NUFC Worries? We Didn’t Know The Half Of It
Since the euphoria of that last minute header by Papiss Cisse to put us through to the Europa quarter-finals it’s been a tough week to be a Newcastle fan. Confirmation that we’ll have to do without Hatem Ben Arfa for the rest of the season was a blow. Yohan Cabaye missing out at Wigan through injury then losing Matthieu Debuchy to a hamstring strain so early in the same game was a worry.
Worries? We didn’t know the half of it!
The brutal, knee-high studs-up challenge by Callum McManaman on Massadio Haidara was a horrible sight. The kind of challenge that sent a shudder through other players on the pitch, reflected in the noticeable drop in pace of the game for the remainder of that half. It was hard to accept that McManaman was still on the pitch – somehow, and I accept that these things happen, none of the officials in attendance had seen the foul. That had to be the case, surely? If any of them had seen it, Wigan would be down to ten men.
In the context of the game this is hugely frustrating, of course. Knowing that a player on the opposing team is on the pitch when he shouldn’t be. The thought that he will almost certainly face a retrospective punishment is scant consolation as Haidara makes his way to hospital, but at least it gives some sense that justice will be served, albeit belatedly.
To rub salt in the wounds of course, as that very same game crept into injury time we had to sit and watch as Maynor Figueroa blatantly and decisively punched the ball in the build up to what proved to be the winning goal for Wigan. A sickening conclusion to a sickening fixture at a venue that has an unhappy knack of kicking us in the knackers.
The handball incident has almost been lost in the subsequent din, as if accepted as par for the course when we go to Wigan. Instead, all eyes have been on the FA as we waited for them to hand McManaman his punishment. That they concluded he could not be retrospectively punished was absolutely incredible yet, somehow, because it was the FA it really wasn’t all that surprising was it? Relying on the FA to handle things properly is more or less tantamount to relying on the lottery to pay off your mortgage.
All that rage at Wigan on Sunday. That gigantic sense of injustice at a crime allowed to go unpunished. Reduced within 48 hours to just another item on the long list of failures by an antediluvian organisation that has its priorities all wrong. We weren’t the first victims of this hopeless process and we won’t be the last. You might recall the anger expressed by Roberto Martinez two years ago after another incident at Dave Whelan’s little grief hole in Lancashire. Wayne Rooney appeared to run 30 yards directly towards James McCarthy (who had his back to the rapidly approaching Shrek). As Rooney “ran past” McCarthy he quite deliberately smashed his arm across the back of his head, knocking him over in the process. Because the referee noticed this apparent “accidental collision” out of the corner of his eye, the incident was in the match report therefore no retrospective action could be taken.
It’s a truly absurd situation designed for one reason only – to protect the integrity and reputation of officials, with justice for clubs, fans and the players on the pitch somewhere further down the list.
No one is asking (well except perhaps for an idiot minority) for referees to be able to see every single incident that happens in a game. Even with four, five, six match officials on and around the pitch they are all human and every now and then they’ll make an error of judgement or miss something entirely. This is just how it goes sometimes. What is totally unacceptable however is a system that does not make any allowance whatsoever for those facts. A system seemingly built upon the assumption that errors of judgement are never made. It’s utter, utter nonsense! The statement issued by Derek Llambias summed up that sentiment very well and did so in a calm, measured way which unfortunately has to be the point where we draw a line under the whole matter.
From the moment Callum McManaman escaped a red card on the day we lost any chance as a club to experience real justice for that foul. From that point on we were reliant upon the Flawed Administration of the FA to issue a punishment. All we can do now is move on, hope that young Haidara isn’t as badly injured as first feared, and prepare for an extremely busy April.
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