Filed: Monday, 4th April 2016
By: Paul Walker
Now I thought long and hard about this piece, because I know it goes right against the grain of the general West Ham opinion over the Cheikhou Kouyate situation.
But in the end I am risking the wrath of Irons fans because not to do so would compromise everything I have said and written about James McCarthy and his shocking, poorly punished, assault on Dimitri Payet back in November.
And I feel we could be accused of hypocrisy in the way we are defending Kouyate’s tackle against Crystal Palace at the weekend, and any potential appeal to the FA.
Now I left the ground after the 2-2 draw on Saturday, gutted that we had seen victory prised from our grasp by Mark Clattenburg‘s red card for our outstanding midfielder.
From 60 or so yards away in the Bobby Moore lower I was in no position to judged the merits of the tackle or the referee‘s decision. I just felt cheated.
For some weeks I had been convincing myself that we could finish in the top two or three. Even, with a win over Palace, a double over Arsenal and then a win at Leicester--yes, I believe we are a better footballing side than the current league leaders--we could have put ourselves right in contention for top honours.
I feel with these two dropped points, that chance has gone now. When needs must, the big boys all won at the weekend. Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, and yes Leicester too. We could not afford our draw, and now we have a tough three games against the Gunners, Man Utd in the FA Cup replay and Leicester away.
Of course I was angry. But I wanted to see the tackle on TV first, before launching into a tirade of abuse at a referee, I believe is the best in the country, even if I have frequently been critical of his arrogance, superior attitude, boy band haircut, the fake tan and the gel.
But, regardless of all that, he is a referee the players like and respect and one that is hugely well thought of around Europe, with him heading to the Euro’ 16 finals in the summer.
Match of the Day bottled it. Their coverage was poor, Ian Wright thought it was a red, Alan Shearer--who I recall had plenty of previous for dodgy tackles--disagreed. They even laughed about the Umbro stamp on Peter Schmeichel’s thigh that Shearer once left. Oh how we laughed too!
But Sky the following day, nailed it with a careful, slow motion of the incident and Chris Kamara’s excellent analysis. And those shots showed, to my mind, why Clattenburg acted so quickly.
He was eight to ten yards away, viewing the tackle from behind Kouyate. What he saw initially was the first part of the tackle in which both the player’s feet were off the ground. The end of the sequence showed Kouyate’s right foot six inches off the ground and connecting with Gayle’s ankle. Clattenburg would have been able to penalise both parts of that tackle had he so wished.
They key to all this is NOT that people felt Kouyate touched the ball, it is whether his body is under control and not endangering an opponent. Touching the ball first has nothing to do with it. The directive this season has made it clear, that two feet off the ground is a red card.
That is why I was so annoyed with Wigan referee Paul Tierney’s interpretation of James McCarthy’s two footed, scissor assault on Payet. The Everton player’s feet were both off the ground during the tackle. But Tierney, who has only had five Premier League games this term and been nowhere near us since, opted just to book him.
I recall a lengthy spell of abuse from Everton fans aimed at me after that. They kept on about connecting with the ball first, and one muppet even suggested that he could not be expected to have control over his body with both feet off the ground. Yes, me too. The fool completely missed the point.
Now Kouyate’s tackle was nothing like as bad, but I am already seeing our fans on websites claiming he got the ball, so that’s OK. No it is not, the FA and UEFA want dangerous tackles outlawed, they want stars like our Dimitri to be allowed to produce their brilliance without fear of being cut to pieces by thugs.
Clattenburg does not make these sort of mistakes. Already this season he sent off Victor Wanyama at Southampton in February for a two footed lunge at Payet. That we could not beat ten men has been dealt with elsewhere!
Clattenburg also sent off Dwight Gayle when we won 3-1 at Selhurst Park, for a similar two-footer that had both feet off the ground. Alan Pardew moaned about it again at the weekend.
So, while Tierney does not know the correct punishment, Clattenburg is spot on. Consistent. Loads of folk, our owners to the fore, our manager, reckon Kouyate was just unlucky and a little slow. They are probably right, but Clattenburg saw the feet off the ground, and reacted instantly. That’s why some of our fans were claiming the red card came out with indecent haste.
Now the political bit. I have tried to see grounds for an appeal. But it is our word against the Premier League’s best referee. And I cannot see the disciplinary people being too pleased to see Kouyate back in front of them just over a month after his last sob story for the red card at Blackburn.
He got off that one, but certain people may see him now as a serial offender. Two reprieves in five weeks. I doubt it. And there is another problem here.
We are shellshocked that he will miss three crucial games. Arsenal, Manchester United and Leicester. If the FA consider any appeal to be frivolous, they can hit us with another one match. And that would mean Watford at home, just three days before a potential FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Now you lot out there may not like my treasonable assessment of this latest refereeing controversy to hit us, I will have to live with that and already have the tin hat on. But if we are quick to rightly condemn McCarthy for a two footed tackle, then I find it hard to see how we can try to argue our way out of a lesser, but also two footed motion, from one of our own players.
OK, I am now off to Australia for a few weeks to avoid the flak. But I bet any of you that the Premier League and the FA will not try to tell Clattenburg that he was wrong. Quick, harsh yes. But his interpretation of the laws was right, whether you like them or not. Sorry folks.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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