Referees, Players, Supporters – Incitement, Abuse, Watch Your Language


Walcott carried off [Photo: Alan Hill]Alan’s 2013-14 Season Diary continues

People should get off Theo Walcott’s back. His 2 – 0 signal as he was carried off in the FA Cup 3rd Round tie was just physical banter. To talk of him inciting crowd unrest is ludicrous. It might not have been very mature but anyone allowing themselves to get incited by that is a bit sad.

Walcott is a skilful pacey forward who plays the game with a smile on his face and always trying to improve. He is learning to be a very good striker for Arsenal and England, clearly having studied Thierry Henry. He is a major thorn in our side and a worthy opponent. We should not hate him.

He is loyal too. He came out of the same stable as Gareth Bale. If Bale had displayed Walcott’s levels of loyalty, he would still be with us and we would not be going through another season of transition. We should allow him the latitude to take the mick when he is winning. Hopefully our time will come to do the same.


There are gestures and then there are gestures. Walcott’s was harmless. Nicolas Anelka’s on the other hand was at best ill-informed and at worst racist. As Karen Brady says in her Sun column. He is proud of his intelligence so his salute to his comedian pal who has convictions for racial slurs and once referred to a Jewish reporter by reference to a gas oven suggests he was looking to join the list of players that have committed surprise indiscretions over the Christmas period as a way of ensuring they get the month’s winter break they are used to abroad.

Now he does deserve to have a ban. I suggest they make it for the month of July.

It’s not as if he has spent the last few years injuring one Spurs player after another like Charlie Adam. If any player deserves a dog’s abuse he does. That still doesn’t extend to throwing coins though. That’s just cowardly.

Anyone who would use Walcott’s 2 – 0 gesture as an excuse to riot or throw coins or other missiles is a moron and a thug. If they can identify who threw the coin(s), Spurs should ban them for life without waiting for the Football Association to take action.

I would go so far as to say that the authorities should warn all clubs that if they can identify anyone who throws an object that can do real harm such as a coin as a fan of the home club, then they will consider closing the ground for future matches as well as an automatic life ban for the perpetrator. That should put a stop to it.

At White Hart Lane

I could throw missiles and hit the target with no problem from my front row seat but wouldn’t dream of it. I am a spectator, a paying customer not a bloody hit man. I felt insulted when the stewards went through my pockets at the Liverpool game and made me unscrew the top of a plastic drinks bottle and hand it in before they would let me in the ground. They were worried I might throw a full bottle and with the hard lid screwed on it could clearly hurt someone. It would be like being sandbagged I guess and could knock someone out. I wouldn’t do that in the street or in the park, or cinema, why would I do it at a football match? I could but I wouldn’t dream of it, not with anything I knew could really hurt someone. I don’t know how anyone else could either.

But then you see these morons throwing coins at players and stretcher bearers and you realise why the stewards have to take the bottle tops off you. They haven’t got time to interview 36,000 supporters and make a character judgement, so they have to assume I am a potential threat and I have to squeeze through the turnstile, walking stick in one hand, trying to flash my season ticket through the cubby hole without tipping the contents of a lidless bottle of Sprite down the front of my jacket.

Sometimes it’s OK

Spurs welcome Ardiles and Villa

They wouldn’t do it but I think the authorities could make it clear that at certain times, even throwing some harmless things is acceptable and can add to the atmosphere. Before and after kick off, during goal celebrations – streamers, confetti, toilet rolls can add to the atmosphere and humour at a game. I miss seeing them occasionally soar down from the terraces like in the old days.

Moderation in everything is the answer but we seem to be in an all or nothing world. No room for common sense any more.

Players and Referees

A related topic is the use of industrial language by players, refs and fans. When I heard what it was that had upset Southampton so much about what Mark Clattenburg had allegedly said to Adam Lallana, I could not believe he/they were being so precious. Was it a 4-letter word? A racist insult? No. It was something along the lines of, “You’ve changed since you played for England” in response to Lallana arguing the toss and dramatically waving his arms about when a decision had just gone against him.

According to Southampton, Clattenburg should never be allowed to referee them again. Their complaint was quite rightly dismissed by the referees ruling body but now Southampton are making it worse by appealing to the FA. They will just end up a laughing stock.

There is a very good piece on this subject in last Saturday’s Sun by Mark Halsey. He says it is laughable to say that refs should never swear. Industrial language is part of life and part of the game. Anyone with any sense knows it’s really about intent and how you use it; the amount of venom and invective behind it. Sometimes the ref will have to punish a player for using it but it also has to be down to judgement and like it or not he is the judge on the pitch. Players have to accept that, so sometimes they will deserve and get punishment for using it and sometimes they won’t.

The same principle should be applied to fans by clubs and authorities. Once in the ground, you are in an “after the watershed” environment. It’s up to parents how they get their kids to cope with that, just like in real life outside the ground. Yes, certain language and chants such as racist ones should be banned but the old songs like “who’s the b*stard in the black” and “you fat b*stard” added to the atmosphere and could be amusing if timed right.

These things need policing in a common sense way, not with a sledgehammer.