The Blame Game

By Dan Williamson (@winkveron)

 

The recent furore surrounding the demotion of Chelsea club doctors Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn once again saw Jose Mourinho hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. It’s not unusual for him to react badly to a defeat or even a home draw, which given their record under Mourinho is akin to a defeat. Mourinho claimed it was “naïve” for the doctors to attend to the Hazard with the score tied at 2-2 late into the game, accusing them of not understanding football. There was no mention by the abrasive Portuguese coach as to why Hazard was letting his team down by over exaggerating his injury at such a crucial time (not surprisingly there was nothing wrong with him), nor did he give credit to Swansea for being the better team for large portions of the game whilst the playing field was a level eleven versus eleven. In the same game the referee came under fire for showing a red card to Courtois, despite the fact that it was clearly a dismissible offence to everyone who saw it.

In Chelsea’s next game away at Manchester City John Terry, club captain and one of last season’s best players in the Premier League, was hauled off by his manager before the second half was under way. Mourinho has made early and drastic changes before, but it was surprising that it was Terry who was the victim of his latest tantrum. Terry look finished under the previous regime and credited the returning Mourinho with prolonging and reviving his career. True, players can grow old overnight at his age but it was still a huge statement to remove your inspirational club captain at such a vital stage of a game of this magnitude. Chelsea went on to lose the game but seemed to be back on track when beating Arsenal at home in September. Last weekend’s home defeat to Southampton – their fourth in eight league games – means another Mourinho meltdown is imminent.

 

Mourinho’s behaviour highlights what could signify the emergence of an irritating trend in modern football. That is, the need to blame someone or something for every single defeat or poor performance. Maybe it has always been this way and is only in the spotlight due to the higher level of scrutiny and media coverage given to modern managers nowadays. Social media coverage and “click-bait” stories mean it is more exciting for the modern football fan to read about a controversial moments. I’ve also no doubt that journalists and commentators tease answers out of players and managers that they know will cause controversy, so they are equally to blame for this phenomenon.

 

Mark Hughes is another manager who isn’t shy when it comes to blaming people for their shortcomings. Hughes was apoplectic with rage at the referee when his team gave away a two goal lead at home to Leicester City in September. He said that the referee should have given a free-kick for a foul on Jon Walters. The Foxes went on to score a few moments later, although it’s hard to see how the referee is to blame for Stoke’s inability to deal with a standard long ball punt which took out three of their defenders. Hughes, Mourinho and their ilk would lead you to believe that their teams should win every game, such is the fault of the officials in preventing them from what is rightfully theirs; another three points. I can’t recall the last time one of these managers suffered a gracious defeat. Every time their unstoppable teams are beaten it is not due to the ineptitude of the staff, players, or just down to the opponents being better on the day, it is the fault of the officials for awarding a throw-in to the wrong team after 14 minutes that led to a goal in the 86th.

 

It isn’t just managers. Fans and players (and in the case of the England national team, the media) can also be accused of blaming someone or something for a defeat. In the World Cup in France in 1998 David Beckham was famously sent off after a petulant kick out at the now boss of Atletico Madrid, Diego Simeone. Beckham was subjected to vitriolic abuse for years after that defeat, including vile chants about his family and even hanging effigies at Upton Park. At the time, fans and media alike blamed him. Of course England would have won the World Cup had he stayed on the pitch! Let’s not mention the missed penalties. Not until he scored that free kick against Greece that sealed England’s place at the World Cup in 2002 was he forgiven. Now he is somewhat of a national hero. The need to blame someone for every downfall was the main reason I lost interest following the national team. Phil Neville giving away a penalty at Euro 2000, the referee disallowing Sol Campbell’s goal in Euro 2004 and Rooney’s stamp in World Cup 2006 were other occasions where shortcomings were glossed over with a sensationalised controversial moment. The fact of the matter is England just weren’t good enough at any of these tournaments, hence the reason for their failure.

 

It is often said that the finer details are more important in modern football because of the money in the game. A refereeing decision in the Championship play-off final is given more importance because it is “the richest game in world football”. If a team misses out of the “top 4” and can lay the blame elsewhere you better believe they will do so. On a sporting level, football isn’t more important now compared to how it was 30 years ago. A match in the Premier League is not as important as a match at local Sunday league level. It may hold interest for more people but importance is relative to the people involved. People will always make mistakes in football and that includes players, referees and managers. Players will pick up injuries at inopportune times due to bad tackles and innocuous challenges. Some pitches will be better than others. Some teams will win the cups and gain promotions, others will be relegated and the rest will wallow somewhere in between and I’m a great believer in that you get what you deserve come May. The human element is one of the reasons this game is so great. So embrace it, learn to take the rough with the smooth and revel in the old cliché that “everything will even itself out in the end.”

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