Early Doors

A man’s game

Early Doors

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Nigel Reo-Coker yesterday bemoaned the demise of football as a contact sport, recycling the familiar line: "It's not even a man's game." And even a cursory look at his face would suggest he is right.

The Aston Villa midfielder has picked up eight bookings this season for a series of mis-timed tackles, proving that at least part of Reo-Coker's game is like watching Paul Scholes.

Introspection and self-improvement sound a bit too much like hard work for most players, who would rather blame the world or, in this case, diving toe-rags.

"I thought football was a physical game but now, if you slightly touch a player, they go down and do 20 rolls and a back-flip to get you cautioned," Reo-Coker wailed.

Early Doors thinks that any player who pulls off 20 rolls and a back-flip on being fouled deserves to get his opponent booked.

At least he didn't ignore the regular Greg Louganis impressions of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Andy Johnson and say it was all the foreigners' fault.

Reo-Coker could have picked a better day to complain about the demise of the hard man, with two of the division's Premier panto villains getting some good news from FA HQ.

The ever-charming duo of Joey Barton and Lee Bowyer both avoided punishment after their exploits at the weekend.

Barton was not charged after cameras caught him shoving Aston Villa's Shaun Maloney to the deck - in the Newcastle box of all places.

Everybody's favourite hate figure beat the rap earlier this season after applying studs to Dickson Etuhu's breadbasket against Sunderland and not even getting booked.

Perhaps the FA thought Barton has enough to worry about as the subject of two separate police investigations.

Meanwhile another acquaintance of Her Majesty's officers, Lee Bowyer, had some good news as his red card against Birmingham was overturned.

Bowyer went in on Damien Johnson with Reo-Cokerish timing, but Mark Clattenburg's decision to give him his marching order was adjudged harsh.

Early Doors would have let the sending-off stand on the grounds that, while he probably didn't deserve it, he will one day - and we all know prevention is better than cure.

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On the subject of crime and punishment, Early Doors can't help but sympathise with former Hamburg Sea Devil Dwain Chambers.

Chambers, whose embryonic stint with the German American (sic) Football team ended when the whole flipping league folded, seems to be rubbing people up the wrong way by running quickly and not being on drugs.

(This is the point where Early Doors remembers it always gets in trouble when it strays away from football... oh, who cares? Nobody's reading anyway.)

You may remember he (Chambers, not Early Doors, who is of course non-gender-specific) was banned from athletics for two years in 2003 for taking the banned steroid THG; much as Christine Ohuruogu served a one-year suspension after missing three out-of-competition tests.

One thing you are allowed to do after serving a ban is run in the World Indoor Championships; one thing you are not - for Britons at least - is run in the Olympics.

So why would you overturn Ohuruogu's Olympic ban and press for Chambers to be excluded from the British indoor squad?

If UK Athletics doesn't like the rules, it should change them. But when you attempt to ignore them you tend to open yourself up to accusations of massive hypocrisy.

Chambers might be an arrogant, unpleasant so-and-so. He might not be - Early Doors has never met him. But if he were, it would hardly make him different from most of the world's professional sportsmen.

A single-minded pursuit of success rarely goes hand-in-hand with caring about other people.

Early Doors wouldn't want to be trapped in a lift with Linford Christie, Sebastian Coe or Daley Thompson, but the men knew how to win. With British athletics in its current miserable state, it can hardly afford to ostracise its most talented sprinter.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "When we sat down with Andy I saw the hunger and desire and he still has a point to prove to show he can still play at a high level. There was never a doubt in my mind what Andrew Cole would bring to this club." Andy or Andrew? Burnley boss Owen Coyle is hedging his bets.

FOREIGN VIEW: Russia coach Guus Hiddink has put himself in line for the Order of Stakhanov with some world-class toadying: "Russia is a big country, a superpower, and of course to meet such a powerful leader as Putin is a big honour for any person, especially a foreigner like myself. It would be a great honour for me."

DEBATE OF THE DAY: Football is a haven for shameless self-promotion so why should Early Doors buck the trend? But if you wanted a second opinion on the greatness of this blog, here's donmcelhoney's objective view: "You are Massive in Eccles and Urmston." Thanks Don.

In honour of the UEFA Cup's return, today's question is: what is the worst tournament in football history? Early Doors (Early Doors makes that nine references to itself.. no, 10!) could never get enough of the Zenith Data Systems Cup, but what do you reckon?

COMING UP: If the UEFA Cup has a business end, this is it. Everton and Rangers are in last 32 action tonight - follow live text commentary from 7pm.

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