Saturday, October 04, 2008

Too Fast To Live

There was a Stephen Wells article in the Guardian yesterday on the maltreatment of refs. As is usually the case with this particular writer, it was way over the top and designed in part to elicit a response on the Guardian blog, but he made some good points.

The remorseless battering of our refs gets on my nerves, or, as the good ladies of Abertillery would say, I have just about had a tit full of it. There seems to be a malaise among commentators and ex players and pundits and reporters and those fine folk who phone in to radio shows: they just can't let go. I am all for giving the ref a bit of abuse of the game, one of Saturday afternoon greatest pleasures is being allowed to tell some bloke who is doing his best that he is a useless fucking cunt, but lets not dwell on it, there will be plenty of other opportunities to vent ill considered personal abuse towards another human being.

This is my problem with it. You will get someone like Alan Green or Andy Gray witness a bad decision and then become apoplectic. Green, in particular will squeal like a stuck pig, then there will be a debate in the studio and close forensic analysis from every conceivable angle and speed. Then the match reports will comment upon it and the phone in will debate it and before you know it the entire nation has been seized by a moral fucking panic. Because Didier Drogba fell over. Again.

There is a moral point to be made here. Refs are not allowed to be human, to be flawed, they are not allowed foibles, they are not allowed frailty. Not only that, their every error is unforgivable and must be pored over, again and again and again. They are told that at the very least they must get the "big decisions" right. The trouble is, every decision that they get wrong is considered to be a big decision. Managers, in particular trot this line out; managers who, obviously, have never made a flawed decision in their lives.

How and why did we become so intolerant. It's fine to feel betrayed by the ref at the game, but why let it linger, why can't we move on? Why do their errors hurt us so much? Blues have a team of mediocre players, who make mistake after mistake, yet they aren't subject to the same scrutiny, but look at the cars in the car park; consider that these oafs earn plenty more in a week than I do in a year, and then consider that this lot are the second tier...................the upper echelons earn riches that can barely be imagined, but we tolerate their mistakes. Down at the Blues we indulge their mistakes, even look upon them fondly, so long as we see them sweat metaphorical blood for the shirt. Should we not be expecting perfection from this lot, rather than the poor, beleaguered refs?

Moreover, the players cheat, so how can they claim the moral high ground? The managers condone and probably encourage cheating, so how can they claim the moral high ground? Larsson put a cross in today from a ball that was a good two feet over the line, he knew it, everyone in the ground knew it, but he still had a go at the linesman and told him he was wrong. He could not have believed this to be the truth, so why did he do it?

Similarly, there is a curious moral relativism when it comes to players falling over. If a player, particularly a player who does not hail from our fair isles falls over without having been touched, he is a cheat and beyond contempt. If a strapping 6 footer, built like a brick shit house falls over after the tenderest whisper in the ear from a defender, he is clever. It is OK to play for a free kick or penalty. The euphemism is that he went down easily and the justification is that the defender made the challenge and actually touched the man. The reality is that it is cheating, just as much as falling over following no contact.

The poor old ref is on a hiding to nothing. He has players in his ear all through the game, waging psychological warfare, trying to influence the next decision and the one after that, and he has players cheating all through the game, as well as having 30 thousand screaming chimps giving his every decision dogs, chimps abuse. We should all show the refs a bit more respect, not because of some brainless campaign, but because they deserve it.

We often hear of players talking of the unbearable pressure of playing in front of demanding crowds. England don't like playing at home, nor, this season do Blues, because the comments of some fans verge on the impolite. My favourite ever Blues player Cameron Jerome has whined about this earlier in the season. What a bunch of fairies. Untold riches filling up their pockets every week, however badly they perform and they can't take a little constructive criticism, yet the ref, who earns a pittance in comparison, has to stand tall and take it all through the game. And before the game, and after the game, long after the game. As human beings, as moral entities, with hearts and souls, if we have any compassion at all, whose side should we be on?

Blues continue to perform like an enigma wrapped in a riddle. We won again today, but did nothing to warm the cockles of a sparse crowd. This only confirms what I have said all along, this league is shit. We play poorly every week, we create hardly any chances every week, but there we sit, right at the top (as I type this, anyway). Many of my fellow fans are happy. For them, winning is all that counts, and the fact that we have the best defence in the league is source of pride. I think it's a shame. Our best two players today were Augustien and Jaidi. One of them is midfield dog who goes around tidying up and playing short, sensible balls, and he does it very well, the other is a monster. It's a bit sad that these two are our most noticeable players.

Today, as is ever the case, we had no fluidity through the middle. We at least had cohesion at the back, but I believe we have it in us to be much more mobile and threatening going forward, but we just don't seem to have the bottle, or wit, to fully commit to all out assault. We did go at them at the beginning of the second half, which was pleasing, but soon settled back into defensive mediocrity. I don't care how many points this gets us; it's fucking tiresome. We keep hearing about our embarrassment of riches in the forward areas, when we should be focusing on the embarrassment of hardly being able to scrape more than two chances together in any match. In a shit league.

I don't pretend to know anything about tactics or the finer details of footballing philosophy, and we are not a long ball side to the extent that we were under Bruce, but I think that there is still too big a gap between the midfield and the attackers. If we knock it up, hoping that we will win the second ball, as often seems to be the case, surely one or two of the buggers need to be a bit nearer the action. We seem very slow to react and support the front two (or one). It all seems a bit safety first.

Two things in particular got on my nerves today. First, with a couple of minutes to go, we won a corner. Jaidi ambled up and Faddy was about to send the ball in, when Larsson ran over to the corner and insisted that they play that annoying keep it in the corner bollocks. It was not difficult to work out that there was at least 6 minutes left. Did the arrogant Swede, really think we could keep the ball that long? Well, we couldn't, the dope lost it in about 6 seconds flat and QPR were on the attack.

Then, a good ball got knocked through to Cameron Jerome, but the defender got a desperate, stretching leg there first and knocked the ball in the general direction of the keeper. Jerome just gave up, went back on his heels, before realising the keeper had completely miscontrolled it. He then went in and got booted on the inside of the knee for his troubles. If he had shown more commitment in the first place, had he been more alert, the goal would have been at his mercy. I will state, again, for the benefit of all those who, mystifyingly, cannot see what is in front of their eyes. Cameron Jerome is shit.
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