that a derby thrashing like that necessarily results in reactions being over the top. It doesn’t follow that severe criticism is unjustified however, just that the end of the world many speak of is yet to happen. My own experience of the criticism flying around is that it’s mainly aimed at him, though the players haven’t been entirely immune. We have good players, it’s generally agreed, but we’re regularly outplayed by sides which look less accomplished on paper. This strand of thinking concludes that this has to be the manager’s fault. A new manager would provide a silver bullet for the problems, either through being more tactically astute or by motivating the side better.
As far as motivation goes, good players don’t need a Churchill speech barked at them and to kick a chicken round the dressing room before they’re effective. They just need to be presented with a coherent game plan which they believe in. On the other hand, as Alex Ferguson once said “A manager can talk about tactics but if the players can’t bring that inner beast out of them then he is wasting his time.” A manager isn’t responsible for dragging aggression and energy from his charges, the players themselves should be expected to provide that. Where motivation becomes a problem is when players refuse to perform for a manager they either dislike or don’t respect. Recall the change between Alan Shearer under Ruud Gullit and in Bobby Robson’s first home game in charge. Ineffective for some time transformed into 5-goal superhuman in a couple of weeks. Was the Divine Elbow not trying previously or just so exasperated with a manager he didn’t respect that he’d lost his way? I don’t think Pardew has lost his dressing room, the regularity of last-minute goals pointing towards a team trying to the last, but you’d have to be a member of that group to know for sure. The sea change in Sunderland’s results under Paulo Di Canio from the stagnation of Martin O’Neill shows what a fresh approach or a clean slate (in a footballing sense anyway) can achieve. We won’t find out in their case until next season if it’s a dead cat bounce or a sustainable improvement. My own guess is that the latter is driven in the long term by squad improvement rather than motivational techniques or tactical gambits. After all, didn’t O’Neill himself oversee a remarkable change of form on his arrival, only to see it gradually ebb away?
If that is true, don’t the players have to carry a large proportion of any can going? We’ve convinced ourselves over time that Graham Carr possesses a magic touch in the transfer market, and taking into account the amount of money most of our recent signings have cost he probably does. Could it be that they’re not quite as good as we all think though? Players have been bought, albeit too late to allow an assault on the whole season, without making enough of an impact.
In all this Pardew doesn’t escape censure. He hasn’t been able to gain enough of an improvement from the new recruits. An over-cautious approach invites bad teams up the pitch to attack us. A refusal to play some players or to drop others means we rarely have an-form 11 on the field. An insistence on sticking to favoured formations when the personnel they suit are unavailable has been unproductive. He’s unable to change tactics during a game when they evidently aren’t working. Notwithstanding this, the suggestion that all fault can be laid at his door is unrealistic. I expect him to still be in charge in August, so long as relegation is avoided, the club having repeatedly stated its aim of stability. For the club to prosper next season, there needs to be a more successful summer than last year in terms of recruitment, the players need to step up their level of performance, and Pardew himself needs to address his own weaknesses. It’s asking a lot, but if any of those three strands of the club fail to deliver than change will become necessary.
Author: Mark Brophy
Website: http://markbrophy.wordpress.com/ for a back catalogue of Mark’s writing.
Follow Mark on Twitter @mark_brophy
The FA have announced that no retrospective action is possible on Callum McManaman’s “coming together” with Massadio Haidara in Sunday’s Wigan v Newcastle fixture which left Haidara in hospital, the extent of his injuries as yet unconfirmed. Newcastle and Haidara’s sense of injustice, though enhanced by a performance from referee Mark Halsey which could most charitably be described as incompetent, is based not on displeasure at losing the game. All teams have suffered decisions which have lost them a game here, or a game there. These things do not even themselves out over a season as goes the comfort of the soft-headed, but even so all have fallen victim at one time or another. No, the injustice arises from the tackle, from falling victim to something so evidently, demonstrably wrong and that wrong then going unpunished both on the pitch and off it.
Explaining their standpoint, the FA released a statement:
…in the summer, it was agreed that retrospective action should only be taken in respect of incidents which have not been seen by the match officials.
Where one of the officials has seen a coming together of players, no retrospective action should be taken, regardless of whether he or she witnessed the full or particular nature of the challenge. This is to avoid the re-refereeing of incidents.
In the case of McManaman, it has been confirmed that at least one of the match officials saw the coming together, though not the full extent of the challenge. In these circumstances retrospective action cannot be taken.
Their rule, and it is theirs’ alone, not FIFA’s or UEFA’s, has a gaping hole at its heart. Retrospective action cannot be taken if the match officials have seen the incident. Even if, as in this case, no official saw clearly the full extent of the challenge. In effect the officials have seen the offence enough for there to be no comeback after the event, yet not enough to deal with it at the time. As stated, this is to prevent officials’ decisions being revisited. It certainly isn’t meant to ensure justice is done, if anything this rule is designed to enable the FA to shirk away from confronting mistakes and having to correct them. In this, as in so many other things, the FA fall down in the execution of their responsibilities, and what is worse they do it by choice. They seem to believe that the authority of officials must be protected above all else, even when faced with evidence that this authority has been used incorrectly.
A lot has been said in defence of the tackle itself. There have been a few main threads of this defence. Firstly, McManaman got the ball first before following through into Haidara. Secondly, there was no intent to harm him. Thirdly, McManaman’s youth, the fact he was making his full debut and his fine personal qualities mean we should give him some leeway on this. Finally, these things happen in football and we should all move on.
Any contact with the ball before striking Haidara was fleeting and incidental. Haidara’s only chance of escaping injury was to leap out of the way, something he was unable to do. McManaman was always going to fly into his opponent whether he got the ball or not. The factors which turn a foul deserving of a booking into a straight red are recklessness in endangering your opponent, and the use of undue force in the tackle. I’d argue both those criteria were met in the tackle on Haidara, and that means it doesn’t matter how much of the ball he got.
The arguments regarding the intent in the tackle are puzzling. How can anyone know the intent in McManaman’s mind as he decided to make the challenge? It looked to me like he meant to leave his mark on his opponent at the very least, but that’s my opinion, one I know many will disagree with in the North-West. More importantly his intent and my or anyone else’s opinion on it doesn’t really matter. A footballer has a duty of care, one not to endanger an opponent. By hurling himself into the challenge in this way, McManaman did endanger Haidara. Whether the harm was premeditated or not, it might as well have been because he chose to ignore his duty not to risk the health of his opponent. I’d compare it to drink-driving (obviously not in the scale of its effects). When you choose to drink and drive you relinquish your right to claim you didn’t mean to harm anyone should the worst happen and this is the same.
McManaman’s youth and the fact it was his first Premier League appearance is neither here nor there. He could easily have made it Haidara’s last. Yes, his circumstances will have made him more excited than others on the pitch, but every single player on that pitch at one time made their debut as a youngster and not many of them will have done anything like this. I’m sure he’s full of remorse now, and no doubt helps old ladies across the road when he can. The idea that his character is somehow divorced from his actions is bizarre. He is that kind of player. We have nothing else to go on but what he has done, and 1 hospitalization per Premier League start is one hell of a ratio.
These things do, of course, periodically occur in football. That’s no reason not to criticize and to punish when it does. Much of this might come across as an attack on McManaman himself, but that’s not the purpose of this. He made a bad decision, and should have been punished for it. That’s it as far as he goes. The arguments made here are more against the crass excuses made for him and for everyone who ever finds themselves in his situation. For the part of the FA, does anyone think their governance and disciplinary procedures are anything other than chaotic? Every time a question is asked of the FA they come up short, on any subject it seems. If change is provoked by this then maybe something of worth can be salvaged from a situation which up to now has had nothing to redeem it.
Author: Mark Brophy
Website: http://markbrophy.wordpress.com/ for a back catalogue of Mark’s writing.
Follow Mark on Twitter @mark_brophy
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- Newcastle vs Tottenham: Tactical Preview posted on October 13, 2011 |
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