Just a spot of fun with a serious subplot. Whenever Liverpool visit the Stadium of Light, it offers an opportunity to recall the most accomplished dive many of us have ever seen. And what is more, it worked, fooling a seasoned ref and gaining Liverpool a draw.
We’ll get on to Gary McAllister in a moment.
First, let it be repeated that almost no supporter answering the Salut! Sunderland “Who are You?” questions defends cheating in football. OK, there was a Southampton fan, but he was an exception to prove the rule.
But can any of us claim to be entirely consistent in our condemnation of diving, feigning injury, intimidating the ref, trying to get opponents booked or sent off?
The Liverpool WAY interviewee, Dave Usher, could not have been clearer in his rejection of the tongue-in-cheek notion about whether we should stop bothering about cheating.
“No, I think video evidence should be used and hefty bans handed out to the offenders. I’m not talking about those instances where players feel contact and go down, as that’s too difficult to judge. But when there’s no contact and the player claims a penalty, they should be banned. That would stop it soon enough. I tell you what else needs addressing too, when players go down holding their face when they’ve been hit on the chest or something. That’s just embarrassing to watch and fans of other sports are just laughing at football because of it. I’d ban anyone who does that for six games minimum.”
Bravo, Dave. But Liverpool fans defended David Ngog after an outrageous dive against Birmingham City. We used to call it the Eduardo Question in the Who are You? series but Arsenal supporters swore the poor man was blameless when he took to the air as if powered by a rocket in a CL game against Celtic. And fellow Sunderland fans have been known to tell me to pipe down when admitting to acute embarrassment at a Seb Larsson dive that won a penalty at Wolves.
This is how I put it six years ago, back at the time of the Ngog episode …
Forget Ngog, forget the beach ball that saved us from having to score one of the four sitters that followed. When it comes to Liverpool and luck – good or bad, depending on your allegiance – we’ve seen crazier things …
Poor Peter Walton seems to have paid a swift, harsh price for his calamitous award of a penalty for Liverpool when David Ngog launched into the sort of takeoff that has one football site asking this morning which Olympic sport France might consider entering him for.
According to the Daily Mirror, he will be relegated to the Football League or at best fourth official duties (if, indeed, that is seen as a punishment) when real football resumes after the international break.
It’s the sort of rough justice that comes after the most serious of refereeing blunders these days. But Peter should take heart (and feel aggrieved): Salut! Sunderland can assure him that it’s happened before (and that the culprit on that occasion escaped any sort of sanction that we know of).
Let’s go back to Feb 10 2001. The second half is drawing towards its close and Liverpool are trailing 1-0. To Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. Don Hutchison has scored our goal and, those being his SAFC badge-kissing days, been booked for his subsequent celebrations with fans in the North Stand.
Out of nothing, Liverpool look like equalising as Gary McAllister eludes Varga. It’s some way outside the penalty box, but he’ll be through for a one-to-one with Sorensen. Out comes a sneaky Varga foot and McAllister commences his own impersonation of an Olympic athlete specialising in the long jump.
He glides through the air for what seems like half a mile before gracefully performing a textbook landing – you guessed – in the Sunderland penalty area.
Tring’s other refereeing Graham, one Mr Barber, appears to see only where McAllister ends up. He proceeds to get both decisions completely wrong: a penalty and only a yellow for Varga. To the dismay of 47,000 Mackems, Litamen scores from the spot and the match ends 1-1.
We should have been down to 10 men and had to defend for the remaining 11 minutes of the match, including the free kick. That free kick would, of course, have been so far out of the box as to test the most accomplished striker of long-range efforts. But no one will ever know whether we would have done it, any more than they can be sure that Birmingham would have clung on to their 2-1 lead before Ngog-a-gogo replaced football.
But it goes to show that as long as Sundeland fans remember the demon Barber, there is no need for Mr Walton to feel he has committed the most extravagant act of kindness towards Liverpool in recent history.
* In fairness to Mr Ngog, we have his agent’s word for it that the idea of fraudulently winning a penalty was the last thing on his mind when he, er, ************ won a penalty. “He wouldn’t try and con the ref,” Bruno Satin tells The Sun. “He’s a lad with very good education, correct and polite. He doesn’t look for these things. He’s never had a problem of this type before in his career. Maybe he fell down because he was worried about being injured. At times players make very hard challenges in England. They allow a lot of things to defenders in the Premier League. At times it’s really on the limit.”
In fairness to Mr McAllister, a guest slot is open to him at Salut! Sunderland to explain the technique of his dive.