Tag Archives: Luis Suarez

Suarez Storm Exposes Depths of Football’s Hypocrisy – by Rob Atkinson

Suárez - the eye-teeth have it

Suárez – the eye-teeth have it

As a long-suffering fan of Leeds United Football Club, I’m no stranger to cant and hypocrisy as delivered by some of the mealy-mouthed “Guardians of the Good Name of Football” types, who infest the media to sickening effect. My club much more than most has been the target and victim of some of these holier-than-thou merchants over the years, the kind of people who will loudly condemn a Revie, a Bremner or a Bowyer whilst turning a conveniently blind eye to the peccadilloes of a Georgie Best, a Saint Bobby Charlton or a Royston Keane. It’s all part of the United-supporting experience, but no less nauseating for that. As an experienced and cynical White, you tend to sigh, roll your eyes and reflect upon what unctuous pillocks some people are. It’s a Leeds thing – but it manifests itself more broadly than that sometimes. The few hours since the Uruguay v Italy World Cup game are ample proof of this.

This short lapse of time, since Luis Suárez hurled himself once more into the teeth of a storm of public disapproval and disgust, has been a veritable feast, a feeding frenzy for saintly hypocrites everywhere. It shows no sign of abating; those who seek the moral high ground can scent the blood of a perennial target – and this time, they mean to get him. Prominent among these people, working himself up into a froth of indignant condemnation, is ITV’s own cabbage-patch doll tribute, Adrian Chiles. The man who is to bone structure what Wayne Rooney is to flower power coiffure, seems to be in the process of establishing himself as prat-in-chief among the sorry ranks of football presenters. Nothing is too trivial, no issue too banal that we’ll fail to hear those lugubriously annoying Midlands tones as Chiles essays another laboriously-crafted shaft of wit – pardon the unintentional spoonerism there.

Sitting alongside Chiles, as often as not, wearing his trademark glower in the hope that one or other of his colleagues will smilingly point out just how damned hard he is, will be Roy Keane – ex-footballer and dispenser of summary justice as defined by, erm, Roy Keane.  The Chiles/Keane axis can be a little uncomfortable to watch for anyone whose sensitivities include the thorny issue of unrequited love.  Chiles so openly slavers over the former Man U thug that you begin to worry about the absorbent capacity of his tie. It’s a one-sided bromance that makes you, as an onlooker, wince with pain as the hapless and cushion-faced anchorman makes cow’s eyes at the ex-footballer, who affords him only a sneer and another glower from under those knitted brows by way of return.  It’s car-crash TV – you ache for the hopeless yearning of Chiles and you want to look away when you see the Celtic indifference displayed by the object of his adoration.  But there’s a horrid fascination about the scene, and we’re reminded uncomfortably of our own episodes of hero-worship in our callow and distant youth.  To see a grown man, even one as fatally foetal as Chiles, going through such adolescent love pangs is at once repellent and riveting.

The irony is, of course, that part of Chiles’ remit is to jump aboard the nationally-sponsored anti-Suárez bandwagon.  It’s something he does eagerly enough; clearly he feels himself to cut something of a dash while he’s verbally pulling to pieces such a conveniently distant target.  After all, he can’t see himself in a mirror when he’s in mid-rant.  The reason that Chiles is such a case in point is that, during infrequent pauses for breath as he lambastes his latest absent target, he will glance adoringly yet again at Mr Keane, the urgent desire for approval writ large across his Pilsbury Doughman features.  Doesn’t it strike you that there’s something incongruous about all of this?  Whatever the sins of the Uruguayan – does not the beloved Roy have a rap sheet just as long and twice as disgusting?

I’m not expecting too much agreement here – after all, anti-Suárez sentiments have been abroad for a good while, and won’t have been ameliorated by his brace of goals against Engerland last week.  But really – is the little Liverpool genius that much more to be condemned than, for instance, Keane – a man receipted and filed for an arrogant thug and a brazen coward?

Neither is this blog looking to defend Luis Suárez, not on the substantive issue of this compulsion of his to sink his teeth into folk, anyway.  In the eyes of Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything, he is guilty beyond doubt of immense stupidity – he is in fact a repeat offender in that respect. There’s something wrong there, something fundamentally at fault under the bonnet.  It seems that such fatal flaws often go hand-in-hand with the kind of genius which blesses Suárez – similar examples are not hard to think of.  Gascoigne, Best, Cantona.  They all, to a greater or lesser degree, had and have a screw loose.  The misfortune of Suárez is that he’s a serial recidivist, someone who seemingly can’t avoid re-offending, with the same modus operandi cropping up time and time again.

This blog will also freely concede that biting is a disgusting offence against the laws of the game and also against natural decency – on an old-fashioned level, it’s simply not the way a chap goes about sorting out his differences with another chap.  It’s not cricket; not the done thing.  Perhaps things are different in Uruguay, perhaps this is just another of those unknown “cultural differences” as in the Patrice Evra “negrito” storm, something that football in this country, and the football press, have neither forgiven nor forgotten.  You don’t call a chap nasty names (especially when he plays for Man U) – and you don’t bite, inflicting your DNA upon some unwilling recipient.  It’s unmanly and possibly unhealthy.  Perhaps if the sins of Suárez were more manifestly British in character – perhaps something along the lines of the various acts perpetrated by Mr Keane in his time – then we’d more readily understand and forgive.  But, as they’re not – as they have this alien flavour to them, it’s all to easy to cast the foreigner as scapegoat, whilst dismissing more easily-understandable fouls and transgressions with a nod, a wink and a grin – Roy’s such a bad lad, a proper hard-man, tsk tsk – but really, you know, he’s one of us.  This nasty subtext of xenophobia underpins the differing ways in which the actions of Suárez and Keane are perceived, rationalised and – as the case may be – excused or condemned.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t like to be trying to play football and then feel a set of teeth sinking into my shoulder.  I wouldn’t like it at all, and I doubt I’d have the restraint merely to whine at the referee if I were to be thus assailed. But ask me in the cold light of day whether I’d prefer that, or a calculated stamp intended to smash the knee of my weight-bearing leg – and I’d unhesitatingly plump for the Uruguayan’s top set every time.  A bite-mark heals a hell of a lot faster than ruptured ligaments.  And the fact is that Roy Keane – who carried out just such an assault on Alf-Inge Haaland, as all Leeds and Man City fans will remember – later acknowledged it as a coldly premeditated act, born of his anger at Haaland’s mocking him as he lay with a ruptured ligament of his own on the Elland Road turf in 1997.  That injury was sustained in the course of Keane trying to commit a foul; Haaland was innocent of any crime except the mouthful he gave to Keane, accusing him of feigning injury.  But Roy bore a grudge, Roy bided his time and Roy set out to end the career of Alf-Inge Haaland when they met in a Manchester derby four years later.  It was the act of a self-righteous, deluded coward; how Keane has this hard-man image utterly escapes me.  Another of his retaliatory acts was committed against that not-exactly-scary individual Jason McAteer, a player who would scarcely cause anyone to worry about the consequences of fouling him. But, in delivering a sly elbow to the face, Keane characteristically sneaked up from behind and then ran away – which neatly sums him up as the moral coward and fake hard-man he undoubtedly is.

So when we see the likes of Chiles having his empty-headed rant at the silly-boy actions of a firebrand and hair-trigger character like Luis Suárez – let’s not forget that one of his studio colleagues almost certainly has a hell of a lot more to answer for in terms of conduct unbecoming.  And yet, allowances were made for Keane throughout a career stained by many examples of petulant and vicious actions, with the man himself remaining arrogant, unrepentant, intent only on maintaining his illusory image as a tough guy.  As for Suárez, the press are even now engaged in talking up the length and severity of his punishment, as well as wondering excitedly whether or not any sanctions might spill over into Liverpool’s domestic campaign.  Let’s not forget that the Reds had to do without their Latin genius for the first few games of last season, courtesy of his last dental indiscretion.  It might even have made the difference by which they eventually lost the title – a high price to pay for proud and long-suffering fans. If the hypocrites have their way, then we will be denied the spectacle of one of the world’s very top players parading his genius – for that is what it is – not only for the remainder of the World Cup, but also well into the Premier League season yet to come.  The BBC are amazingly, ridiculously, mentioning a possible two year ban as I write. That would be a terrible tragedy, an injustice and a gross misreading of what is good for the game.

As I said earlier, genius is frequently accompanied by a lunatic fringe of unpredictably bizarre behaviour.  Genius is what Luis Suárez has, to a lavish degree.  He is one of the very few players for whom even today’s extortionate match ticket prices are well worth the investment.  Genius always deserves some latitude, some understanding of the nature of the beast.  Such is my assessment of the Suárez dilemma; genius has its prerogatives and will always be its own excuse.  By that reckoning, what possible excuse can there be for ersatz tough-guy and decided non-genius Royston Keane?  We’d better leave that to his besotted friend and colleague, hypocrite extraordinaire Adrian Chiles.

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Leeds Title Retrospective: Villa & Hammers Could Still Make Liverpool Champions – by Rob Atkinson

The Last Champions

The Last Champions

The more years that pass since Leeds United’s 1992 title success, making them the Last Champions – it’s 22 years now – the more the myth is perpetuated by the Man U-friendly media that it was the collapse under pressure of the Pride of Devon that year which denied them the ultimate accolade.  In short – and as echoed in Alex Ferguson’s bile-ridden summary of the season – Leeds United didn’t win the League – Man U lost it.

There had been a lot of talk throughout that last season of pre-Murdoch football about how “fitting” it would be for Man U to at last end up as top dogs after 25 years of hurt (or amusement, depending on your point of view).  There was nauseating speculation about the date that the title would finally “come home to OT”.  Somewhere in Greater Manchester, there is, in all likelihood, a warehouse which still contains souvenir candles, t-shirts and sundry other tawdry tat, prematurely commemorating the 1992 Championship success that never happened for Ferguson’s nearly men. There was a fair degree of confidence in the air, as you can see.

In the end, it wasn’t fitting – because Man U weren’t good enough and Leeds claimed a deserved honour.  The Whites finished top by four clear points, having won most games and lost fewest.  They scored the second-highest number of goals and conceded the second fewest to end up with the best goal difference overall.  Any way you care to look at it, Leeds were worthy champions – but that doesn’t stop the media and others from pushing the “unlucky Man U” myth. And the fact is, as well – the winning margin for the Champions could – and should – have been far greater.

Setting aside the well-remembered banana skins that Leeds contrived to skid wildly on away from home as the season got to its final act – those thrashings at Man City and QPR and a pallid defeat at Oldham – Leeds also managed to let slip four seemingly-vital points at fortress Elland Road, to mar an otherwise unstoppable progress in their home campaign.  In the last eight home games, Leeds won six and drew two.  The only teams to escape from LS11 with anything at all were Aston Villa and West Ham – coincidentally the two clubs Liverpool are now relying upon to upset the Manchester City apple-cart, and deliver a long-overdue title to Anfield.

Those two 0-0 draws at Elland Road served, at the time, to increase the conviction that we were destined to fall short at the end of the season. They were games of missed opportunities, including a rare missed penalty by the normally infallible Gordon Strachan – and those four dropped home points could well have been fatal in the final reckoning.  But as things turned out, the two agonising draws served only to limit the final margin of success, proving that then, as now, it was impossible to call correctly the twists and turns of a title head-to-head.

In the end, it was Man U that bottled it – as Liverpool appear to have done at home to Chelsea and at Crystal Palace – and it was Leeds United who finally held their nerve to close the season out with a series of coldly nerveless performances, culminating in that crazy, decisive match at Sheffield United.

Now, in the moment of Liverpool’s blackest despair, it is those two claret-and-blue clubs which hold the key to the Reds’ remaining shreds of hope. Manchester City have to face the challenge of obtaining four points from the two home games left to them, and thereby clinch a title that was Liverpool’s to lose until these last couple of weeks.

City may well be without their talisman Aguero, but of course they have a squad packed with quality even without the quicksilver Argentinian.  But in his absence, City always seem that bit more more ponderous in attack, that few percentage points less lethal than when he is in there and performing at his best.

Neither Villa nor West Ham have anything to play for other than pride; nor indeed do they have anything to fear.  They may well set out to frustrate the home team in these two Etihad encounters – and in both games, the longer it remains goalless, the more Manchester City would become nervous and doubtful.  The fans would sit there, getting edgy – thinking “typical City”. It’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible.

Liverpool, ultimately, will have only themselves to blame if they do end up missing out on what was a golden chance to be Champions again – after so long a time without that once perennial accolade.  The defence has not been good enough and there has been, at times, an unforgivable naivety of approach made worse by shattering individual errors.  A draw was good enough at home to Chelsea, but it was thrown away.  A 3-0 win at Palace would have put the pressure on Man City – but a gung-ho quest for even more goals opened the back door, and the Pulis-inspired Palace nipped in three times to deny the Reds that victory.

It would take a heart of stone not to feel regret and sympathy for the sobbing, devastated double Player of the Year Suarez; he deserves far better from what has been a magical season for him.  And Gerrard, too, deserves more than he looks likely to get.  The list of mediocre players with Premier League medals is a long one, the list of greats who lack one is somewhat shorter.  The injustice of that will not be lost on Gerrard, a player whose fierce desire to be the best has been etched in every line of his being lately; but who is likely, in a vicious twist of fate, to be the man who carries the can for Liverpool pulling up short of the line.

All these players and their team-mates can do now, is wait – and hope.  If Aston Villa – notorious for blowing hot and cold this season – can turn it on at City and claim a highly unlikely win, then the Reds’ fate would be back in their own hands come Sunday.  They would be one home victory over Newcastle from recapturing the Holy Grail; given that vastly improbable last chance, you sense they would not squander it at any price.

Now that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has played his last card in the game of raising the pressure stakes, by publicly conceding the title, City will be as well aware as anyone that a banana skin awaits them on Wednesday, with another beyond that on Sunday.  They’re the same two home-ground banana skins that Leeds United so nearly slipped up on all those years ago in 1992. Can Villa and the Hammers throw a spanner in the works for real this time?  

Paddy Kenny’s Agent Says “Paddy is Fit” In Touching Romantic Tribute – by Rob Atkinson

Gorgeous, pouting, keeper Paddy Kenny

Gorgeous, pouting, keeper Paddy Kenny

Paddy Kenny’s agent has come out with a disarming statement of his regard for the long-serving goal-keeper, stating that he is “fit”.  In associated news, Frank Lampard’s agent has said that his client is “endearingly chubby” while the representatives of Fernando Torres, Ross McCormack and Steve Gerrard all expressed opinions that could be summed up by the phrase “Let’s face it: you would, wouldn’t you?”

Meanwhile, the agents of Wayne “Shrek” Rooney, Rio “Plug” Ferdinand and Luis “Mr. Ed” Suarez were not available for comment.

“Proud” Spurs Dad Gets Daughter to Thumb Nose at Suarez – But Luis Has Last Laugh – by Rob Atkinson

Luis Suarez - last laugh

Luis Suarez – last laugh

What does it take to make a Spurs fan’s day when you see your favourites getting thrashed 5-0 at home by Liverpool?  Arsenal’s defeat at Man City might have helped – but the Gunners only conceded as many as a hapless Spurs side at the Etihad, and at least they managed to score three where Tottenham managed a grand total of zero – so that’s a non-starter.  Fortunately, some Spurs fans have such low expectations of life at a post-Bale White Hart Lane – they can get an amazing amount of enjoyment from a jape you’d have thought was more to the taste of someone in his early teens.  Still, these are gloomy times around N17, and a chap has to get his laughs where he can.

So it was that long-suffering Spurs fan Des Brown – on hearing that his daughter Olivia was to be the home team mascot when Liverpool visited – persuaded her to pull a childish stunt on Suarez by thumbing her nose at the Uruguayan when he offered to shake hands.  It’s a thing that even the likes of Patrice Evra might have scorned as too embarrassing for words, but clearly it was all meat and drink to Mr Brown who was transparently thrilled.  To anyone who might wonder what’s missing in his life that he should take such delight in a trick worthy of a seven-year old, he observed: “Suarez isn’t the nicest character so I just wanted her to do it……..It’s made my day – it’s just hilarious.”

Perhaps it’s as well that the incident occurred so that something could make Mr Brown’s day – as clearly the football match that ensued wouldn’t have been palatable for him or for any other Spurs fan, Liverpool strolling to an easy 5-0 win with Suarez having the last laugh as he scored two of the goals.  Sadly though, even the consolation of his daughter agreeing to pull a playground stunt on her Dad’s behalf failed to be fully appreciated by Dismal Des, as he didn’t even see it happen.  “I said I’d give her £20 to give him the thumb to the nose and the twiddly fingers,” admitted the not-all-that-mature Dad. “Afterwards she came back to our seats and said ‘dad I’ve done it’ and I told her I didn’t see it and she said he just laughed and then she asked for her £20.”

It seems that young Olivia’s head is screwed on that bit more tightly than her silly-billy pop’s – at least she’s 20 quid up on the deal, after all – and she got a laugh out of a superstar.  Des meanwhile is £20 down, a 5-0 defeat sadder and wiser – well, sadder anyway – well, perhaps not even that given his pre-existing degree of sadness – and he didn’t even see his daughter’s fulfilment of his wishes.  Oh well, never mind.  Spurs have Southampton away next – maybe they could bust the form book and get a draw, or at least keep it down to less than five or six.  Then, even Mr Brown might be able to think about football again, instead of nursery games.

Suarez, meanwhile, goes from strength to strength despite the crushing blow of having a child thumb her nose at him because “he’s not the nicest character”.  Perhaps his season will survive such a mortal insult, perhaps, even, he might reflect that an alleged adult who bribes his child to act thus in front of millions on live TV isn’t actually the nicest character either – or the cleverest.  But Suarez has a 5-0 win to keep him smiling.  How do you like them cockerels, Mr Brown?

Suarez Showing Why He’s Vital for The EPL – by Rob Atkinson

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Suarez – magician

As a Leeds United fan, it amazes me that a player of the sheer quality – and breathtaking ability to entertain – of Luis Suarez hasn’t been better appreciated in the country where he plies his trade. Last night at Anfield, he gave a performance in Liverpool’s 5-1 demolition of Norwich City to make any fan of the game thank their lucky stars that certain parties didn’t manage to drive the Uruguayan from these shores. It must have been a mighty close thing, such was the vitriol poured upon his head by various holier-than-thou types who would evidently be quite willing to see such virtuoso talent lost to English football. And this, mainly, because a silly molehill was made into a ridiculous mountain called Evragate.

The issues surrounding that shoddy affair have been gone into, not wisely but too well. A lot of ignorant and uninformed opinion conspired to have Suarez painted as an out-and-out villain and a racist to boot, whilst anointing Patrice Evra, Man U’s typically dislikable defender, as Saint Injured Party of Dakar. Neither conclusion stands up to intelligent analysis. The cultural mores of Uruguay make Suarez difficult to convict on the evidence of what happened in this case, while Evra’s tendency to make trouble and exploit situations will invariably speak for itself.

Less easy to dismiss was the bizarre incident when Suarez decided to take a chunk out of the arm of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanović. Any supporter of Suarez would have shaken his head despairingly at that one – it was inexcusable. But by this time, Suarez was cast ineradicably in the public eye as A Nasty Man – and sometimes that kind of thing can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, with the subject of all the negative attention liable to crack under the strain.

I have to confess that I would instinctively defend Suarez over Evragate, even if the deeper issues didn’t support the view that he’s not quite the despicable git he’s been painted. Evra is an unpleasant individual with a track record of winding up opponents in the approved Man U manner. As a Leeds fan, that is anathema to me. But the way in which Suarez was hung out to dry, vilified by people who evidently couldn’t have cared less about the positives the little South American brings to our game – to me, this was shocking and uncalled-for. I felt then and I still feel now that he should have been cut some slack and certainly not hounded as he was. Maybe then there’d have been no biting incident. Who knows? Luis Suarez is a volatile character. It’s part of his make-up, and he’s most definitely not alone in that. But so is sublime talent an integral part of the Suarez package, as he so extravagantly demonstrated last night.

Players score great goals sometimes, occasionally hat-tricks and sometimes even more. Our own Ross McCormack rattled up a four goal haul at Charlton recently and that was an outstanding performance. But it was as water unto wine when compared to the Suarez Masterclass which saw Norwich slaughtered by the world-class talent of a Latin magician.

You’d have to go a long way to see goals of greater quality than three of the four that Suarez scored last night. The fourth was merely very good, and Liverpool’s fifth was served up on a plate for young Raheem Sterling by … Luis Suarez.  If ever a man took on and routed an opposing team of eleven helpless men, with only incidental help and support from the ten bit-part players on his own side, that man was Suarez.  He was that good.

Looking at the four goals he scored, all showed exemplary technique, reflexes, balance, artistry, sheer star quality. Three were blinding efforts that would have graced any game of football ever played, any time, anywhere. The body shape of the man as he dispatched each chance with exactly the right contact to send the ball fizzing into the Norwich net told of a very special talent in the person of a natural athlete and superb technician. These were special goals in a fabulous performance; Suarez has been building up to this ever since the delayed start to his season, after suspension for the Ivanović incident and a summer of speculation as to whether he would be part of the English game this season. Even when it seemed that the danger of him being lost to our game was past, speculation was still rife about interest from Arsenal – and what an addition the Uruguayan would have made to that outstanding team.

What was made finally, undeniably clear at Anfield last night was that to even risk harrying Luis Suarez out of our game would have been the most arrant folly. Players like that come along once a generation; the Evras of this world are ten-a-penny stuff by comparison. The goals that Suarez scored against Norwich will be talked about, admired and replayed for years – decades. You don’t ever forget quality, genius like that. And that quality, that genius, could so easily have been lost to the game, just because an ignorant cabal of self-appointed judges got bees in their bonnets when they felt that precious Patrice Evra had been insulted. It was a disproportionate, foolish and unwarranted reaction and – in talent and entertainment terms – it could have cost us dear.

Look at those goals, and marvel. Watch them a few times over – you won’t regret it. Luis Suarez, Superstar. It’s about time we all focused on the immense positives he has brought to our game, and started to appreciate the worth of the man. He sparkles, he entertains – he even plays the game with a smile on his face – mostly. There’s plenty you can’t say that about. Thank heavens that Anfield’s magician was not lost to the game of football in England.