Bardsley’s Chelsea ‘stamp:’ just when you hoped it couldn’t get worse …

Phil Bardsley - Sunderland - Premier LeagueImage: Addick-tedKevin

What did others – Blues fan included – make of the alleged Bardsley stamp? Was my own defence of him naive? STOP PRESS: see Fitz’s comment – no appeal, now confirmed by which suggests we must accept the worst interpretation of the episode. There was, sad to say, no need for quotation marks around the word “stamp” in my headline …

One of the few Sunderland players to perform with consistency and unlimited passion over the past year or so has been Phil Bardsley.

I like to think of him as an honest player with shedloads of enthusiasm and courage. He has limitations but plays to his strengths as a solid defender who offers a bit of menace, and even a decent shot, when going forward. And he does it just as well if forced to play out of position.

But is there a dark side, too, to Phil? I hope not.

Just when you might have hoped that among all our other woes, at least Bardsley had been given the benefit of the doubt over the alleged stamp on Chelsea’s Juan Mata, along comes an FA charge that will slap a four-match ban on him unless a successful appeal is made today.
I saw the incident, albeit on screen. The commentators made much of it, one saying “only Phil Bardsley knows whether that was intentional”.

My first reaction was that it was indeed an accident; there had been no clash between Bardsley and Mata, the latter being on the floor after being bundled over by Gardner. Bardsley seemed to catch him while trying to leap over his fallen body to push clear with the ball.

He immediately turned as if to acknowledge his guiltless action and ensure his opponent was all right.

Was that last gesture the mark of an innocent man, as I took it to be, or a cynical attempt to have it both ways: inflict the damage and then act as if it had been the last thing on his mind? The studio team was in an uncharitable mood and tilted towards the harsher interpretation.

Bardsley insists it was an accident, according to reports. Unfortunately, his record – one sending off already this season – will not help his cause.

If it was not an accident, that would reveal a worrying aspect to his game to the extent of making me revise my view that when he was booked for alleged diving (after no contact from Ryan Giggs) in a match at home to Man United near the end of the 2009-2010 season, he was guilty not of cheating but of falling over.

Salut! Sunderland has never wavered in its condemnation of cheating in football, whoever cheats. And I said at the time that if it was a dive, Bardsley should be fined a month’s wages for turning a goalscoring opportunity into a yellow card. And if he genuinely stamped on Mata, and then pretended not to have done, I’d make that three months’ pay.

Whatever the outcome of the appeal, assuming one is made, it remains the case that only Bardsley knows the truth, just as only he knows whether he fell or dived against United.

Our disciplinary record is not a great. We give away ludicrously dangerous – and unnecessary – free kicks around the box. Every so often something goes on in the penalty area that has hair standing on end, or would do if I had any, even if we get away with it. I am not even sure I agree that Cattermole has become less reckless; he made one dreadful challenge at Anfield and has been substituted relatively early in other games.

But it would be hard to bear if a man who usually embodies the never-say-die approach Sunderland supporters admire should be decreed by the FA disciplinary machine to be capable of moderately serious and craftily disguised nastiness.

Joe* No French Fancies this week: not enough to say, though Joe Cole’s performance when he came on as a sub for Lille at Saint-Etienne, and the glowing reports he received (made one goal and left three or four opponents standing with one little run), had me wishing my Bienvenue en France Joe & Carly posting at Salut! had been Welcome to Wearside. The manager at Lille, Rudi Garcia, calls him the “most Latin” of English players and we could do with a little of his creativity.

Monsieur Salut

11 thoughts on “Bardsley’s Chelsea ‘stamp:’ just when you hoped it couldn’t get worse …”

  1. Sounds feasible, though if that’s the case I’d say it’s a bad decision. Turner got a red card in the Man City incident while the ref on Saturday took no action at all – I’d argue that that seriously lessens the chances of an appeal being judged frivolous.
    If the appeal was turned down, the four-game ban would stick; if it was judged frivolous, it would become five games. If it was upheld, there’d be no ban. I think that would have made an appeal a risk worth taking.

  2. perhaps one of the reasons he didn’t appeal is that they’ve already increased the ban from 3 to 4 games because of his sending off and should they consider an appeal “frivolous” (as in the case of Turner v Man City) they could increase it further.

  3. Well, as Bardsley has not taken up the opportunity to appeal and subsequently been banned for four matches you would have to assume it looks sufficiently deliberate, and the argument for it is so thin, as to make an appeal pointless. Ergo, it was likely on purpose.

  4. On the day,I thought it was a genuine attempt to jump over Mata and the fact that he immediately apologised and went to help him up seemed to confirm this.
    I haven’t seen the tv replays, but if the FA have charged him, then it is unlikely to have been seen by them as something which happened in the rough and tumble of the game rather than a nasty attempt to take Chelsea’s playmaker out of the game.
    If he accepts it, he has gone down in my estimation; I know he has a hard streak about him that sometimes tips over the edge, but a stamp is the kind of thing you associate with the likes of Barton and Kevin Davies.
    As Mr O’Reilly says to Basil Fawlty, “There’s always someone worse off than yourself”, to which Basil replies “Is there? I’d like to meet him, I could do with a good laugh”.
    Just about sums up how many of us feel at the moment!!!

  5. like you say, only Phil knows the truth. I caught the incident out of the corner of my eye and my immediate reaction when Phil turned to check on the man was that it must have been an accident. Apparently, Shearer didn’t intentionally stamp on his opponent (Neil Lennon) years ago, because, despite endless TV re-runs showing that it certainly looked deliberate, he said it wasn’t. Who do you believe? Will Phil get Mata to speak in his defence, as Lennon did for Shearer?
    I doubt it. Had Phil been England captain, it would probably have been a different matter, as they can do no wrong in the FA’s eyes. Or am I more deluded than an Hartlepool fan? (well, it’s about as relevant as mentioning Liverpool)

  6. Morning,

    Having watched it a few times I have to say I think it was deliberate. When hopping over someone on the floor you don’t stomp your foot down, you’re mindful they’re there in the first place. I think your assessment that Bardsley wanted it both ways is probably correct – I think he stamped on Mata out of frustration at having been given a bit of a run-around – then realised quickly he could well have been seen.

    Mata/CFC have made no issue, but the FA clearly feel it was deliberate. I would prepare to lose him for a period of time, and hope he learns to control his frustration better.


  7. Obviously as a Chelsea fan my feelings will be completely opposite to those of Sunderland fans. When the incident happened, in real time I assumed Mata had injured himself as I saw nothing wrong (like the ref), however watching replays if you honestly think there was nothing intentional in Bardsley’s stamp then you are more deluded than Liverpool fans. He’s a filthy player who went into the Newcastle player with no intention of winning the ball back on the second weekend of the season. He’s a dirty player and the FA should look into player’s who repeatedly get suspensions for bad tackles.

    • When I invited Chelsea supporters to respond, I did hope for something more rational than “he’s filthy, he’s dirty, you’re deluded”!

      It was a rash lunge against Newcastle but, in my view, the result of an honest attempt to get forward with time running out for an equaliser. That said, it was rightly punished (as a second yellow, and was borderline straight red)

      He had been the victim, very early on, of a far, far worse assault by a Newcastle player – Cabaye if memory serves – that should really have brought a straight red, but that’s a separate matter.

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