Five talking points from the weekend’s football

1. Kirkland attack raises serious questions concerning the protection of players

By now everyone will have seen the dreadful scenes at Hillsborough on Friday night as a Leeds fan raced onto the pitch and assaulted Wednesday keeper Chris Kirkland. The image of him returning to the stand and being congratulated by those around him, whilst Kirkland received treatment, was sickening.

Luckily, the piece of human detritus is now in the hands of the authorities – and we can only hope that there will be an appropriately severe punishment. Bringing that one ‘fan’ to justice is just one element in a greater problem that needs to be addressed from this incident. Front and centre for examination is the effectiveness of banning orders. How can someone is in the middle of a seven-year ban from all football grounds be admitted into a ground? Did this person get given a ticket from another fan? If so, punish him too.

Wednesday fans will be very familiar with this sort of disgraceful incident, given a number of their own fans threw punches at Clint Hill in the season finale in 2010 as fans of both Palace and Wednesday invaded the Hillsborough pitch. Similar unsavoury scenes at Chesterfield in 2011 saw one Spireite fan punch Bury keeper Cameron Belford. One Sheffield United fan back in 1998 punched a linesman in an away game at Portsmouth. Stewarding and policing in these situations is too often ineffective, and without change it’s only a matter of time before someone is serious hurt.

2. Warnock ruined what would have been a great interview with a horrible throw-away remark

In the immediate post-match interview on Sky, Leeds boss Neil Warnock made some clearly emotional comments on the “moron” that attacked Kirkland: “Put him in bloody prison. I’m not proud to be Leeds manager when I see that. I’m embarrassed.”

Warnock divides a lot of opinion. By and large we quite like him at 1FITG, but that interview was ruined by one of the most brainless, ill-considered comments he has ever made as manager – and there have been plenty. “He went down like a sack of spuds” was a pathetic thing to say – and he should have known better. He has since apologised to Kirkland, and it was noticeable that he didn’t repeat the line in his radio interviews that evening, but even so it was utterly unnecessary. Had that happened to Paddy Kenny, it’s impossible to imagine Warnock tolerating a comment like that from another manager.

3. Kick It Out campaign losing all credibility

The public shunning of the Kick It Out campaign by Jason Roberts and Rio Ferdinand, in addition to the unanimous decision by Swansea and Wigan players not to wear the campaign’s T-shirts has completely undermined its credibility.

Rio, prior to ‘being dealt with’ by Sir Alex

We now have the on-the-face-of-it ridiculous sight of black footballers criticising a campaign to get rid of racism in football. The conspicuous absence of Kick It Out in the most recent high profile racism cases makes their decision completely justifiable, and Sir Alex must surely be regretting both his remarks prior to the weekend and his subsequent comments that Rio Ferdinand would be ‘dealt with’ for taking the stance he took.

4. Home Nations need a reality check

After the latest round of international fixtures, almost all the managers of the home nations sides are under pressure. The jobs of Trapattoni, Levein, and Coleman all appear to be hanging by a thread, while even Hodgson found his credentials questioned after a listless draw in Poland. Only Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill seems safe in his job at present.

Leaving England aside, the idea that managerial changes will miraculously transform the prospects of these sides seems to us absurd. In recent years, these sides have rarely featured in international tournaments and to make qualification the benchmark for their manager’s success is ridiculous.

Bosnia and Montenegro have shown that smaller nations can compete with the established continental ‘big guns’. And whilst comparitively bigger, fans of Wales, Scotland and Ireland would do better to ask how, for instance, does Sweden (pop. 9m) regularly qualify for tournaments. You can’t help concluding that time would be better spent on grass roots coaching structures than on worrying about who exactly is picking the national team.

5. Dark days at Kettering

As the recent non-league day hopefully reminded people, football in this country is about so much more than the bloated hype machine of the Premiership. Despite being nearly 140 years old, Kettering Town could go out of business unless the club can scratch together £3,000.

The money is the latest sticky plaster needed to stop the deal the club struck to clear its £1m plus debts falling apart. Such is the disarray at the club, Kettering fielded just 10 players for one Southern League match earlier this month, and more recent games called off due to lack of players. As a takeover continues to be mooted, we can only hope that it comes in time to save a club with a long and proud tradition.

By @josephclift and James Albion


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