Early Doors

Prem reputations take a dive

Early Doors

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Gareth Bale indulged in a dive on Monday

British football's self-constructed veneer of moral superiority has taken a brutal battering this season: multiple racism investigations, and abuse directed at those who have spoken out about the issue, have seen to that fairly comprehensively.

No longer can unwavering Premier League advocates look snootily upon the Spanish league or Eastern European countries and claim that "it would never happen here". But that issue has been covered ad nauseam and Early Doors won't subject you to another depressing diatribe about racism in a season that has been irreparably stained by it, however many entertaining matches there may have been between the big clubs.

In fact, ED won't do so even if Kenny Dalglish so memorably demonstrated in his post-match interview that Liverpool have neither learned from nor accepted the fact that Luis Suarez was guilty of one of the most heinous crimes seen on a pitch in England when stating following the forward's return from an eight-match ban against Spurs last night: "It's fantastic we got him back — he should never have been out in the first place."

No. Despite the burning temptation to take Liverpool to task once more for their ethical vacuity, and oh how the temptation burns, ED instead wants to highlight another issue where the British game has firmly surrendered the moral high ground it previously so enthusiastically occupied: that of diving.

If there are any blinkered supporters who still believe simulation is a purely foreign curse, then surely this prolonged Premier League weekend would have extinguished those beliefs.

On Saturday we witnessed England international Adam Johnson deliberately stick out his leg to make contact with Chris Baird and throw himself to ground to win a penalty for Manchester City against Fulham.

On Sunday, Danny Welbeck, of England again, did likewise to win a very dubious spot-kick for Manchester United against Chelsea in that tremendous 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge.

And, finally, on Monday night, Wales winger Gareth Bale was rightly booked for flinging himself to the turf despite there being absolutely no contact from Daniel Agger, who, despite being Danish and therefore foreign, was absolutely furious with the behaviour of the Spurs star.

ED is pretty confident that had these actions been perpetrated by those born away from British shores, and therefore lacking in the moral fibre us natives are so obviously blessed with, those indulging in the act would have been painted as dastardly Machiavellian villains.

Instead, as they were British and clearly not capable of such deception, being heirs to a glorious legacy of fair play and those Corinthian values that are so lacking abroad, they were largely brushed over by the media.

Take what Adam Johnson said in his post-match interview: "I felt the contact. Sometimes in normal time, when you are in the moment, you anticipate contact. There is a fine line between diving and anticipating contact but I felt it and went down. These things happen."

In the Match of the Day studio, the fact that Johnson had sailed fairly close to the wind to conceding an act of simulation went largely uncommented on. Yet remember the furore a few years ago when Didier Drogba did say on TV he had dived, only to be forced into a quick retraction when it appeared the hounds of hell were to be unleashed on him?

Meanwhile, one pundit reacted to Welbeck's act by casually speculating that such behaviour didn't exist in English football before the arrival of "foreigners". In which case, ED must be mistaken that Francis Lee became synonymous with diving; either that or the Manchester City star of the 1970s actually represented one of those sneaky countries like France, rather than winning 27 caps for good old Ingerlund.

As for Bale's swan dive, well, Sky Sports didn't even see fit to mention it in their post-match analysis. Mind you, they did have to make time and space for yet another sparky, witty and hilarious interview with that master conversationalist, King Kenny.

Oh no, ED is mistaken, it was another unnecessarily confrontational and chippy performance from the Liverpool boss, who even managed to take offence at a question designed to attract praise for a rare good performance from Andy Carroll.

It's just as well his interviewer didn't ask him about the cat that sauntered around Anfield for a minute or so in the first half, as he might have torn down the advertising board behind him and used it to decapitate Andy Burton. (Incidentally, ED has it on good authority that, rather like Stewart Downing kicking balls into bins, Liverpool's owners paid £20m for the feline after seeing it play the piano on YouTube.)

But ED digresses somewhat: it's point is that some can keep pretending all they like it's foreigners who exclusively indulge in diving, but this weekend has provided compelling evidence to the contrary, if indeed any further evidence was required.

The Premier League is in no position to preach, especially not after this horrid season, when any lingering sense of moral superiority has been firmly eroded, so surely it's time to stop treating diving as a foreign disease and time to start giving the same level of scrutiny to those British players who do indulge in it.

- - -

It transpired of course that the Anfield cat was only the second most newsworthy introduction from the sidelines during Monday night's 0-0 draw, as Luis Suarez marked his return from an eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.

And in his brief cameo the forward demonstrated once again why, despite clearly being a tremendously talented player, he is a very difficult man to like.

Putting the racism behind him - that was an aberration and he has served his punishment - Suarez could have chosen to cut a more humble figure; instead he attracted controversy once again, like a magnet attracts metal filings.

The forward was arguably fortunate to only get a yellow card for booting Scott Parker in the gut when it was abundantly clear he would not get the ball, and minutes later appealed furiously and rudely for a penalty when it was in fact he who had handballed, his face etched in the indignant pose we have come to expect from a player who is not reluctant to unjustly scream at referees and officials.

Liverpool are likely to be concerned that Suarez will be targeted for abuse by opposition fans following his lengthy suspension, but any serious rehabilitation of his character must also address the shortcomings that make him so unlovable on a near weekly basis.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I cannot understand why he [Capello] came out so blatantly against the decision. I don't know what purpose it serves... it means there's not the right atmosphere conducive to a successful tournament. It asks a question of the unity of the FA and makes it difficult for whoever takes over the captaincy. The FA's decision was made to take the heat out of the situation, which has festered. It was a decision to focus on the football. And if the FA thought that was best for the team you would expect the manager to go with that." - PFA chief Gordon Taylor has harsh words for Fabio Capello as the fallout continues following his comments about the decision to strip John Terry of the England captaincy.

FOREIGN VIEW: "When [Dortmund] were aware that they could no longer pay their salaries, we gave them 2 million euros without collateral for a few months." - Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness tells fans on Monday that his club helped bail out Dortmund in 2003. Nine years later they are hoping to beat Bayern to the title for the second season in succession.

COMING UP: Hot or Not takes a look at the more quirky events from the weekend in the Premier League, while the latest edition of the Euro Club Index is published and we see who the movers and shakers are in the European game.

At lunch, Rafa Benitez delivers his latest blog while Andy Mitten does likewise in the evening. There is also plenty of football on tonight with Sheffield Wednesday facing Blackpool and Southampton taking on Millwall in FA Cup fourth-round replays. There are also games in the Championship, League One, League Two, the SPL, the Copa del Rey and the Coupe de France in a packed evening.

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