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KeOwn goal

6 years ago

Remember the days, which some say were good and old, but were usually inept and hopeless, when we knew that Newcastle United were going to be on Match of the Day because of the dodgy looking scaffold in what was left of the Leazes end?

And the team would run out without a blue star on their chests? It also meant we would probably lose.

Not like that these days. Now there are cameras everywhere. Bournemouth had to move fans to accommodate the cameras needed for the media.

I might have missed a trick, but I’m pretty sure these fans are more important than the folk like me who are just watching on TV. But without cameras everywhere, how would we possibly get to see the same event eight times in slow motion, allowing us to definitively make our judgement about the split second decisions made by referees?

And after Saturday’s Newcastle v Arsenal match, how would we be able to see Mitrovic’s tackle evolve from a clumsy 50-50 tackle and decision into the clear sending off, as decreed by Martin Keown?

It’s not Martin Keown and Ruud Gullit’s opinion on the tackle that I’m bothered about. They’re paid to have them. It’s their opinions on the way players should react to being tackled that vexes me. “Surround the referee,” was Keown’s advice. Let him know what you think. Show that you care. Ah.

You can care and not surround the referee. You can care and stay focused. You can care and not reduce the game to an ‘if you shout loudly enough, you get what you want’ exposition of being a spoilt brat.

Because the spoilt brat bit goes much further than feeling aggrieved because someone bumped into you while you had the ball. It’s everything that is wrong with English football.

Kids copy their heroes, even when their heroes are not heroic.

Before the last World Cup, my little lad started a Saturday morning football course. The first two weeks went by very happily, with loads of kids happily running after the ball, socks rolling down spindly legs, and an impressive array of strips from all over Europe to see.

By all over Europe, I mean NUFC, Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. We might struggle to get out of that group… and the kids were smiling.

But as soon as the World Cup started, something strange happened. Kids started rolling on the pitch like a banshee with a bad leg. They didn’t smile. They looked aggrieved at the utter injustice of being tackled and the other kid not being immediately sent home.

To their credit, the coaches told the kids to get on with it, mainly because nothing had happened. They had prizes for the kids who tried the hardest and improved the most. They smiled through every session.

Martin Keown and Ruud Gullit are telling us that ‘getting on with it’ is not the way. Hassle the referee, appeal for everything, reaction is passion. Well, lads, I’ve got news for you. It doesn’t work.

It’s the grown up equivalent of giving in at the tills and buying young Marty or little Ruud some sweets, just because you’ve screamed your head off. Oh, you must want the sweets a lot. Oh well, then, you must be right.

And even worse, you’re suggesting to the young ‘uns that this is how you win football matches. That this is how you behave and conduct yourself, and it’s not just OK, it’s expected. It is the way.

Football has been slow to use sports psychology, and on a primal level, in a match, it seems that focus and thinking should go out of the window.

This isn’t a call to some halcyon age of Edwardian football values. It’s in our nature to feel miffed.

Then again, surrounding the referee, appealing every decision, staying down to get players booked hasn’t improved the standard of football. And explaining why players should behave like this isn’t passing on experience. It’s passing on another generation of excuses.

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