The dive by David Ngog that led to our penalty on Monday has provoked the usual knee jerk reaction, but is it anything new?
Ngog is not the only culprit. Old debates concerning player behaviour in his area, have been taken out of the cupboard, dusted off and aired to the nation. They will go on for a couple days and then be put away again, until the next player dives! Players have dived for as long as I can remember. I’m showing my age now but my first memory of this was Francis Lee who in his Manchester City days used this technique to regularly win penalties. The difference between Ngog and players such as Lee, Ronaldo and others is that Mondays attempt wasn’t nearly as convincing! No Oscar nominations for David I’m afraid.
It’s interesting that when we were winning the league regularly Anfield was seen as the “home of the home team penalty” seemingly all one of players had to do was venture into the box and the referee would be automatically pointing to the spot. As our league star has faded that tag has moved – 40 miles down the East Lancs Road?
These day when you see penalty incidents on the TV more often than not the player has taken a fall at the merest touch from the defender. Footballers aren’t as tough as rugby players but they are not delicate little flowers whose petals are irrevocably cast to the wind by the faintest contact! Going down is not usually a result of a tough or over zealous challenge it’s the application of gamesmanship, using the rules and the situation to gain an advantage however some players, unlike Ngog, are more “skilled” and convincing at this than others?
The referee’s manager Keith Hackett has called a summit to combat what they now see as a diving epidemic. Again what is new? The old lines about players having a responsibility not to dive and referees being more on their game will be trotted out but will anything be done other than a finger wagging warning of “don’t do it” or “watch out for it?” You’ve more chance of seeing our new stadium erected in time for this Christmas than getting players to comply and if referees, and the game as a whole, are really serious about dealing with this surely they need a more radical approach? However rather than address this and show some much needed tenacity, Hackett prefers to fall back on the same old familiar excuses
“I have said to managers in the past that this is an area of great difficulty for referees and it can come down to the viewing angle of the referee. It’s easy for the media and fans, who have the benefit of replays and different viewing angles to see whether or not it was a dive. Referees don’t have that and have to make a decision on the spot.”
Yes Keith but you can’t use that as a get out clause all the time. Time to step out of your cosy little world and get together with the FA, UEFA, FIFA or whoever, and make sure that referees have such facilities made available to them? A popular excuse for not embracing technology is that it will disrupt the flow of the game but is this such a bad thing if the correct decision is given? Other sports (cricket, rugby) have embraced this without too much disruption indeed it adds to the tension of the occasion as the crowd eagerly await the decision of the “video umpire”?
Perhaps the real reason behind the referee’s Luddite tendency is self interest, a fear that their authority will be undermined and that they will be marginalised? This does not hold sway in today’s modern game where arguably the financial stakes are now higher. Either way something should be done, otherwise we’ll be having the same, tired debates for time and memorial still at least it will give David Ngog time to perfect his diving technique!