By Tony Attwood
Paul Robinson, Martin Taylor, Ryan Shawcross and now Dan Smith – the list of criminals walking the streets of England after committing violent and pre-meditated assault seems to grow by the day. In any just society they would all be in prison for their attacks on footballers, with their managers at least on remand pending deeper inquiries.
And yet it is not so. The Dan Smith attack on Diaby in the Arsenal / Bolton game was atrocious beyond measure but the ref did nothing of significance, the lino did nothing and the manager made nothing of it.
Owen Coyle, currently running this most disreputable of clubs approached the cameras after the game with a look of dumb despair of a man who knows he has no case and yet desperately needs to make one up.
His side had just lost 18-5 in terms of shots, had scored a goal dependent wholly on a cock-up in the Arsenal defence, and who had tried to kick their way to a draw. The club had even sold so few tickets for the game that for what I think must be the first time ever the audience sank to below 60,000 for a league match.
For a manager of a lower caste northern club Coyle has every desirable character except one. I don’t mean brains, because not only is that of no merit when managing a team such as Bolton, but rather I speak of the ability to handle situations without breaking into fantasy. In the presence of the indefensible, for example, he puts on what he must believe is a stern grimace and lets his eyes protrude somewhat. But in attempting to look grim he looks instead rather like a character from a 1950s boys comic in which caricatures of leaders of the Conservative Party are drawn as cowboys and goatherds.
Such men as the Coyle, Allerdyce, Pullis et al are engaged in the task of encouraging the mutilation of limbs of some of the brightest talent, and yet they lack the Presence of, say, Jack the Ripper or the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the ability to put the head down and get out of town of Dr Crippin.
It is the lack of presence that distinguishes these violence junkies from the great managers such as Arsène Wenger and Jose Mourinho, both of whom have Presence in abundance. Which is not to say I lake the negative approach Mourinho adopts, but rather that he is a great personality. These characters like Coyle are like men utterly out of their depth in the world of popular entertainment – men who, when the spotlight falls upon them, scratch their chins or pick at their sleeves, shrug the shoulders quite a bit and mumble incoherent half sentences in their native tongue generally with the overall flavour of blaming someone else.
My point is that Wenger and Mourinho take responsibility and do it their way – utterly different ways as it turns out, but in each case their way. People like Allerdyce, Coyle, Pullis and indeed I would add McCarthy who is building an Allerdyce style approach at Wolverhampton, are not entertainers, and really don’t care too much about the notion. They take no responsibility, just like the players they send out, and if the crowds don’t turn up because the football they offer is awful, that’s hardly their fault. If men like Eduardo, Diaby and Ramsey are put out of the game for long periods then that’s not their fault. They shrug their shoulders and scratch their chins.
Will any action be taken against Dan Smith for his attempt at serious injury? Will he be put up against the wall and told in no uncertain terms that he will never be allowed on a football pitch again? I doubt it. When we consider that the reward that Shawcross got for his inexcusable assault on Ramsey was a call up for the England squad, it seems unlikely. When we consider the way Taylor was back in the Birmingham reserve team three games after he attempted to end Eduardo’s career, I doubt it again. Quite possibly he has already been made Lord of the Manor in Boltonshire.
Shawcross, Taylor, Smith and Robinson should be out of the game, but then so should those managers who encourage them and their like. The tragedy is, they are still there, and still encouraged by their paymasters on Sky and at the BBC and ITV, forever saying, “that’s the way to beat Arsenal, they don’t like the physical…”
We won the game 4 goals to 1, we had 18 attempts on target, and we buzzed. Three of the back four are our reserves, while Nasri, Bendtner, Van Persie and Theo are also out. That is seven of the first team missing, and we strolled through it 4-1 and our club is in profit and beholden to no petro billionaire or sheikh.
Dan Smith is a disgrace, as is his manager, but that it seems is now the price of playing in the EPL.
- Beyond any doubt Infantino is getting his way. Next: Fifa will leave Zurich
- World Cup chaos: the bits you may have missed
- Fifa establish their unchallengable right to change football rules as they go
- Extraordinary report claims Arsenals’ FA Cup win was not a major trophy!
- 2022/23 Women’s Champions League Juventus v Arsenal – match preview