It’s widely known I think, that referees in the Premier League and Football League have been told to clamp down on some of the over aggressiveness of players. This is nothing to do with the changes to the laws but rather the deteriorating standard of behaviour. The question I think has to be asked is how much control of players should be left to the referees and how much responsibility should be taken by managers and coaches.
Let’s take the situation with Tottenham Hotspurs last season. One of their emerging stars, Dele Alli was seen on television to kick Nenad Tomovie of Florentina in the ribs as he lay on the ground in their Europa League match. He was fortunate to only receive a yellow card but Tottenham’s boss, Mauricio Pochettino said ‘We must remember he’s a young player and I will have to teach him, He is still learning.’
How old do you have to be before you learn that kicking an opponent on the ground is not part of the game? But Pochettino, speaking a few days later, whitewashed Alli even further. ‘He’s a little bit naughty but it’s good. I like it.’ he said.
Well Pochettino certainly got his wish for naughtiness when Tottenham played Chelsea in their penultimate game of the season. Dele Alli was not playing, suspended for punching an opponent the week before but there were no fewer than seven yellow cards for Spurs players. Can you blame the players, as they knew their manager likes a bit of devilment. Not only did they allow Chelsea pull back from a 2-0 deficit, Tottenham handed the championship of the Premier League to Leicester. The second battle of Stanford Bridge is what instigated this tougher approach ruling for referees.
Despite a fine of £225.000 for Tottenham, I wonder if anyone sought to tell Pochettino that he should control his players better. I doubt it very much; let’s leave it to the referees.