LONDON — This is, in many ways, the most exciting Premier League season in years.
True, Manchester United has a comfortable lead at the top but the title race is far from over while the battle to stay among English football’s elite will almost certainly go to the final kick of the final game.
Yet most Mondays when we reflect on the weekend’s matches, football tends to take a back seat. The headlines are invariably about a manager putting the boot into a referee or, this week, Wayne Rooney’s foul-mouthed tirade at a camera after completing his hat trick against West Ham, which earned him a two-match suspension.
Last Monday it was “Wayne Rudeney” rather than “It’s Wayne-ing goals.” After scoring the winner against Chelsea in United’s 1-0 midweek Champions League win at Stamford Bridge, when the striker celebrated in a more traditional fashion, it was “Smiles better.”
Two superb, significant victories for United, but the headlines were about Rooney’s celebrations. Madness.
I was surprised so many of my colleagues took Rooney’s side, claiming the Football Association was harsh to punish him. Nobody is more critical of the F.A. than me when it comes to discipline, but they had no option.
Law 13 states a player is sent off “if he uses offensive, insulting or abusive language.”
How can the F-word at lunch time not be offensive?
Would those journalists not have been offended had they been watching the game on television with young children and suddenly a face is thrust at the camera and what can politely be called industrial language entered their front room?
Some have accused the F.A. of hypocrisy because it did nothing when Rooney (yes, he has previously) swore at the camera after England’s World Cup tie against Algeria last summer.
In fact, the F.A. was powerless to act because on-field discipline during the World Cup comes under FIFA’s umbrella, a domestic association.
Staggeringly, Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, said a ban would be unfair because the F.A. had not laid down clear guidelines about players swearing at a TV camera.
Yes, we hear horrible abuse directed at visiting players from home fans, but supporters are not covered by the laws of the game. Players are and for once the F.A. got it right.
I have no problem with adult language at the right time. That is not during the day watching a football match on TV.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of his ban, I can say with confidence that no other player in English football will repeat Rooney’s tele-tantrum. For that the F.A. must be praised for belatedly showing some backbone.
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WHILE WAYNE ROONEY is slowly returning to the form that earned him the Footballer of the Year award last season, Fernando Torres continues to be a pale imitation of the player who, two years ago with Liverpool, was a world class striker.
He has played nine goalless games for Chelsea since his £50 million transfer, which is looking more and more like a brilliant bit of business for Liverpool, just as AC Milan is still smiling at the £30 million it received from the Blues for Andriy Shevchenko.
Word has it that both strikers were signed at the behest of owner Roman Abramovich, but manager Carlo Ancelotti is the man who has to somehow restore the old Torres. King Canute might have had an easier task stopping the tide.
AT THE RIPE young age of 37 we should have seen the best of Ryan Giggs, but his sublime contribution to Manchester United’s win at Chelsea prompted Sir Alex Ferguson to say the Wales international could play for another two years.
We shall never see another Giggs, who has been a regular for 20 seasons with one club, collecting 11 Premier League winners’ medals, four F.A. Cup, three League Cup and two Champions League medals.
Last Saturday at West Ham he played the second half at left-back, at Stamford Bridge he was used in central midfield — central midfield at 37 for heaven’s sake. In a season where there is no obvious standout candidate, Giggs wins my vote for Footballer of the Year.
The guidelines for members of the Football Writers’ Association are to choose who they believe is “the professional player who by precept and example is considered to be the Footballer of the Year.”
Nobody does that better than the phenomenal Ryan Giggs.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.
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