stamping grounds

This article originally appeared in MEHSTG Vol. 2. Issue 30 (December 2002)

Philately will get you … suspended.  Or so the video panel seems to regard things, if you are Dennis Bergkamp.  So, when Ledley King was accused of stamping on a bit of pink fluff on the pitch recently, it was all so much hot air.  East Stan looks at the phenomenon that is sweeping the nation. 

Is it so long ago that “stamping” was never a problem in our game ??  I am not sure that it is a new thing, but players appear more inclined to imprint their colleagues thighs with their studs than they were in days gone by.  The big difference is that people didn’t use to intentionally injure fellow professionals and the injured party didn’t use to react by whinging if they did get trampled on.   Even in the lowest levels of Sunday morning football, there were incidents where you got injured while on the floor, but rarely did you think anything of it, unless someone had gone out of their way to carry out a premeditated act.  Not that it was a part of the whole “man’s game” thing, but more than it was an accepted part of the game, that is you are prone on the floor, you might accidentally get trodden on. 

And this is where the big difference comes.  The complaint lodged against King’s incident with Ljungberg was no doubt driven by the suspension that Dennis Bergkamp received for his stamp on Blackburn Rovers’ Nils Eric Johansson.  Having been missed by the referee on the day, the Video Review panel spotted the offence, as did the TV cameras and was also heavily featured on the Premiership programme that evening.  Arsenal felt that this was unfair, as they feel their misdemeanours are being highlighted more than any other team’s. 

However, the nature of Bergkamp’s stamp were completely different to that of Ledley’s.  It could be that Bergkamp seems to think that the tackle that came in was late and that something should have been done about it.  It is at this point that he appears to take the law into his own hands (or feet) and looks down and puts his foot down into the Swede’s upper thigh.  He actually looked to see where the player was before the “stamp” took place.   

The Arsenal Swede claimed that he had stud marks in his knee that came from a deliberate impact from the young Tottenham defender.  When it is seen on TV, his own momentum carries the player forward and he is unable to avoid contact with the player who was already on the floor.  He did not look down to ensure that he would tread down on him and the nature of his movement was not that he made a thrust downwards with his foot to intend injury.

That was probably the thinking behind the FA’s decision not to punish King, while Bergkamp was brought to task.  It is not enough for Arsenal to try and throw a smokescreen around things that happen to tar others with the same brush.  They should be called to answer their actions that they undertake on the pitch (and sometimes off it too).  And Ledley is not the sort of player to get involved in mini-vendettas against fey looking midfielders.  I have rarely seen him get flustered and certainly not get involved in any sort of handbags or fisticuffs.  Arsenal picked the wrong player to try and blame for any injury Red Fred suffered.  Ledders actually admitted he trod on the Gooner, but that he did not deliberately do so and that he could not avoid it.  What more could you expect from a player with just one booking to his name (in a Worthington Cup match) and what more would you expect from an Arsenal side who are desperate to be loved. 

There are players at Tottenham who sometimes lose it and get involved in the side of the game that is not what we want to see.  Taricco is the main culprit and he should be punished for the things that he does that have no place in the game.  And he was when the incident that lead to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in the Worthington Cup semi-final second leg was analysed. And when sent off unjustly for a pull back on Scholes at Old Trafford.  And when he got involved with a bit of nonsense with Le Saux in the league match at Stamford Bridge. 

Even in the match against Manchester United on December 7th, there were things going on that the ref missed, but the cameras caught.  Just because they weren’t spotted by the officials, which is no reason why the players should not be punished for them.  Keown clearly threw a punch at Ruud van Nistelrooy off the ball.  It is not the first time he has done it and he has managed to get away with it in the past.  Will Wenger claim persecution and pull out the mantra that he “did not see it” ?  Will he say that he doesn’t know what a foul in England is (well, he should as his team appear to be pretty good at committing them) ?  Will he say that they are not as bad as their terrible disciplinary record shows (47 red cards and counting) ?  Their sportsmanship (or should that be gamesmanship) doesn’t need Wenger or Vieira to let us tell us about it … it speaks for itself.  In the incident when van Nistelrooy had been grounded by Keown, it was left to Manchester United’s own player to put the ball out for him to get treatment.  When play resumed, you don’t really need to be told whether the Arsenal player taking the throw (Cole I think it was) gave it back to the home side. 

Whatever he says, it won’t change things, as the team seem to carry on in the same vein season after season.  It is a bit arch that they are trying to label other team’s players as aggressors, when their own appear to be imposing a foul reign of terror on the Premiership.  Maybe Arsene should take up a more sedate hobby like stamp collecting … or maybe he already has !!

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