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Wayne Rooney proves that simulation is more entrenched than ever in English soccer


England manager Roy Hodgson had a chance to make a stance of sorts on diving during his television appearance for the BBC during Manchester United’s 3-1 win over Preston North End in the FA Cup last night.

Granted, not an emphatic, abrasive stance—nobody really expected the England manager to lambast his national team skipper Wayne Rooney for a blatant act of simulation—but to be as dismissive as Hodgson and indeed Phil Neville both were about Rooney’s tumble said plenty.

Of course, there’s always going to a natural reluctance from both men to lambast the United man—they’ve both worked with him at length in recent years—but the way in which terms like “evasive action”, “changing direction at speed” and “opportunistic” were used point towards the irreversible entrenchment of simulation in the modern game.

Only Kevin Kilbane—a former teammate of the England man during their time at Everton—had the guts to call it what it actually was: a dive. As did former Southampton star Matt le Tissier on Twitter, per The Mirror:

“It’s a dive. Rooney didn’t dive to get out of the way of the challenge he did it to win a penalty.  …

“Apparently from now on everyone should jump out the way of any tackle on a pitch and expect a foul from the ref because of ‘intent’.”

This is not an isolated indictment of Rooney either. The England man saw the chance to win a penalty for his team, put a difficult game beyond doubt and took it; Plus, it was foolish for the Preston goalkeeper for rushing out and challenging in such an erratic manner. Defenders, just like they’ve had to adapt to various refinements in the modern game, need to get a lot more savvy dealing in these kinds of underhanded tactics deployed by attackers.

During the recent Premier League encounter between West Ham United and Manchester United, Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard co-commentated the game for NBC Sports and admitted live on-air that he’d encourage his forwards at Everton to indulge in these kinds of ploys:

“Ask the question of the referee. Make him make the decisions. If it’s one of my guys and there’s an incident in the penalty box, go down.

“The referee will either book you or give a penalty or not, but you have to let the referee make a decision.”

It’s sad to see, but the hyperbole surrounding diving seems to be gradually filtering away as it becomes an increasingly familiar commodity. As already mentioned, the incident involving Rooney hasn’t stirred much outrage in the notoriously reactionary British media and even Premier League players are revealing an open willingness for teammates to test the mettle of the referees.

Nonetheless, on talkSPORT in the aftermath of the match, Stan Collymore suggested that as the captain of both the Red Devils and the Three Lions, Rooney should be setting a better example, per the Telegraph:

“He toe-pokes the ball past the goalkeeper, who he knows is coming out quickly, and he dives. That’s cheating, we’ve had this debate a million times.

“When you wear that respect campaign armband, you owe it to the fans and the game not to do that. I’m bitterly disappointed, he is the England captain and Manchester United captain and he’s better than that.”

Truth be told, it’s little surprise that even players like Rooney as well as up and coming stars like Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling—both have been accused of simulation this season—have developed this kind of streak to their play. After all, if everyone else is doing it, taking a virtuous abstinence would be to the player’s and his team’s detriment.

Would Collymore feel the same if a Rooney tumble won England a penalty in the last minute of a World Cup knockout match? Or Sterling accentuating contact helped win former club Liverpool the FA Cup this season? You suspect probably not and in the wake of important victories, the ends thoroughly justify the means.

Perhaps action could be taken against culprits in retrospect, but it’s very troublesome to categorically brand someone as a diver. For the average supporter, it’s clear that Rooney accentuated the challenge and took a fall, but debate has raged on social media nonetheless. In this instance or any comparable to it, what jurisdiction do governing bodies have to effectively label someone as a cheat beyond any reasonable doubt?

It’s a precarious situation and as noted by Howard, the pressure on referees to notice these marginal decisions means that they can be swayed with an astute deployment of gamesmanship. With teams and players striving to accrue an edge at every level of the game, it’s little surprise there are plenty are exploiting this murky facet of soccer.

Rooney did so against Preston, capping off a fine comeback for his team. But if Louis van Gaal and his side eventually lift the trophy at Wembley come the end of the campaign, you can’t image there’ll be many at Old Trafford ruing the underhand exploits of their captain that pushed United into the last-eight.

Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball


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  1. Adam

    February 18, 2015 at 8:18 am

    It was clearly a dive. If you are a MU supporter of course you will say it wasn’t.

    Replay reviews cannot come soon enough, then cheaters like Rooney will be exposed.

  2. Burnsey

    February 18, 2015 at 7:28 am

    It was clearly a dive, and it is everywhere in the game. How come english football never had this plague years ago? Are you saying George Best and Ian Rush etc never ran at full speed and evaded tackles? How did they stay on their feet? If the defender catches you andntripsmyounupmthennyoungomdown and its a foul/penalty.

    I think they should start by looking at these diving incidents after a match, and if it is obvious, then start handing out suspensions. Something needs to be done as it is ruining the game. Some of the Chelsea and Ashley Young incidents were blatant. Rooney and Gerard have it in their game now as well as other young English players. It doesn’t help when players and commentators are making excuses for it.

  3. Tony Butterworth

    February 17, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    A penalty is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any of the following offences in the penalty area in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:
    kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
    trips or attempts to trip an opponent
    jumps at an opponent
    charges an opponent
    strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
    pushes an opponent
    tackles an opponent
    holds an opponent
    spits at an opponent
    handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area)

    Please notice the “attempt” part.

    • Christopher Harris

      February 18, 2015 at 7:08 am

      …but the goalkeeper didn’t attempt to trip the opponent.

  4. Tony Butterworth

    February 17, 2015 at 10:10 am

    Man I swear people just plane don’t understand footy.

    I offer a challenge. Grab a ball, run full speed with it at your feet, then have someone run at you and dive at your feet.

    I challenge a single person to stay on their feet.

    You really don’t have to be touched for it to be a foul you know ? He could have left his leg in there and been taken out, would that have been a better idea ?

    This is the single most obvious reason why you can’t calling diving after the fact, slow motion replays simply do not explain the reality.

    • Christopher Harris

      February 17, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Why doesn’t Rooney jump over Stuckmann and hit the ball into the back of the net instead of diving and cheating?

      • GlenM

        February 17, 2015 at 10:44 am

        Yea, but you didn’t answer his question. Run at full speed, have someone dive inches in front of you so that you have to hop over him and see what that does to you. Whatever Rooney was intending to do before the keeper flew at him changed when he had to hop over the guy sliding underneath him.

        Yes, Rooney went over and so would you. It’s a foul in the middle of the pitch and a penalty in the box.

        I’m thinking your you lack common knowledge of playing the sport, or you are a bit biased Gaffer.

        I read your tweets during the match and you also said Rooney was clearly offside when every pundit said he wasn’t. Even Preston’s manager said after the match that it wasn’t offside.

        • Christopher Harris

          February 17, 2015 at 10:53 am

          Glen, the tweets don’t come from me personally. There’s a team of social media people working the Twitter account. I have nothing against Wayne Rooney or Manchester United. But I abhor cheating.

          There’s a difference between running and skipping over a player and diving. I’ve played the game for years, and I’m sorry, but Rooney intentionally dived.

          • Tony Butterworth

            February 17, 2015 at 10:58 pm

            Sorry you’re just plain wrong.

            Maybe you want players to “take it like a man” and get destroyed.

            • Christopher Harris

              February 18, 2015 at 7:08 am

              Tony, your support of Manchester United is making you biased in this regard.

      • Rob

        February 17, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        Exactly, If the penalty was given for the fact that Rooney felt he had to avoid the challenge otherwise he would have been fouled or “intent” . Then why couldn’t he jump the keeper then stay on his feet and appeal for the penalty instead of leaving his trailing leg in and clearing taking a dive? Why, because he poked the ball too far to be in a scoring position.

    • yespage

      February 17, 2015 at 11:13 am

      One minor thing. There is a difference between stumbling and losing your balance and diving. Just watch the legs and you can tell the difference.

      When a player stops trying to stay up, you know they are taking a dive.

      • Tony Butterworth

        February 17, 2015 at 10:58 pm

        You simply do not know that at the speed they are running. They are also trying to avoid the contact in many cases.

  5. Dean Stell

    February 17, 2015 at 10:03 am

    These things are weird. Obviously, the rules and the way the game is officiated STRONGLY encourage a player to dive/simulate. At worst you get a yellow for simulation and at best you get a penalty. I mean…’d be stupid not to try to get that call in your favor.

    The problem lies in the rules of the game. Goals are precious in soccer and penalty kicks are almost certain goals (what’s the percentage? 88% or something like that?). The remedies that I see people suggest aren’t much help either. Sending a player off for simulation warps the game in a huge manner because a sending-off is almost as big of a call as awarding a penalty.

    Why not tinker with penalties? Or have sending-offs for simulation be for less than the “remainder of the game”. Let Rooney take that penalty from the spot of the foul instead of the “penalty spot” and his odds of converting would be a lot less than 88%. That would result in less diving around the edges of the box and zero diving by the touchline. Or let the sending off be for 15 minutes (or whatever) and you’d see referees more willing to do it because it doesn’t change the entire game on a judgement call.

    I know change is hard, but goalkeepers used to be able to pick up backpasses too.

  6. Brian

    February 17, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Imagine if it was Suarez who had won the penalty what kind of outrage there would be. Protecting your own shows the double standard of Hodgson and company. It was a dive, nothing less.

    Diving has become a part of the game in the EPL and is done by players, both English and foreign. What is most troublesome is that when an English payer is involved there isn’t the same outrage as when it’s done by a foreign player.

    • yespage

      February 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Agreed. I hate diving, especially when a player gives up a scoring opportunity to try and get the cheap penalty. And while Suarez did his large share of diving, you have swore that the practice would have disappeared from EPL now that his is in La Liga.

      This won’t stop until the FA starts proactively penalizing the dives. It can be extremely hard for a ref to catch them all.

      • t

        February 17, 2015 at 1:46 pm

        if the referee had advice from replay, he could have reversed the decision in the time between the award and kick. Time to bring football into the 21st century(or is that the 1990s)

        • yespage

          February 17, 2015 at 2:47 pm

          I’m all for that. They do it in the NHL.

        • Mark Williamson

          February 17, 2015 at 9:46 pm

          I have said the same thing on this site numerous times. Simply put, it should NOT be part of the game. It is cheating!!

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