The first thing I wanted to talk about has very little comedy value indeed, unless you can recall the infamous incident from Italia 90 when Rudi Voller and Frank Rijkaard clashed over an act which is not as universally reviled as we in this country seem to think it is.
As Leeds celebrate their first win of the year and the return of Samuel Saiz to the side, you will have guessed I am talking about spitting.
Saiz served a six-game ban after being sent off by Mike Dean towards the end of the FA Cup defeat at Newport County, while West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku did the same thing in the following round against Wigan and was hit with the same length of suspension.
Now don’t get me wrong, as callers to radio debates I’ve been involved with seem to have done: I do feel that spitting at a fellow pro is an awful thing to do. Where I do seem to differ from the UK mainstream, however, is my problem with the anomaly surrounding its punishment.
You can expect a ban of three games, literally half the sanction, for a potential leg-breaker of a tackle that warrants a straight red card, and my point is that we are currently judging the difference between the premeditation that goes into coughing up some phlegm and making a truly dangerous lunge in a fundamentally illogical way.
It is no defence to point to other countries and cultures as if to say they have lower standards, that really is missing the point. But while I totally get why David Moyes called his own player “despicable” for what he did to Nick Powell, I’d honestly rather someone did that to me than stop me playing the game I love for good, any day of the week!
I mentioned comedy value and there’s no doubt that the general reaction to Serge Aurier’s difficulties against Crystal Palace, a game I happened to attend, drew ridicule not just from the pundits but from all those in the ground as his attempts at throw-ins continued to fail.
We like to think of such things as schoolboy errors, but I ended up really feeling for a lad who is a proper full-back and an asset to Spurs. Again, I beg to differ with the consensus, and while I’d say you can live with the throw-in situation, it’s his crossing that really needs sorting out!
Give him a week, or even just a day, working on his throw-ins, but I would sooner prioritise his delivery of the ball so that he misses the first defender every time, and that might take a while.
I’ve almost been there in a way, in as much as my own work on long throws in the Dave Challinor/Rory Delap era would descend into training ground farce as I barely cleared five yards with mine! The simplest things can sometimes make you unravel at times, so I think the widespread laughter at Serge, who continued to put himself under pressure, was a bit harsh overall.
Speaking more generally, it’s amazing to me that so many coaches plainly ignore throw-ins altogether and assume their elite players will all know what is required on the day. It’s easy to spot which teams I am talking about, and the lack of variety or thought that goes into such an integral part of the game is what really beggars belief, for me.