Robert Snodgrass’ dive on Saturday provoked heavy condemnation, but Hull boss Mike Phelan’s comments were far worse than his player’s actions who was “trying to get out of the way”.
The Scotland international’s cheating was so blatant that it prompted a tweet from the player himself to apologise. Whether it was sincere or just to save his embarrassment is debatable.
But Snodgrass’ dive was so obvious it left Crystal Palace defender Scott Dann fuming and Palace boss Alan Pardew branding it “embarrassing”.
Snodgrass later admitted “it was never a penalty” – how could he offer any other explanation with Match of the Day and the ensuing analysis looming later that evening?
Snodgrass tweeted: “Apologies from my end, it was never a penalty. But I genuinely thought the defender was going to slide, so I tried to ride the tackle.”
But as misjudged as Snodgrass’ actions were in the heat of battle, Hull boss Phelan’s comments were astounding and a major reason why the English game will struggle to eradicate cheating.
We’re told the Premier League is the best league in the world: it’s honest and there’s no play acting etc. But, hold on. Last week England man Dele Alli won a dubious penalty with a dive and this week Snodgrass – another British player – conned the referee to gain an advantage.
The EPL our kidding themseleves if think cheating doesn’t happen and from British players too. It does, and if they want to stamp it out then football figureheads, like Phelan, need to come clean.
The former Manchester United assistant manager’s comments were dishonest and leave a question mark over the integrity of the game.
“I have dealt with football players all my life, some who are blown over by the wind and some who take massive knocks, but do not got penalties. It will be highlighted. That is the job of pundits, the media,” said Phelan.
“But I shouldn’t think that detracts from an excellent performance; a team performance. We possibly got lucky in that situation and I am sure Crystal Palace were aggrieved by it.
“But I am not going to argue with my player or say anything that will turn his head or make him feel down about it. I need a Robert Snodgrass. He has to get on with his job. He will put up with whatever comes his way. My team, my players and my staff are behind him.”
To claim that Hull “possibly got lucky” underplayed the whole incident, but more importantly it was damaging to the game. To defend his player to the hilt is understandable, but when the integrity of the game is at stake then it’s time to take a step back and show some courage.
Snodgrass’ actions were wrong and should have been quickly condemned. There was no reason to deride his man, who is clearly one of the Tigers’ stars, but he should have been made aware that it cannot be tolerated. A few public words to that effect would have sufficed from Phelan, but instead he insisted the club was behind him.
An intimation that Hull City approve of cheating is surely not what Phelan was trying to portray but that’s pretty much the picture that has been painted.
There can be no retrospective punishment for Snodgrass’ actions. Why in this tech-laden age is bizarre, but that’s another argument. So Snodgrass and Hull have benefitted, not from a refereeing error, but from a piece of cheating, which has been sanctioned by Phelan and the club.
Snodgrass, who accused Sheffield Wednesday’s Fernando Forestieri of ‘cheating’ last season, later tried to explain just why he had dived in the box under Dann’s attempted challenge.
“You feel as if you need to ride the tackle. Probably, when I look at it, it will maybe look worse. But, from my side, I thought the defender was going to come in and slide.
“That is what I was trying to say to him (Dann). I was just trying to get out of the way of his tackle, but he never tackled, so that is probably why it looks bad.”
He was also asked whether he was an honest player.
“Of course, that is what it is all about. I have never been one for going into that position, so that is what I tried to say to the lad.
“I am not that type of player. I said that to him. But, obviously, emotions are running high, he is thinking, ‘Well, I’ve not touched you’. But I am thinking, ‘Obviously, I’m trying to get out the way’. It is up to the referee to make that sort of decision,” added Snodgrass.
To recite the cliched “I’m not that type of player” was an unfortunate oversight from the 29-year-old, just as his dive was at the KC Stadium.
However, the lack of contrition from Phelan, after considering the bigger picture, surely cannot be accepted.
The Football Association are currently coming under attack because of their antiquated structure and the fact their are not representative of the association. Accused of being “elderly white men who do not represent anyone but block even the most minor of changes” they have more on their agenda at the minute, but this is an incident they should be getting involved with.
Reprimanding manager’s for criticising referees pales into insignificance, but surely protecting English football’s integrity should be top of their priorities?
If manager’s are not going to be honest then the FA should step in and remind managers like Phelan of his wider responsibility.