Dead men still walking

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The Independent Online
Eric Cantona gets it all the time, so does David Ginola, and now, a dozen minutes into Manchester City's 1-1 draw at Bolton on Saturday, Georgi Kinkladze was getting booed as well. His crime: to be extravagantly gifted; to be playing for the opposition; and to have been in the way of Alan Thompson's scything foul.

Old-timers will tell you it did not used to happen when Matthews or Finney were in town: spectators came to awe at their genius, not to abuse it. One could suggest it is a reflection of a less respectful society, or of the greater importance placed on results. Then there is envy, the often misguided belief that the player concerned can be put off, and, probably, a measure of xenophobia.

Whatever the reason, it is not attractive, though it is preferable to the racist abuse which used to disfigure the game, and still does, in pockets. Neither is likely to go away.

To be fair to Bolton fans, the booing at Burnden Park was brief. On the other hand, it came in response to an incident in which Kinkladze was literally the injured party. One moment he was jinking down the wing, the next he was airborne, sent flying by a dreadful tackle from Thompson. At best it was a classic "let him know about it" challenge, at worse it was a calculated attempt to put Manchester City's best player out of the match, if not the season.

Thompson, not a renowned hard man, denied the latter but admitted the former charge. "I was trying to make him know he was in a game," he said. Niall Quinn, the Georgian's team-mate, said: "Kinkladze is a marked man. He's got to get used to it."

What an indictment. English referees have been criticised for following Uefa's edicts too closely but, if it rids the game of such attitudes, they should continue. Had the likes of Dermot Gallagher been in charge at Wembley on Wednesday, Emil Kremenliev's assaults on Steve McManaman would have been swiftly curtailed.

The drawback is that if the letter of the law is rigidly adhered to, we will end up with nine a side. Maybe it is time to follow rugby league or hockey and introduce sin-bins, or green cards for those intermediate offences.

The irony on Saturday was that it was Thompson who eventually hobbled off, kicked out of the game, and Nicky Summerbee, twice booked for fouling him, who was sent off. This was some achievement with Roger Dilkes whistling.

His "it's a man's game" approach to refereeing continued the throwback theme of the day. Burnden Park is one of those grounds that usually exists only in newsreel footage. Standing on three sides, the biggest advertisements publicise the Bolton Evening News, Warburton bakers, and Thistlewaites Tyre: multinationals need not apply.

There are corrugated iron roofs and not a cantilever in sight. Only the hats and caps are missing from the 1950s crowd scenes, and Alan Ball, the Manchester City manager, was wearing one of the latter. Even the ugly concession to modernity, the supermarket which scars one end of the ground, is a regional one.

Dinosaur it may be but, given the right occasion, it can be an exhilarating ground. Saturday's game, a local derby with relegation at stake, boiled up to a frantic finish, with Bolton laying siege to City's goal.

City, having taken the lead after 85 seconds - Quinn glancing in Scott Hiley's cross - gradually subsided into nothingness. "In the second half we were absolutely crap," Ball said.

That had much to do with Bolton's confidence. Down among the dead men and a goal behind they may have been but four wins in six games has done wonders for their self-belief. Alan Stubbs and Scott Sellars took control of the midfield, Sasa Curcic began to lose David Brightwell, and City were so hemmed in only Quinn ever ventured across the half-way line. Eventually the pressure told, John McGinley heading in after Summerbee inadvertently flicked on Curcic's cross.

City had had chances to win the match, Summerbee (who will not recall this game with fondness) missed horribly after Kinkladze set him up and Nigel Clough hit the bar in a goalmouth scramble.

Summerbee departed a minute after the goal, his second yellow more deserved than the first, and only a typical reaction save by Eike Immel from Gudni Bergsson denied Bolton.

The manager, Colin Todd, had said before the game that this was one Bolton had to win; with others results going their way, the great escape was still on. They go to Everton next; City face Manchester United.

"If we play like that next week we will get absolutely hammered," Ball said. The same thought may have occurred to Alex Ferguson and Brian Kidd. The Manchester United manager and his assistant were at Burnden Park on Saturday. The only person who looked happier was the Bolton fan who won pounds 2,000 on the club's half-time lottery.

Goals: Quinn (2) 0-1; McGinlay (74) 1-1.

Bolton Wanderers (4-2-3-1): Ward; Bergsson, Fairclough (Paatelainen, 76), Coleman, Phillips; Stubbs, Sellars; McGinlay, Curcic, Thompson (Blake, 81); De Freitas (Green, 63).

Manchester City (4-3-2-1): Immel; Summerbee, Symons, Curle, Hiley (Frontzeck, 90); Lomas, Brightwell, Brown; Clough, Kinkladze; Quinn. Substitutes not used: Phillips, Kavelashvili.

Referee: R Dilkes (Mossley).

Sending-off: Manchester City: Summerbee. Bookings: Bolton: Thompson, Coleman. Manchester City: Curle, Summerbee, Brown.

Man of the match: Stubbs.

Attendance: 21,050.

Battle for survival

Remaining fixtures

SHEFFIELD WED: 5 Apr Middlesbrough (A). 8 Arsenal (H). 13 Manchester City (A). 17 Chelsea (H). 27 Everton (H). 5 May West Ham (A).

WIMBLEDON: 6 Apr West Ham (A). 8 Manchester City (H). 13 Middlesbrough (A). 17 Blackburn (A). 27 Coventry (H). 5 May Southampton (A).

MANCHESTER CITY: 6 Apr Manchester Utd (H). 8 Wimbledon (A). 13 Sheffield Wednesday (H). 27 Aston Villa (A). 5 May Liverpool (H).

SOUTHAMPTON: 3 Apr Leeds (A). 6 Blackburn (H). 8 Aston Villa (A). 13 Manchester Utd (H). 17 Newcastle (A). 27 Bolton (A). 5 May Wimbledon (H).

COVENTRY: 6 Apr Liverpool (H). 8 Manchester Utd (A). 13 QPR (H). 17 Nottingham Forest (A). 27 Wimbledon (A). 5 May Leeds (H).

BOLTON: 6 Apr Everton (A). 8 Chelsea (H). 13 West Ham (A). 27 Southampton (H). 5 May Arsenal (A).

QPR: 6 Apr Newcastle (A). 8 Everton (H). 13 Coventry (A). 27 West Ham (H). 5 May Nottingham Forest (A).