Another week, another refereeing debate. This time it's about Lee Probert's decision not to award Manchester United a penalty when Javier Hernandez ended up sprawled on the turf at the feet of Newcastle defender Danny Simpson. Man United's manager Alex Ferguson, naturally, was adamant that a spot kick ought to have been awarded; Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, naturally, felt that the greater injustice was that an earlier Anderson foul on Peter Lovenkrands hadn't resulted in a penalty.
In both cases the argument, if this jaded, late-season grumbling can be called that, hinges on how much contact was made between defender and attacker, particularly in the case of Simpson vs. Hernandez. "Simpson certainly steps across the line of Hernandez," said former Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce, on co-commentary duty in the UK. If Hernandez's airborne jerk is anything to go by, it was a greater effort to make the brief encounter of leg and toe appear to cause an unavoidable fall than to sidestep the half-aborted challenge and shoot.
"As soon as you stick that left leg out, you're asking for trouble," mused pundit Jamie Redknapp, in the studio after the final whistle. "There is definitely contact, no doubt about that," said Ferguson. He was in the midst of criticizing Probert for booking Hernandez for simulation, but the presupposition is the same: if a player feels the touch of his opponent, he is entitled to go down and expect the support of the referee.
That we have managed to discern and institute a difference between such incidents and
Of course it's frustrating for skillful or fast players to be fouled so often as some are -- Luka Modric's legs must be a marbled, bruisey blue and Theo Walcott's knees must sport permanent grass stains; Jamie Carragher's recent studs-first challenge on Nani was indefensible. But the sight of the
By all means let's accept that only certain players will
There's a very real danger, when talking about this, of sounding like a rheumy-eyed old drunk telling a bartender just how good the good old days were. I'm even packing the nostalgic's weapon of choice, George Best. But it's hard to argue that the lexicon of entitlement doesn't betray the creeping cynicism of a win first, play second attitude.
Though he was as well known for other substances, Best said: "I got my buzz from playing," and his catalog of goals would have been considerably smaller had he cashed in on any entitlement to go down. How he managed to stay on his feet as Chelsea's Ron Harris lunged in at Stamford Bridge in 1964 is anybody's guess -- if you pause the
In fact, a good proportion of the game's most memorable goals would vanish from the archives if players had "drawn fouls" as some do so blithely today. What if
Remember when players
There's no doubt that Henry (like most of the others) was fouled according to the laws of the game. Soccer isn't a contact sport in the same way that American football is; going by the book, a clumsy attempted tackle is punishable by the same measures as holding or shoving an opponent. But the laws also include the notion of advantage, according to which, play should continue where it benefits the wronged team.
Why do we expect the referee to uphold the principle -- watch the Premier League goal of the season from 1992-93,