Posted by: docdenbow | September 18, 2011

Carlton Palmer Or Joey Barton? Football Or Rugby?

I have watched football all of my life. These days I have become more and disillusioned with the “beautiful game.” When I was young the game was rougher tougher, full of working class heroes with bad haircuts and a predilection to kick lumps out of each other. Who can forget the glorious days of Francis Lee scrapping with Norman Hunter? Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan? The glorious “tackles” of Ron “Chopper” Harris and the sweet left foot of that doyen of centre halves the wonderful John McGrath served as my own football education.

The were real characters in the game back then – players with real off the field antics that would make the indiscretions of today’s overpaid stars pale into insignificance. How would Joey Barton fare if Dr. Who could drop him into that glorious QPR team of the early 70s that featured such luminaries as Gerry Francis, the Morgan twins, Phil Parkes, Don Givens, Dave Thomas and Stan Bowles – not that well I don’t suppose. Would he even make the first 11? That’s food for thought. He certainly wouldn’t be able to spout pretentious and odious pap via Twitter mainly because the Internet hadn’t truly been invented. Can you really see him trying to face off to Franny Lee? Indulging in dives holding his face after feather like contact? Had he tried the former, the self made millionaire would have dropped him where he stood with a sweet left hook and if he tried the latter everyone on the pitch, including the match officials would have stepped over him laughing.

These days the merest of touches causes overpaid prima donnas to throw up their delicate little arms, arch their necessarily supple spines (it helps to give dramatic effect) and tumble pole axed to the hallowed turf occasionally rolling several yards, then holding the wrong part of the leg (or even the wrong leg) scream at the referee and implore said official to remove a fellow professional from the field of play. What’s that all about? How do modern day Premier League footballers live with the fact that often cheat their way to victory by conning match officials who are hamstrung by stupid F.A and F.I.F.A. directives. Oh yes it’s the £3,000,000 a year even a mediocre player can pocket.

Then there’s what I think of as changes to the rules of football. Come on what’s this stupid offside rule and “not interfering with play” actually mean? I’ve seen goals given when a player is standing in the goalkeepers’ line of sight. They say he’s not interfering with play unless he touches then ball. That’s absolute bollocks. I agree with the great Double-winning Spurs manager Bill Nicholson who opined that “If he’s not interfering with play, what’s he doing on the pitch?” (Read more: Besides why can’t a defender be ruled “not interfering with play? We’ve all seen defenders 40 or more yards away from the action playing someone onside. This rule change is crazy and is symptomatic of the general malaise in the game as rules are manipulated and players cheat in order to kick or bundle sphere into a large net. What next are going make the goals bigger, make goalkeepers redundant? Professional footballers should really watch some Rugby Union where the players refer to the referee as “Sir” and where foul and abusive language on the pitch is simply not tolerated and the referee’s decision is accepted as final right or wrong.

Why then is rugby full of gents who obey the rules and respect the opposition and football is the exact opposite? Well, in my humble view it is about the culture of each sport and general level of education of the vast majority of players in each game. Malcolm MacDonald has been quoted as saying “You give your life to football and then it often forgets you. Football clubs have a bad habit of taking players in, making the most of them, and then vomiting them up once they’re too old or injured.”  – Or I would add here “not good enough.” These players often end up criminally under educated and very often ill disciplined, corrupted by those around them.

Contrast that with several union players who have gone through university and continued to develop their skills and talents as rugby players. There is an old saying that “football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, and rugby is a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen”. To me the real proof of this point can be seen at amongst others Swansea’s Liberty Stadium. The Liberty Stadium is home to both the Ospreys rugby team and Swansea City FC. During football matches, no alcohol can be consumed in the stadium but during rugby games, spectators are allowed – and are happy to miss bits of the action – to visit the bar to top up their pints to take back to their seats. Can you imagine it a bar in a Premier League ground being open on match day?

Drunken rugby supporters tend to be jovial, and enjoy banter with opposition supporters. There’s no segregation of home and away supporters. No huge police presence either. I don’t know what drunken football supporters are like these days: I make a point of avoiding them and because of that I haven’t been to a match in years –and probably never will again. I much prefer the comfort of my own home where I can see endless close ups via action replays of players cheating. It really warms the soul.

To end this I want to speak briefly about that complete antithesis of a quality footballer Carlton Palmer. He played 18 times for England and some 591 professional games of club football. He moved between clubs for large fees as his “talents” were much sought after. So why did his manager at Southampton Dave Jones say about him “He covers every blade of grass out there, but that’s only because his first touch is so crap?” A ringing endorsement of a terrible player. Oh and by the way I see both Lampard and Gerrard as what you could call “the thinking man’s Carlton Palmer. However, I would have good old Carlton in my team everyday of the week in front of that cowardly thug Joey Barton. Barton’s past should never slip away from the consciousness of the public. Just to remind you he stubbed a cigar out on someone’s face and was convicted of common assault outside Macdonalds.

Toodle Pip & Ciao For Now



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