In its infinite wisdom, BT has chosen to employ the services of one Robbie Savage as their expert analyst to educate us with his pearls of wisdom regarding the subtle nuances and tactical complexities of football.
Savage earned his reputation as an old fashioned hard man during his career by regularly stepping over the boundary between good play and foul play.
The aptly named Savage is an odious character who has been branded ‘the dirtiest player in Premier League history’
His trophy cabinet boasts an impressive 87 yellow cards – 5 more than the incumbent of second place, that other gift to humanity, Lee Bowyer.
All of this of course makes Savage the perfect recruit for BT. The once respected national telecoms institution has been sold to the highest bidders and with it, lost its integrity along the way.
This brings me to Savage’s commentary on the match between Brighton and Arsenal last Sunday. Savage had been spouting his usual dinosaur drivel throughout the game, but really stepped it up a notch when our rookie striker Chuba Akpom came on in the 70th minute.
Chuba is an exciting prospect from our academy. At 19, he’s a strong, quick and direct striker – the sort defenders hate. It was an excellent substitution because we were under some pressure from Brighton and needed an outlet that would keep their defenders on their heels. And so it proved as on several occasions the ball was passed out of defence to Chuba who subsequently went up through the gears and looked a real threat.
But each time Chuba got the better of the defenders he was cynically brought down. Most neutrals watching the game might expect the studio pundit to observe how well Chuba had done in drawing the foul and maybe god forbid, to criticise the defender for breaking the rules of the game. Not Savage. On two separate occasions his sage assessment was “that’s a good foul” …… I repeat …… “that’s a good foul”
Now forgive me, but aren’t the rules of the game designed to protect players and ensure that the game is played in the proper manner. If a foul is committed due to a lack of judgement, or just because your opponent is too good and has fooled you, then fair enough. A deliberate foul where there is no intention of getting the ball, only to stop the player in order to avoid a goal scoring opportunity is just plain cheating and risks injury to a fellow professional.
I accept some footballers practise this dark art, it often goes under the affectionate term of ‘taking one for the team’ when a card is brandished, but when it is a blunt instrument regularly employed to stop the side with superior skills playing football, it is detrimental to the game, and contrary to the spirit of the game.
Savage thinks this kind of behaviour is to be applauded. He’s on the telly telling millions of people that this is a good thing. Thousands of aspiring young players will have heard an ‘expert’ describe cheating as “a good foul” – a great example to set. How many times will those actions be replicated in parks up and down the country I wonder? And what if Chuba had suffered a career threatening injury in one of those ‘good fouls’? Hope you’re proud of yourself Robbie. It doesn’t matter to you, you’re busy carving out a celebrity career where the most base of behaviour only serves to enhance your reputation.
This is not an argument against tackling or strong physical play, they still have a place in the modern game. Players with intelligence will know where the line should be drawn. Tackling has been described as an art form by those appreciate the skill and timing involved. I have no problem with that. However, players who lack ability will always seek refuge in an overly physical approach that manifests itself in habitual fouling and should not be encouraged by the media.
It is up to the officials and rule makers to ensure that such practices are discouraged and penalised appropriately. If the rules currently in place do not deter ‘professional fouls’ then the penalties are clearly not harsh enough. We can only hope that their thinking is not influenced by the ‘Savages’ in our media.
He is a disgrace to his profession. BT are guilty of the lowest form of tabloid recruitment in giving him air time.
How are we ever going to progress in football in this country when we have characters like Savage promoting anti-football in our media? We should mount an internet campaign to get Savage off our screens to prevent his contamination of the beautiful game to which Arsene Wenger, Arsenal and all football purists aspire.
Here’s a reminder of the gulf in class between Savage and an Arsenal great ……
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