I was at the KC Stadium for the BBC’s Final Score last weekend so I was able to see Alan Pardew’s ‘headbutt’ on David Meyler in the flesh.
It’s not how you expect a Premier League manager to act and Pardew knows he was out of order but we’ve witnessed a ridiculous witch-hunt against him. I’ll try and offer some perspective.
For starters, it wasn’t a headbutt. A headbutt would have smashed Meyler’s nose across his face.
It was a nudge and a stupid one but in no way was Pardew guilty of a sackable offence. A five to eight-game ban would be about right. And I don’t think he deserves a stadium ban either.
If you look at the stadium ban given to Paul Ince earlier this season it was handed out for a much more serious offence. He was shoving the fourth-official and threatening to knock him out after a game between Blackpool and Bournemouth.
The fact that Pardew is a Premier League manager and the incident with Meyler was seen by millions of people doesn’t make his behaviour worse or even as bad. Only a kangaroo court would say otherwise.
I’ve listened to pundits and ex-players calling for Pardew to be shown the door by Newcastle and to be honest, I’m a bit incredulous. He deserves plenty of criticism because as manager it’s his job to instil discipline among his squad but football’s an emotive game and managers have rushes of blood to the head, just as players do. Don’t tell me that Meyler was a saint in all this either.
Watch the highlights of Premier League games from a single weekend and you’ll see far worse incidents than what you saw at Hull – fouls, elbows, players squaring up to each other. All sorts. The worst behaviour is punished with a red card and a suspension, and that’s the way football has always been. The same rules should apply to everyone.
It’s funny but there is almost nothing that players cannot get away with. Was Luis Suarez sacked for biting Branislav Ivanovic? Was he sacked over the allegations of racism involving Patrice Evra? Of course not. The issues are dealth with and football moved on. That’s how it goes.
There are two other big gripes I have when controversies like this occur. Let’s start with the claim that what Pardew did last Saturday is going to be copied by kids across the country for weeks on end.
Utter nonsense. If any kid goes out and mimics Pardew’s behaviour then there’s either something wrong with the kid or something wrong with the parenting. I’m sorry, but one moment like that on telly shouldn’t be enough to confuse the boundaries between right and wrong.
My 10-year-old son came downstairs on Sunday morning and said ‘Pardew was a bit silly, wasn’t he dad?’ Most fathers in the country will have had the same conversation.
One of my sons plays for Leeds United’s academy and I’m telling you now, if I saw him cross the line like that in a game at Thorp Arch I’d be furious. And I think it’s fair to say that the staff up there would take him to task before I got the chance. Kids don’t need to see good behaviour on or around a football pitch to have good discipline. I simply don’t accept the argument.
But just as annoying is the usual comment of ‘you wouldn’t get away with that in the street.’ No, you wouldn’t. But football is a different arena to ‘the street’. You might not like me saying that or you might think it’s football shirking responsibility but it’s not. On the pitch, you kick, tackle, push and jostle.
The game itself leads to confrontation. Quite frankly, when I walk to the shops I never see the need for any of that. It’s a different setting with different rules.
And if you’re being fair, football’s not unique. You get punching, stamping and eye-gouging in rugby.
You get all sorts in boxing. It tends to be classed as ‘part of the game’ where other sports are involved but with football, there’s always this moral crisis.
Pardew was completely wrong and that’s why he’s spent so much time apologising and taking his medicine.
In no way has this incident been good for him.
But he’s had a warning and a big fine from Newcastle and the FA hasn’t ignored him either.
Can’t we just leave it there?