With surprising and some might say unseemly, haste, the Football Association decided that the nation was too sensitive to be subjected to a repeat of the shoving match which erupted at Old Trafford the previous day. Yes, the decided on a Sunday that they would charge both Arsenal and Manchester United for the actions of their players. This, you will recall, is an organisation which couldn’t organise an outing to a brewery under normal circumstances.
Match official, Keith Hackett, had bottled naming names in his report and only mentioned the bookings for Limpar and Winterburn which is staggering given everyone bar David Seaman played some part in the contretemps, particularly Messrs Irwin and McClair. The latter was as much to blame as Winterburn with their feud from the FA Cup tie a couple of years before, being a key feature of the antipathy which had built up.
It’s interesting that United bring this type of enmity to the fore. I will no doubt stand corrected but I can’t recall another club side – Chelsea, Liverpool, not even Tottenham – which has managed to bring the worst out in Arsenal’s players. McClair and Winterburn lit the fuse but the contempt ran through to Pizzagate in 2004. Not that I am complaining, far from it. A little bit of needle never did anyone any harm on a football pitch.
Except this one was shown live in Ireland and Spain so the whole world saw it with the authorities determined to punish both clubs more substantially than putting them on the footballing naughty step. The notion of a points deduction was immediately floated which suggests the decision was already taken by the FA hierarchy; they just needed the show trial to make it seem a properly concluded sentence.
As an aside, it’s interesting to note Lee Walker of the Football League stating that the incident would be shown in highlights packaging for the global television audiences: “The incident will be included. We don’t hide anything.”
That’s a fairly definitive statement so it was surprising to read that ITN (Independent Television’s news broadcaster for those of you outside the UK) were annoyed with the Football League for not letting them show the incident in their programmes.
Another Lee Walker employed by the Football League and presumably, in no way related to the Lee Walker who said that the Football League have nothing to hide, claimed that “I understand ITN’s annoyance, but I don’t want the incident repeated ad nauseam and taken out of context.”
Why? Something to hide? Is this the footballing equivalent of locking away the shamed family member in the attic?
This one, as they say, was about to run and run with the FA’s actions a precursor to the clubs flinging around fines like they were flans on Tiswas.
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