EPL's 10 Most Shameful Moments
While we mostly enthuse about the excitement and quality exhibited in the English Premier League, there are occasional moments that make us gasp in disbelief at the behaviour and conduct of its participants.
The shameful events I am about to describe are not restricted to any particular clubs and include players from Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool, Newcastle, West Ham and Bolton amongst others.
By no means would I claim my list to be an exhaustive one (you may well have your own favourites that are not included here) but they are all events that attracted huge media attention at the time and, in some cases, have a significance that goes beyond our beautiful game.
I have chosen 10 moments, listed in my preferred reverse order, which affected me personally.
With a few exceptions I would imagine the perpetrators have suffered remorse for their actions. I will leave you to decide the ones who haven’t!
10. Mendes' Goal That Never Was
Who? You might be asking.
Well, Rob Lewis was the official who, incomprehensibly and unforgivingly disallowed Pedro Mendes’ "goal" for Spurs against Manchester United in January 2005.
Mendes had attempted an outrageous lob from his own half which Roy Carroll in the United goal looked to have easily covered.
However, Carroll somehow contrived to let the ball slip through his hands and it dropped clearly a metre or more over the line
As Carroll desperately clawed the ball back and cleared it up field, he looked across at the referee’s assistant, obviously expecting him to award the goal.
Amazingly he didn’t, which left Spurs slightly displeased and added more fuel to the clamour for goal line technology.
9. Luis Suarez and His Best Mate!
Luis Suarez, Liverpool's talented but flawed Uruguayan can also be found further up this list but is included here for his racial abuse of Patrice Evra followed by his somewhat childish refusal to shake hands with the offended Frenchman when they next met in the League.
The flawed argument that the language he used was normal and acceptable in the Spanish language was a pretty desperate defence.
Hopefully we have moved on from the dark days of the 1970s and '80s when such behaviour was rife and generally ignored by the football authorities.
Any form of racism needs to be stamped on hard and, for once, the FA got it right, fining Suarez £40,000 and suspending him for eight matches.
8. Lee and Kieron Get Up Close and Personal
Fighting on the pitch occurs from time to time and is usually as a result of unfair challenges or physical confrontation between opponents in the heat of a match.
It happens, to a greater or lesser extent, in most contact sports (rugby, ice hockey, American Football to name but a few).
Newcastle had just gone 3-0 behind when two of their players, Lee Bowyer and Kieron Dyer appeared to be locked in mortal combat in the middle of the pitch and had to be hauled apart by peacemakers from both teams.
Both sets of players seemed shaken by this bizarre incident and Gareth Barry, then of Aston Villa, said he had never seen anything like it.
Naturally, both players were sent off and, although Bowyer shouldered most of the blame for the fracas, missing six games and being fined £30,000 plus six weeks wages, Dyer was also suspended for three games and was charged by the police and fined.
Manager Graeme Souness was shell-shocked not least because, off the field, the pair were best of mates.
Neither lasted much longer at Newcastle; Bowyer left the following season and Dyer the season after.
7. Joey Goes for a Full House
Yes, Joey Barton had to appear somewhere on the list!
I have tried to confine the shameful moments to actions of the pitch otherwise "our Joey" would dominate my choices.
I am concentrating on his outrageous behaviour for QPR against Manchester City during the final game of last season when he seemed intent on taking out half of City’s players in a typical Barton rant which eventually saw him suspended for 12 matches and fined £75,000.
His tirade included elbowing Carlos Tevez in the head, kicking Sergio Aguero, attempting to head butt Vincent Kompany who was acting as peacemaker and squaring up to Mario Ballotelli (fair enough!).
After a brief flirtation with Fleetwood Town (How the mighty are fallen!) he was eventually excommunicated to France where he is currently on loan to Marseilles.
Oh how we miss him!
6. Marks for Style and Content?
Diving or "simulation," as it is rather pretentiously called, is cheating.
Despite this, it has become an almost acceptable part of the game with pundits on TV admitting that players are often waiting for the "touch" that enables them to go to ground.
Referees have been instructed to give yellow cards for simulation but are often in an invidious position when trying to decide whether or not contact has been made.
Such is the cunning involved in such play acting that it becomes almost impossible at times for the referee to separate the victim from the perpetrator.
This was clearly exhibited in the recent Chelsea v Man Utd match when Fernando Torres was given a second yellow card and dismissed for a dive that was later shown to be a definite trip by Jonny Evans.
There are known "divers" of course whom the referee will treat with suspicion (e.g. Torres,Suarez) but it is so endemic in the game and the culprits are so proficient at their art that deciphering simulation is increasingly more difficult.
The answer surely lies in the moral education of the players and, rather than managers expecting their players to dive if they feel the slightest contact, players should be encouraged to stay on their feet and play fair.
Here are a few dives that are not too difficult to spot.
5. De Canio Takes Exception to His Red Card
Ah! Our Paulo. Some would call him a character, others something slightly less flattering.
What remains indisputable is that the self confessed fascist was fairly loose cannon as a player and the incident I am citing him for here exemplifies that perfectly.
Paulo was not happy with the decision and as he walked past the card waving official he pushed him in the chest sending the man in black dramatically tumbling to ground.
Some might say Alcock’s fall could be included in the previous item but De Canio had crossed a line rarely broached outside of South America and had to be suitably punished.
He was banned for 11 matches and fined £10,000.
Ironically, Paulo’s redemption came two years later when, playing for West Ham against Everton, the Everton keeper, Paul Gerrard, injured his knee and lay prone outside his box as a cross came in to De Canio.
With the goal at his mercy, he caught the ball allowing the keeper to be treated and subsequently received FIFA’s Fair Play Award for his actions.
As the Yorkshire expression goes, “There’s nowt so queer as folk”.
4. Terry Asks Ferdinand to Be His Best Friend
Like Joey Barton, Terry’s dubious off field activities far outweigh his playing misdemeanours but his abuse to Anton Ferdinand puts him clearly in the top echelons of shamefulness.
Video evidence of the words exchanged seemed to be irrefutable until Terry cleverly suggested that he was merely quoting back to Ferdinand what he had heard Ferdinand say previously.
That was apparently enough to convince a court of law but didn’t fool the FA and Terry was given what some considered a derisory four match ban.
Controversy has followed Terry throughout the later stages of his career and whilst there is no denying his ability as a top class defender, there is no defending the way he has conducted himself on and off the field.
3. Diouf and De Zeeuw Exchange Bodily Fluids
EHD seems to have a problem keeping his mouth shut.
More accurately he seems to have a problem keeping the contents of his mouth in his mouth.
I am referring, of course, to the disgusting, insulting and totally unacceptable act of spitting at opponents and generally anyone else who gets in the way.
Diouf had a history of spitting going back to his time at Liverpool when he spat at a Celtic fan in a UEFA Cup match, resulting in a two game ban and a £5000 fine.
In November 2004, whilst at Bolton, he was fined £500 for spitting at an 11-year-old Middlesbrough supporter and, later that same month, his club fined him two weeks wages and banned him for three matches for spitting at Portsmouth captain Arjan de Zeeuw.
As far as "gobbing" was concerned, he had no equal.
2. Eric Attempts to Put His Foot in Someone Else's Mouth
It was close, but Eric gets relegated to second place for his flying Kung Fu kick at a jeering Crystal Palace fan in January 1995 after he had been sent off for lashing out at Palace’s Richard Shaw.
Eight months suspension and a £30,000 fine preceded our Eric becoming a legend at Old Trafford and perfectly exemplified Sir Alex Ferguson’s genius at man management.
The only reason he missed out on top spot is that the moron who is Matthew Simmons deserved everything he got.
1. "I Was Going for the Ball Ref!"
"Keano" tops my list mainly because his premeditated assault could have finished another player’s career.
Spitting, diving, fighting and pushing referees are pretty distasteful but violence against a fellow professional, resulting in severe physical damage, is altogether on a different level.
I had great regard for Keane as a player but, even as a staunch United supporter, can offer no excuse for what happened in April 2001.
Previously, in September 1997, Keane had seriously injured his cruciate ligament whilst tackling and attempting to foul Alf-Inge Haaland of Leeds United. At the time, Haaland stood over the prone Irishman and accused him of feigning the injury.
This moment obviously remained lodged in Keane’s sub conscious and, when he had the opportunity for revenge three and a half years later, he grabbed it with interest, taking out his opponent with a vicious knee high tackle that left him writhing in agony.
Keane was sent off and given a three match ban and a £5000 fine by the FA for his mafia-like reprisal.
To make matters worse, the ban was extended by a further five matches and the fine by £150,000 when he remarkably admitted in his autobiography that it had been a wholly premeditated action.
A common belief is that Keane’s tackle finished Haaland’s career.
In fact, not only did the Norwegian finish the match but he continued to play for a further two years before a longstanding injury to his other knee forced him into retirement.
It is to his credit that he has forgiven Keane for his misdemeanour.