If you earn £70,000 a week, you probably have to accept more scrutiny than most.
Luis Suarez is such an individual. After his appalling dive to con a referee and win a penalty against Arsenal today, he seemed to have claimed rights to the famous cheating question, posed by Salut! Sunderland to an opposing supporter before each SAFC game, for the rest of the season.
But then I thought again. Was this as bad as Eduardo for Arsenal against Celtic? No. Ngog for Liverpool at home to Birmingham City? No chance. Or – since the question also covers feigning injury and procuring cards for opponents – Barton for Newcastle at home to Arsenal? No again. Even our own Seb Larsson, for us at Wolves, deserves a place in the identity parade.
And Suarez? I decided that he is just too easy a target. His lamentable record doesn’t help: the cynical goal-line handball to deny Ghana at the 2010 World Cup, the unedifying racism row, the routine falling-over tricks.
If there was contact with the Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczezny at Anfield, it was minimal. It was also, arguably, originated by Suarez. The ensuing theatrics were obnoxious. But did they set Suarez apart? They did not.
Read this outstanding summing up by the Mirror’s Andy Dunn:
The pursuit of cheap penalties has been a disease in the game for some considerable time.
No team deserves sympathy when a debatable penalty decision goes against them because they all have operators who try to deceive officials.
Suarez is no more or no less deceitful than any other striker.
But this incident will be logged in the casebooks of those who consider him an unwelcome addition to the Premier League. He is no such thing.
Minus a goal, this was another performance of tireless enterprise, mixing impudence with incision, weathering a physical and often unfair examination from the Arsenal defence. Suarez did not deserve to be on a losing team.
Spot on, Andy.
Suarez was also responsible for as glorious a piece of individual skill as we have seen in the Premier all season, when he jinked his way through he Gunners’ defence and was desperately unlucky to see Szczezny save his shot. Szczezny also produced a wonderful double save to stop Liverpool, who otherwise deserved to win not lose, profiting from the more inglorious side to his game.
Salut! Sunderland is hardly alone as a voice against cheating in football. But we are consistent, having banged on about it more or less since the site was created at the start of 2007.
And nor is it new, or the foreign phenomenon Little Englanders suppose it to be. Don Revie, as long ago as 1967 in an FA Cup 5th round replay against Sunderland, included an instruction to dive in his tactical team talk. It was obeyed and won Leeds the game.
And don’t take my word for it; read these words from Peter Lorimer’s autobiography:
Don said out of the blue: ‘If anybody gets anywhere near the box, get down.’ Jimmy Greenhoff, who was quick when he was in full flight, set off on one of his jinking runs and was fully five yards outside the penalty area when he was brought down. By the time he had stumbled, fallen and rolled over a couple of times he was inside the box, and the referee, Ken Stokes, pointed to the spot so quickly that it was almost embarrassing.
Lorimer might have been describing Gary McAllister’s equally effective dive, for Liverpool at the Stadium of Light 30+ years later. McAllister’s flight began not so much outside the penalty area as back in Sunderland city centre.
Maybe I am being charitable. But Suarez’s actions, amply punished by the missed penalty and loss of three points, fall short of that level of naked dishonesty.
The question’s name is currently the property of Everton’s Leon Osman after he managed to win a penalty against SAFC, having demonstrably fallen over his own feet with no Sunderland boot or body part anywhere near. It shall remain so for now.