11 April 2009

A few points, or maybe 30

I wonder what punishment will eventually go Cardiff City's way after the despicable coin-throwing incident of last weekend's Wales derby?

The referee, Mike Dean, was hit on the head by a coin - a pound coin, no less, so the Welsh prat who threw it must have been flush - and suffered a bad cut. He noticeably lost his balance and had to hold on to the Swansea City player he was speaking to at the time, who immediately saw the rushing blood and called for medical help.

When some lunatic Italian threw a coin at Anders Frisk in a Champions League tie a few years back after he had the gall to send off a Roma player, Frisk was so badly cut that he was unable to continue and, afterwards, he retired forthwith from refereeing. Roma were hit hard, conceding the tie 3-0 and being told to play their next two home matches behind closed doors. The money lost from a Champions League exit and two gateless matches is substantial.

This is something that needs to be meted out to Cardiff City - the docking of points and the closure of their ground for a match or two. They have a renowned hooligan element, who don't let anything like Welshness get in the way of their targets. They misbehave everywhere they go, publicly and shamelessly, and not enough is ever done about it. I don't suppose for a moment that the coin was aimed for Dean, who was not having a controversial time of it at all, but the Swansea player to whom he was chatting during a break in play. However, there does seem to be an extra impetus on getting the culprit and punishing those responsible when an official, rather than a player, is the victim.

Fans are often the party who feel the punishment when a club is docked points, even when it is not their doing. Luton Town fans booed Lord Mawhinney of the Football League as he shook hands with their players at Wembley on the same day as the Cardiff horror, as the League were responsible for taking 30 unrecoverable points from them at the start of the season for various administration and regulation blunders, thereby ending their season - and guaranteeing the lost of their Football League status - before it had even started. This is a prime example of when clubs get punished for the actions of buckmakers in charge who care nil about the club itself, and the supporters - the thick and thin travellers and emotional investors - feel the real heartache from it. It still stinks to high heaven.

But when a fan is responsible for the transgression - and this always mean violence or some form of disorder - then the only way to prove it is taken seriously is to hand out a punishment that affects this idiot's fellow fans. Maybe if Cardiff City, an ambitious club with a good manager, are denied a play-off place for the Premier League as a direct and clear consequence of one crazed man's actions then the rest of their hooligan element, assuming they do care for their club in the way they care for making bother, might finally start to grow up.

If Luton, who at least won the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley and therefore have something tangible to show for this season, can be docked 30 points and basically sentenced to a slow, agonising and humiliating death for essentially ticking a few incorrect boxes on a form, then Cardiff City can be docked any wild number of points for further ruining their already rubbish terrace reputation by allowing someone into the ground whose intention was to injure a participant on the field of play. If just a fine is handed out then the world, and football in England, has gone utterly insane.

For his part, Mike Dean went up in my estimation. He's a referee who sometimes gets it wrong on the pitch and I've felt directly hurt by decisions or non-decisions of his in the past, but I liked the fact that he let his emotions go and slammed the coin down on the turf in pique as he received treatment from the physiotherapists.

9 April 2009


I would like to apologise profusely to the listeners of 106.5 Central Radio, the Preston station where I have been covering breakfast this week.

There has been a gas leak all week which has shut the northbound Victoria Road, a major thoroughfare out of Preston, and all I and my two on-air colleagues have done during the programme is giggle at the expression "gas leak".

'Cause, like, it could be a fart, couldn't it? Hurhurhurur etc. Deeply puerile and unfunny, I know.

Laughing at a situation which is causing strife for many loyal listeners is not professional. I am ashamed. You'll be thrilled to learn I have only one programme left of my cover, and as that falls on Good Friday, you probably won't need to be up and tuned in for traffic news anyway.

Thank you. If ever I have to use "gas leak" on the radio again, I promise not to be so infantile.

(Do I bollocks...)

7 April 2009

The Clough gets going

I've not been to see The Damned United, despite my deep interest in the subject matter, because I simply can't do cinemas. I'll wait for a televised showing or the DVD. The shadow of Kingpin lives on...

It's nice to read reviewers and bloggers (try F-C for starters) state their fascination or admiration or empathy with Brian Clough, despite being self-confessed non-footballists. I never watched any team I followed, either with heart (Hull City) or through work (others), against a Brian Clough side and that is a genuine regret.

The thing I love most about Clough is the wonderful paradox between his personality and his work. For all his bluster and ego, his charm and arrogance, he was a man who encouraged football in its simplest form. Pass and move, keep it low ("if God had wanted us to play football in the clouds he'd have put grass up there"), always maintain possession and don't be afraid of making the ball work for you. He didn't complicate things because he felt the game deserved to be viewed in its purest form. The fact that entertainment was a priority to him, when we consider just how much playing for the crowd is sacrificed today for asphyxiating football that benefits only the fearful coach playing for percentages rather than plaudits, says everything - and the fact that he won League titles, European Cups and League Cups without altering his principles shows him off for the genius he was.

His emphasis on discipline and self-respect was evident too - rarely were his players booked and almost never was there a sending off, while Roy Keane famously got bollocked and dropped after committing the heinous crime of celebrating a winning goal in an FA Cup quarter final tie by turning a single somersault. It was not the way to conduct yourself, even in glee, concluded Clough.

His other big principle would make players baulk today - the acceptance of refereeing decisions, even if they were blatantly wrong or expensive to his team's chances. Two infamous incidents leap to mind; when a referee gave a penalty that wasn't in the 1984 UEFA Cup semi final which ended Forest's long run in the competition; and the notorious pair of clattering tackles Paul Gascoigne put in on Forest players in the 1991 FA Cup final. For all the injustice, nobody complained on either pitch at the time, and while Clough voiced his disappointment afterwards (much longer afterwards), he put the decisions down to human error which referees had to be entitled to make.

The fact that the 1984 ref took a bribe from Forest's opponents, we later learned, was neither here nor there at the time...

6 April 2009

Tooth and nail

More than 1,000 people complained about Clare Balding telling the winning Grand National jockey Liam Treadwell, live on the BBC, that he could now afford to get his teeth fixed, asking him to open his mouth so everyone could see his crooked gnashers.

Treadwell himself has already said he could not give a toss, thereby showing far more sportsmanship and humour than any of the pillocks who rang the BBC.

Balding, arguably the most versatile sports broadcaster working in television today, was probably a little misguided in highlighting a less flattering part of Treadwell's physical appearance. But honestly, the people who sit by their televisions and radios "waiting" to be offended really get on my nerves.

What on earth makes them think they are entitled to get upset on behalf of someone else? Someone they don't even know? Balding is an ex-jockey and a lifelong horsewoman who knows everyone in the fraternity - did it not occur to these lifeskill-lacking doofuses that it might be a running gag between them?

I've heard Treadwell say on 5 Live today that he knew it was a gag, didn't especially care about it and had far more to celebrate than he had to regret. More to the point, he wasn't offended. He wasn't offended then, he isn't now. So everyone who moaned can now be quiet and concentrate on sticking their snouts into something else which doesn't concern them.

I wonder if they've rung the BBC every time someone has commented on Janet Street-Porter's oversized teeth? Or maybe they think Steptoe & Son should never be broadcast again because occasionally the dad gets his rotting dentures out and the son insults him over it.

And you know what? I reckon by the time we see Treadwell again at a grand public occasion, he probably will have had his teeth done. I would therefore expect the thousand-plus folk who felt compelled to look up the number of the complaints department to instantly ring back the BBC and insist Balding gets a rise.