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How Wayne Rooney Was Saved By James McCarthy’s Lack Of Simulation

Having seen two very different instances of what the FA would describe as ‘violent conduct’ on Saturday, I started thinking. I touched on both of these moments in my ‘Saturday Review’ piece, but after some reflection I thought that the subject required further analysis.

The two moments that I’m talking about are DJ Campbell’s push to the face of Richard Stearman and Wayne Rooney’s elbow on James McCarthy.

What was interesting, and rather refreshing to see, was that in neither incident did the player on the receiving end of the foul take to amateur dramatics in order to get an opponent sent-off. Dudley Junior Campbell of course got a punishment to match his crime but Rooney did not, and due to FA rules neither shall he. But it got me asking myself the rather uneasy question; had McCarthy performed the familiar routine of going to ground and clutching his face, would Rooney have been sent off and would justice have been done? Would two wrongs have made a right?

Obviously Mark Clattenburg saw the moment in question since he awarded a free-kick, gave Rooney a friendly ticking off and allowed the game to continue. But it seemed to me that McCarthy’s underwhelming reaction played a large part in Clattenburg deciding that the incident was a mere accidental coming together of two players rather than the elbow-led change of direction that it really was. I would like to think that the reaction of the crowd and players doesn’t influence a referee, but had McCarthy gone down then the crowd would have been alerted to the altercation and made their voices heard, and equally Wigan players would have had time to remonstrate with the referee. These two things would have suddenly turned the ‘accident’ into an ‘incident’ and perhaps would have made Clattenburg think twice about what he saw.

It is depressing that I am even thinking this way, nothing irks me more than embarrassing instances of ‘simulation’ and acts of that kind – it is the reason why I am no longer able to watch Spanish football. It speaks volumes that my lasting memory of the last World Cup in South Africa wasn’t a particular game, great goal or admirable performance; it was Kaka’s red card in Brazil’s game against the Ivory Coast (In case you can’t remember the moment, watch this). It was a cowardly act of deception which robbed the tournament of one of its most exciting players, and it left me thinking: ‘So… it’s come to this’.

So after looking at examples of a player making something out of nothing, and a player making nothing from something, are there times when over-reaction to contact is acceptable?

I suppose it all comes down to what side of the fence you find yourself on. Are you a modernist or a traditionalist?

I don’t think that winning through gamesmanship over sportsmanship would bother many people nowadays since the culture of professional football has changed, but those who cling to the morals and attitudes of the days gone by when ‘men were men’ die a little inside every time a player goes down after the smallest of touches. But with all of this taken into account would you moan if a player from your team dived to win a last minute penalty in a cup final?

In this modern age of sport where money rules everything the fine line between success and failure can equate to million of pounds, so it is unheard of that a manager or team-mate would condemn a player for a dive or undesirable act that would help garner an advantage or aid a victory. So in terms of finance a ‘win at all costs’ mentality is not only acceptable, it is positively encouraged.

So I suppose I should finish this piece by coming to the conclusion that, in my opinion, simulation is never acceptable but is regrettably understandable. I consider myself to be one of the aforementioned footballing traditionalists, and having played years of contact sport in England I think that pretending to be injured when you’re not is, well, a bit embarrassing. But that is the nature of the game we watch and I suppose the fact I was surprised to see Richard Stearman stand his ground on Saturday afternoon says it all – but at least the masculine spirit is still alive in football somewhere.

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  1. John

    February 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    As “ususal” a Manchester United player, (Rooney) who fergie says is being witch hunted, gets away with a cowardly act.

    If you count the number of fouls Man Utd players commit, in particular, when under pressure, they would top most unsportsman like charts.

    It’s evident that the FA are frightened of Fergie and his overpaid “stars”

  2. El Tri 2014

    February 28, 2011 at 11:28 am

    McCarthy is a young footballer, next time he’ll know that he has to somersault to the ground and allow his brains to spill out to the pitch. Seriously, it’s good to see a player react accordingly, however, I must take offense to the notion that La Liga is the diving capitol of the world. The Premier League has it shares of acrobatic flingers and divers, it just lacks the crisp cool passes of the Spanish league. That said, Rooney will always be an unfair target to critics and fans, just watch any game English or Spanish, the player that is whistled the most, is the one who’s paid the most and is expected to wow us most of the time.

  3. tonyspeed

    February 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    it’s not simulation. it’s helping the referee make the right decision. referees can’t see everything at once. simulation is when you go to ground with little or no contact.

    • R2Dad

      February 28, 2011 at 1:21 am

      Thanks for that clarification. Like ARs that have to sell their call, sometimes a player does have to emphasize the impact of a foul to get the proper attention of the officials–this is not simulation, but a reflection of the fact that officials can’t see everything, all the time. Traditionalists can complain all they want, but inevitably the player who doesn’t get the appropriate call will go out looking for retaliation/ retribution since the offender didn’t get the card they rightfully deserved. Which is better for the game? Incidentally, deliberate contact with the face, regardless of force, is a red card. Well, that’s what the laws of the game state; EPL officials don’t seem to pay attention unless there’s Monty Pythonesque amounts of blood gushing from several player orifices.

  4. Brad in SoCal

    February 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    As a Blackpool fan, my question is What was DJ Campbell thinking (or not)? Blackpool was still in the game at that point. Utterly mystifying.

    As for Rooney, even after viewing replays it wasn’t totally clear to me that he intended to whack McCarthy (in the middle of the park, in front of the referee). So he got the benefit of the doubt. Play on.

  5. Dave

    February 27, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    I get it now. Go and elbow a player off the ball right in the face. The ref will see it, blow for a free kick and then hug you.

  6. Benny

    February 27, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Totally agree. Nani in that situation would have still been on the floor a week later. Outrageous that nothing was given. A different set of rules for Man Utd week in week out, and this was away. LOL. Its horrendous getting a decision at OT but you cant even get a deliberate elbow to the head at home. Ha ha. What a total joke. Thankfully Match of the Day gave it the attention it deserves. Lets hope the FA grow some balls and ban the money grabbing, cheating, Shrek fool.

  7. Peter

    February 27, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    There isn’t really anything to this article. No real analysis, just plain biased viewpoint of the writer against Rooney. Doesn’t mention how he constantly sets up others with timely, creative passing. And frustration for him, the others can’t seem to find him consistently (yes, Berbatov did a nice one yesterday, but look at Nani missing him wide-open earlier in the match). So this is basically a nothing article!!

    • Dave

      February 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      This article has nothing to with Rooney’s play, nor does it pretend to be an analytical post of how he plays a teammate. It is a “nothing article” to you because you are clearly a United supporter that can’t look at a situation objectively. The article is speaking towards how fouls are called and judged; the Rooney bit was merely a lead-in and a means to get at a larger issue.

    • MilotiNY

      February 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      Peter, Peter…how old are you? Can’t you see that this article is not about Roonie’s performance and is not bias at all. In fact, I though it was an excellent article that made me sign on and comment on this site for the first time.
      To The Gaffer – I thought the same exact thing that the lack of McCarthy’s simulation saved Roonie. If that happened to Nani he would have flopped like a fish on the floor. Now imagine Drogba – he would have shaken like he was in a cardiac arrest. As much as I hate simulating/simulators, I thought that in this case Mc Carthy was too tough and should have gone down because it was a deliberate elbow for no reason. Besides that great overhead goal, Shrek (Roonie) has shown nothing this season. He, in my opinion, is finished. He should have been sent off and FA should ban him for at least three matches.
      Gaffer – great site by the way. I keep coming back here now in regular basis, at least a few times a day. Keep up the good work.

      • Vaughn

        February 27, 2011 at 10:53 pm

        Although I am a United fan and although Rooney clearly through an elbow at McCarthy, I think that there was a mutual advancement made by both players which effected the referee’s decision. Rooney’s actions were definitely the more severe of the two but this is the Premier League, and your picking a fight on national television; you shouldn’t be expecting a nice gesture. McCarthy was leaning towards Rooney, intending to dish out his own shot. Nonetheless, Rooney is a scrappy player, and although he reacted poorly during the WC, his attitude has toned down over the years. I think there is more of a biased attitude towards Rooney being an instigator in on-field conflicts that is invalid. In some ways his critics give him too much credit.

  8. Lab Partner

    February 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    It would be nice if the governing bodies of football didn’t hamstring themselves by only relying on the Ref’s decisions and ignoring video replay. As long a fans have easy access to replay technologies (youtube, dailymotion, DVR, etc) there is always going to be an unnecessary but deserved amount of resentment towards referees and the governing bodies they represent.

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