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- Alex Paylor -

Published: Oct 4 98

No More Dell Hell, Arsene Whinger, and Tunnel Vision

After three horrible losses on the trot at the Dell, it was great to see United shake off the Southampton curse on Saturday. It was especially good to see a second consecutive match in which Jesper Blomqvist ably deputized for Ryan Giggs. The Welsh winger’s absence, along with those of Schmeichel, Scholes and Johnsen, gave me cause for concern before the kick off, but our squad is finally strong enough to cover such absences.

I suppose the assembled media went home disappointed, having seen their hopes dashed of adding another chapter to the "United fall apart at the Dell" saga.

And I wondered what the man from the Mirror would make up after watching the Men in Black take apart Davey Jones fish out of water this weekend. After all, telling the truth has never been the Mirror’s style, and since the BSKYB takeover bid began, the Mirror has worked overtime on trashing the Old Trafford team. To wit, the Mirror’s assertion in Thursday’s rag that a Jaap Stam blunder led to the last gasp equalizer by Bayern in Munich last week. Well, unless our new Dutch boy exchanged shirts with Schmeichel, and grew some blond hair in rapid fashion, it was Peter’s faux pas which led to Bayern tying it up at the death. But that wouldn’t fit with the Mirror’s editorial decision to slam Stam at every turn, would it, so their reporter decided to blame the defender to follow the company line.

What a waste of trees.

Last week I wondered in this space if David Beckham was ever going learn to control his propensity for retaliation. His performance in Munich didn’t go any distance toward persuading me he would. A more alert officiating crew would have surely have caught his errant elbow and the media would have had another field day reporting on another Beckham red card. Of course, a more alert officiating crew would have caught the fact at least 2 of the passes in the build-up to Bayern’s first goal were offside.

But Beckham should be aware that referees all over will have seen him getting away with his flying elbow at Munich, and his inexcusable stamping on Stephen Hughes at Highbury recently, and will be vigilant in future games, and that could spell trouble to come. He will already miss the next Champions League match versus Brondby thanks to the accumulation of two yellow cards and to miss further matches due to indiscipline would be shameful.

 A Little French Whine.

Arsenal’s manager is finally finding out what it is like to be at the top. Everybody wants to knock you down. News comes this week of Arsene Wenger’s belief that jealous rivals are kicking his club to pieces and referees are less than sympathetic.

Wenger’s nez is out of joint for a number of reasons, not the least of which is referee Paul Alcock’s refusal to even discuss Martin Keown's appeal at being sent off at Sheffield Wednesday last week.

He also claims opposing teams try to "do and provoke" his compatriot international Patrick Vieira. And he further claims they’re picking on poor little Dennis Bergkamp as well. Now we all know Dennis wouldn’t hurt a fly - if he thought anyone was looking.

Wenger claims Berkgamp was grabbed by the throat at one time during that infamous match at Sheffield Wednesday, while Nicholas Anelka was sent flying. Good job Berkgamp wasn’t sent flying, eh Arsene, because we all know how Dennis feels about flying.

Wenger continues "The opposition always physically attack us and we are always getting hounded or our shirts pulled. The second half at Wednesday was appalling."

Listen, Mr. Whinger, what is really appalling is your clubs disciplinary record, not just this year but ever since you took charge at Highbury. Last year they were among the worst in the Premier League in terms of yellow and red cards. And this year your lot look like setting new lows in the sportsmanship department. The record reads three sendings off and 19 yellow cards in the first six weeks of this season.

These facts obviously mean nothing to the head Gooner though. Before Sunday’s game against Newcastle he moaned "We are not a dirty side. When we play Newcastle on Sunday they'll be talking about Ruud Gullit and his sexy football and us playing dirty football."

The whining doesn’t stop there. Wenger says "We are not getting any protection or understanding from referees. There have been incidents in which other teams have targeted us, and in particular Patrick Vieira. Other players are trying to do him and provoke him because of his temperament. I have spoken to him long and hard about the situation and he knows he has a problem. Patrick has got to learn to be professional."

And there’s even more.

"I know teams are trying twice as hard against us because we are champions and I accept that. But I feel we have not been treated fairly and it is the right moment to speak up. I have seen the Sheffield Wednesday match twice and what they did to Tony Adams at corners was like rugby. We need semi-professional referees and certainly a second official on the pitch."

Right on Arsene. Two referees on the field. As if your players don’t have trouble enough getting away with dirty play with just one ref out there.

Tunnel Tussles.

Vierra is being looked at by the disciplinary gods for allegedly pushing a police officer (bright lad isn’t he) after the match at Hillsborough. I know there have been many after the match incidents in football but it seems to be becoming a trendy. This weekend alone there were two post match tunnel incidents.

Spurs captain Sol Campbell and teammate Colin Calderwood face FA bans after one incident at Derby on Saturday. And there is also the possibility of criminal charges arising from the bust-up in the tunnel at Pride park in which County’s Francesco Baiano and two stewards were also involved.

Dermot Gallagher was the referee in charge of that game and details of what happened by now have formed part of his match report. Gallagher says he didn’t actually see what happened with his own eyes, but security staff reported it to him and told him the police were going to deal with it.

Hold on a minute Dermot. If you didn’t see it, then how can you possibly include it in your report? In court it would be branded hearsay and thrown out as evidence. If the FA want to know about it then they should request a copy of the police report. It’s dangerous to rely on second hand evidence and I would hate to think the FA finds it any more reliable than the courts do.

The second incident this past weekend involved Paul Ince and Graeme Le Saux at the end of the Liverpool-Chelsea fixture on Sunday. The two apparently had an angry confrontation in the tunnel at the end of the rough contest. It probably didn’t help that the match was officiated by the card happy Graham Poll. 7 players were booked in the match, and Poll refused passionate ‘Pool penalty appeals after Karlheinz Riedle went down in the Chelsea penalty area. Now refusing Liverpool a penalty shout at Anfield is dangerous enough. As I said last week, the Anfield penalty is part of the game’s folklore, and it is blasphemy to turn down a spot kick claim in front of the Kop.

Anyway, as Ince and Le Saux came off the field they apparently had a little discussion about some of the referee’s decisions. Being with different teams they agreed to disagree, and rumour has it more than words were exchanged. Poll at least has the grace to admit he didn’t see any of what happened in the tunnel so his report will not include any mention of the incident. Take note Mr. Gallagher.

So we are now in a two-week hiatus while the England squad prepares for its next European Nations Cup qualifier. No doubt there will be plenty of nonsense come out of the England camp to supply ammunition for next week’s Reditorial. With Glen Hoddle still in charge how could it be otherwise?

Just a quick note to thank all of those who have written to the Devils Advocate, either through email or through the Guestbook here. Getting feedback makes the writing all the easier, and more pleasurable. So take a few minutes to drop me a line. Your thoughts are always welcome.


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