Liverpool’s impressive win over arch enemies Manchester United has seemingly been dwarfed by the debate over Phil Dowd and whether he ‘bottled it’ or not.
Let me state a few things for the record. I don’t believe that Jamie Carragher is a nasty piece of work. So I don’t believe that his tackle on Nani was with malice aforethought. He’s a player that routinely plays the ball and not the man.
There will be some who will delighting in listing every questionable challenge he’s ever been involved in. But it’s convenient for some to forget that he’s a defender for Liverpool and not a florist. Just as a florist may occasionally nick their finger on a thorn, top flight footballers occasionally make mistakes.
Carragher was carded for the foul. So whatever scary looking scar was lurking beneath Nani’s sock, by the law a punishment had been made.
The ‘other’ but obviously far less gruesome challenge was that involving Raphael. Raphael himself is in a short space of time making a name for himself with hotheaded challenges. That’s not up for debate.
I mention Raphael’s challenge as what it gave us was the old style outcome of traditional refereeing. The referee made a decision that fell shy in one instant and compensated for it in a second one. Based upon the outcome of both Carragher’s and Raphael’s challenges both earned themselves red cards.
Wayne Rooney attacked a player in his game before this. I’m unapologetic by the use of the word attack. I’ve listened to his apologists at length and none of them can convince me the footage of him whacking some poor bloke in the head has been doctored.
Do I raise this in some naive attempt to suggest that these things somehow even themselves out? No I do not.
I raise it in order that we as fans of the game realise that that the game has changed. We hear this phrase at least once week. It’s not just from silver haired ‘Legend’ wheeled out in a navy blazer and grey Farahs chuckling about being paid £3 a week. It’s players who only retired in the last 15 years who also can’t believe the differences that have taken place.
The game is so fast, so physical, so pumped with money that the desire is now escalated far beyond boyhood dreams coming true.
At first glance, the challenge on Nani didn’t look that bad. It’s only when you play it back in slomo and rewind that the full nastiness of the cut becomes clear. Nani has a dreadful reputation for rolling around like a giddy girl with even the slightest of contact. So when Dowd looked at the incident his decision making process probably wasn’t too wide of the mark.
So if as I stated earlier Dowd got it wrong and opted to let one challenge offset another, what is the solution?
Well one strategy that definitely doesn’t work is declaring a fatwa on the referees or on the media. Sir Alex’s stance on this so far has only served to isolate him from reality and whether he acknowledges it or not, simply served to weaken his position.
The answer is technology. It’s time to ditch outmoded ways and embrace where we are today. The referees can’t cope. We don’t need more of them, we just need better equipped ones. What we are fighting here isn’t evil malicious nasty thugs who run out every weekend wanting to end another man’s career. We are fighting human error.
So let’s stop demonising players to compensate for not failing to police the game effectively.
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