Before this season started I made a few predictions. Amongst those predictions I said that players would continue to commit bad fouls despite the problems and injuries last season and that managers would continue to either deny that they saw the incident or try to defend the indefensible, as certain managers have done time and time again. I believed that the respect agenda and the drive towards eradicating the unacceptable haranguing of referees would fail.
Well, just a few short weeks into the season we have already seen several bad fouls, but I may have to reassess my views about how managerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s are going to react to the decision of the referees following those fouls.
There were two incidents this week whereby players were sent off and both incidents may have had a direct effect on the result of the game with the team going down to ten men losing the game. In both cases the matches were important and in both matches, the team manager supported the decision of the referee. I believe this is unprecedented and I believe that it is a very welcome change to what we have seen in the past.
On Saturday newly promoted Stoke City were playing at Middlesbrough in a Premier League game that Stoke would have seen as a chance to earn a valuable point. After just thirty-six minutes of the game Stoke midfielder Amdy Faye made a dangerous two footed tackle on the edge of his area and was sent off by referee Mike Dean. The fact that the resulting free kick was blasted into the net and Stoke went on to lose 2-1 could have seen manager Tony Pulis in aggressive mood towards the referee. Instead, this is what he said;
“Mike Dean was closer than anyone else and he’s made a good decision. You can’t jump into tackles and that’s what he has done. The tackle has changed the game and in the big decisions Mike has got them all right.Ã¢â‚¬Â
On Sunday, the first Ã¢â‚¬Ëœold firmÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ derby of the season took place in Glasgow when Rangers made the short trip to Celtic. Rangers eventually won the game comfortably 4-2. With the score at 3-1 and Rangers just having been reduced to ten men themselves, Celtic substitute Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink was ordered from the field by referee Dougie McDonald for kicking out at an opponent.
When asked about the incident after the game, manager Gordon Strachan simply said, “I thought the referee had a good game.”
For Tony Pulis to be so honest after he saw his side denied a hard fought point in the dying seconds of the game and Gordon Strachan to be so honest after such a damaging and important defeat in a highly charged atmosphere, shows them both in a very good light and has set an example for other managers to follow.
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s be honest, Pulis knows that the defeat at Middlesbrough could send them down at the end of the season and cost him his job. Strachan knows only too well that to be beaten at home by Rangers is about the worst thing in the world that can happen to Celtic. Other managers do not face more pressure than those two.
It will be interesting to see the reactions of the likes of Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafa Benitez this season when their players are inevitably sent off at some point in the coming games. These other two managers have shown that it is possible to be fair and not wear blinkers.
I may be being too optimistic or watching the game through rose tinted glasses but I thought that the reactions of players towards the referees in this weekendÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s games were generally better than I have seen before. There was an incident in the Chelsea against Tottenham game when Frank Lampard was penalised for a dubious foul. The camera closed in on LampardÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s face and I fully expected him to launch a tirade of abuse at the official. Instead, he rolled his eyes, turned away and got on with the game. It was really good to see.
I do not wish to be moralistic and I well understand the pressures and passion that football can produce. However, things got out of hand last season with dissent and abuse becoming the norm in every game we saw.
After the general outrage following the incident where Ashley Cole turned his back on the referee who was trying to book him and the infamous Javier Mascherano incident at Old Trafford, something had to be done and something had to change. It is very early days but I am generally encouraged that we may just be moving in the right direction.
Time will tell, but if the respect agenda is having an effect then it can only be for the good of the game.
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