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29 February 2024

Real deterrents needed for outbursts

By Gary Meenaghan

Avram Grant’s tactical substitutions may be single-handedly ruining Chelsea’s hopes of wrestling the Premier League trophy back to Stamford Bridge, but Wednesday night’s petulant display at Tottenham proved to doubters that Jose Mourinho’s legacy does indeed live on.


Ashley Cole’s disdainful display of disrespect to referee Mike Riley following the left-back’s horrific studs-up lunge on Alan Hutton was straight from The Special One’s A-Z Guide to Winning Ugly. (“A is for Aggressive Arrogance in the face of Adversity” the first page likely reads.)


Cole had gone in high for the ball, missed it and caught Hutton on the shin with his studs. Had the Scotsman’s leg been grounded he would have suffered his second broken leg in three years. Rather than sheepishly apologise and make his case that he was going for the ball, Cole’s reaction was to scream vehemently at Hutton as he writhed on the ground in agony.


As Riley approached the incident, Chelsea came alive: Didier Drogba, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien all surrounded the official, haranguing him indignantly. Cole for his part was relatively quiet, primarily because he was stood stiff with his back to Riley like an obnoxious six-year-old refusing to be told what to do by his tolerant mother.


The England defender should have been as surprised as anyone when the over-lenient Riley produced a yellow. In the current climate, it should have been a straight red, but it was the manner in which Cole addressed the official that should have seen him walk.


Referees are in charge, but too often teams such as Chelsea and Arsenal forget that; they seem to believe they can do no wrong. How can a club’s captain, such as Arsenal’s William Gallas, lash out at advertising boards, scream at the referee, then storm off and sit on the half-way line simply because he doesn’t agree with the man in black’s decision to award Birmingham a penalty? How can Cole scream at his opponent and accuse him of feigning injury and then apologise the next morning?


The FA’s proposal to introduce a code of conduct for players and managers will hopefully tighten the regulations, but until punishments other than monetary fines are introduced, these kinds of incidents will continue. What good does it do fining Chelsea $200,000 when their owner, who clears the club’s debts each season, has a net worth in excess of $18.7bn?


What should be implemented – as well as the ‘no-go zone’ around the referee, which is proposed by PFA chief Gordon Taylor – are point deductions and extended suspensions.


Chelsea may have thought fighting over a yellow card was worthwhile on Wednesday night, but if they faced a possible points deduction, they would have reconsidered their actions.


Avram Grant says his players respect the referee, but until they start acting like it, Mourinho’s ghost will continue to linger.