Archive for October, 2012


Time for divers to be banned?

Once again, the Premier League weekend was subject to a little controversy as a number of players were accused of diving to try and win their side a penalty, or get an opposing player sent off.

One of the big examples of this was Luis Suarez for Liverpool against Stoke City on Sunday as the Uruguayan went down far too easily in the second half of the a football result   that ended goalless draw between the two sides at Anfield.

This made Stoke boss Tony Pulis come out and ask for Suarez to be banned, suggesting that too many players get away with doing it and that if they were suspended for diving, it would cut it out of the game.

These days it is almost impossible for a referee to give a penalty as there is always the doubt that a player has tried to con the officials or whether there was enough contact. Someone like Suarez is constantly in the headlines for playacting and it has led to him getting a lot less spot-kicks.

However, he seems to keep on doing it and maybe a ban would be a big statement of intent from the Football Association that they want to get diving out of the game and it would make a player think twice about doing that.

The FA could use video evidence after the match, and if someone has clearly dived to try and win a penalty of having a member of the opposition sent off, then it is them that face the ban.

No one likes to see a player cheating – there is a big difference between winning a penalty and looking for one. If you feel contact in the box, then you have every right to go down, but if you go into the area knowing you are going to fall to the ground – you deserve to be punished.

This is not just a pick on Suarez either, there are players all round England that are guilty of it. When you are successful in trying to con the referee it can have a massive impact on a team’s season – which is really not fair.

Swansea boss Michael Laudrup‘s comments that he sees nothing wrong with clubs offering rival teams money to win if it will benefit them – so-called ‘suitcasing’ and apparently commonplace in Spain – have quite rightly sparked anger amongst British football fans.

Laudrup has caused controversy by saying he doesn’t “see anything bad” in the suggestion that a third side can offer another in the league a financial reward, or incentive, to win a game that benefits them both.

To explain further, a hypothetical example would be Swansea players being offered an extra financial bonus by, say, Wigan for the Welsh club to beat, for example, Southampton, if that result would directly benefit Wigan in a relegation battle.

While these crucial occasions are not common and usually restricted to the final weeks of a season, the suggestion that it is ‘OK’ for this practice to go ahead is surely dangerous for the game – and for someone of Laudrup’s standing to offer his backing to it, quite frankly, shocking.

Laudrup said: “If Swansea play the last game against a team and a third team pays Swansea to win the game, I really don’t see anything bad about that.”

Online message-boards and phone-ins have been dominated by fans angered by his comments and they are quite right to object to what is a flawed wisdom which breeds and feeds an underground current and a totally unregulated culture that will unduly affect results and scores

It is a very dangerous and murky road to go down. If players are suddenly offered more money to win games then how long before others are offered more to lose a meaningless game? In truth, while it might not be technically illegal, it completely goes against sporting traditions and is a short sidestep away from blatant match-fixing – something we are thankfully not too familiar with in the Barclays premier league but an issue which remains a threat in other parts of the world, not least Italy, where an ongoing match-fixing scandal at the highest level continues to be investigated.

In the light of Laudrup’s naive and outspoken comments, the FA have reminded everyone they, of course, have clear rules to outlaw any form of bribery, match-fixing and corruption.

Some will say that Laudrup, brought up and used to football in another culture, was merely revealing what many know goes on ahead of certain crucial games in other countries and expressing his personal opinion that he doesn’t see much wrong with it.

But it is clearly a dark route for football to go down and, while it may be seen as ‘the norm’ in Spain, it is never something that should be tolerated over here.

It is clear that England have a shortage of top class strikers at the moment. With Wayne Rooney constantly struggling to re-produce his club form for the national team, and the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck lacking experience on the international stage; there is an opening for forwards to stake a claim to be a fixture in Roy Hodgson’s future squads.

The Likes of Grant Holt, anyone who follows Premier League news  will have seen that he bagged 15 League goals in his debut Premier League season last year for Norwich City, and Danny Graham at Swansea City have consistently been overlooked for a place in the Three Lions squad despite performing superbly for their Club sides.

But another man who has not as yet been given a look in is Gary Hooper at Celtic. The Harlow born front man has been nothing short of a goal machine for the Bhoys after making a £2.4 million move from Scunthorpe United back in 2010.

Since then, Hooper has netted over half a century goals for the Hoops and his manager, Neil Lennon, has urged England to give him a chance.  His blistering form has led to both Scotland and Wales making enquires over whether the 24 year old could be eligible to play for them, but such a turnover of goals should have caught the attention of Roy Hodgson.

Many sceptics will point to the fact that Hooper has been plying his trade at a relatively poor standard in the SPL,  but the ball still needs putting in the back of the net; no matter what level you play – and Hooper does that better than most.

What’s more, he has dealt with the pressure of playing for one of Britain’s biggest club’s in the shape of Celtic and thrived on the atmosphere. The prospect of playing for his country in front of big crowds is something that is unlikely to faze him and natural born goal scorers will always have that ability to create something out of nothing.

If you like a football bet , you will see that Hooper is the favourite to be the leading scorer in the SPL this campaign.

It would be great to see players rewarded for their league form, no matter who they play for, with international friendlies offering the perfect chance to try out new faces. In the shape of Hooper, England may have a predatory forward on their hands; but they will never know unless they give him a chance to prove his worth.

By Andrew Ward

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