Amid all the fuss and over Chelsea’s Champions League departure, a few words from a former England captain were sickening.
Discussing the fact that nine Chelsea players surrounded the referee to demand a red card for PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, captain John Terry described it as part of the game.
My immediate reaction was of extreme sympathy towards the refs, who are handling local matches, especially kids’ games, at weekends. What on earth do they do if they are surrounded by a bunch of screeching eight-year-olds, because that’s exactly what Chelsea looked like.
I watch amateur football and rugby and have never seen a referee at Bywell Fields, Sands Lane, Halifax Road, or wherever, surrounded by nine players from one team demanding a decision. So really, Terry means it’s part of the game for highly-paid professionals with a demanding manager and no respect for authority.
It’s all very well saying book them or send a couple off but the referee would be said to have lost control, get no support from the authorities and perhaps be even suspended.
So we have to hope this example doesn’t catch on. Conduct can be bad enough on the touchline at amateur games but keep it off the pitch.
Worryingly, having a go at the ref is creeping in at both rugby codes, which were always noted for their discipline. A few former refs must be spinning in their graves at the attitude of players.
Talking of rugby and you wonder where the craftsmen have gone. Teams are so obsessed with size it has taken over from skill and we have no crafty half-backs. They bash away near the line and bring the big blokes onto the ball at full blast.
The fact there are three defenders waiting makes no difference. Then desperation takes over and somebody decides to kick and hope.
At one time props were great handlers, going back a long way to such as Brian McTigue at Wigan. They used to say the front row men had hands like shovels, stuck their backsides out and pushed the ball where they wanted it - and they had to battle for possession in fiercely contested scrums.
There was Kevin Ward, Lee Crooks and Vince Farrar, who wasn’t built like a cow shed but could slip a ball out of multi-tackles like a magician. Don Fox moved up from scrum-half to the front row and his skill stood out.
England have flopped at cricket so out comes the old argument. Bring back Kevin Pietersen.
You would have thought his book criticising team mates would have burned his boats but needs must and he’s the answer to our prayers in the hopeful view of many, despite the fact he’s scored very few runs in the past 18 months.
Mind you, there was food for thought in England’s last World Cup game when Bangladesh were said to have the fastest bowler on either side. Maybe that’s a clue.