Football: Hoddle calls Shearer kick 'accidental'

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The Independent Online
THE ENGLAND coach, Glenn Hoddle, spoke out in defence of Alan Shearer yesterday and said that he was "100 per cent confident" that the England striker would not deliberately kick an opponent in the face.

The Football Association announced on Wednesday that Shearer would face a misconduct charge after apparently kicking Leicester City's Neil Lennon in the head during a Premiership match on 29 April.

Hoddle yesterday appealed to the FA to hold any disciplinary hearing "as soon as possible" so that the matter can be cleared up in advance of this summer's World Cup and his prized striker can concentrate on the tournament.

The England coach added that he had no doubt that the incident in which Shearer appeared to kick Lennon was an accident. "I have spoken to Alan Shearer at length over recent days," he said. "I have watched the incident he was involved in during last week's match at Leicester on several occasions.

"As a result, I am 100 per cent sure what happened was accidental. My personal opinion from the start has been that it was accidental. I don't accept Alan would deliberately intend to harm a fellow professional."

After being tackled by Lennon, Shearer's legs became tangled with the Leicester player and, when he turned, he kicked the grounded player in the face with his left foot. Shearer has insisted the kick was not deliberate and that television replays made the incident look worse than it was.

If found guilty by the FA disciplinary committee, Shearer could be heavily fined or suspended for several League matches next season, but he remains free to play in Newcastle's remaining games this season, including the FA Cup final on 16 May against Arsenal, as well as the World Cup. Any suspension imposed by the FA would take effect next season.

"As far as the England team is concerned, we hope the matter will be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible," Hoddle said. "Alan Shearer's reputation and record over many years have been impeccable. It's time now for events to run their course and for everyone who wants success in France to get off his back."

The decision to call Shearer before an FA commission was taken personally by Graham Kelly, the chief executive of the FA. "Graham Kelly believes it is in the interests of the game that Alan Shearer receives the fullest opportunity to explain to a commission what happened and, if necessary, call witnesses on his behalf," the FA said.

However, Shearer has 14 days to respond and, depending upon his response, it will be decided when and how to proceed.

The England striker seems certain to ask for a personal hearing, as he has been angered by the FA's handling of the case. "I fully understand the need for all players to be treated equally by the FA, but I am disappointed that there is apparently nothing in the FA's rules which enables a player to state his case prior to an announcement like this being made," he said. "I am totally confident that I will eventually prove to everyone that the incident was not intentional."

Lennon has criticised the FA for their delay in deciding to bring Shearer before a Lancaster Gate hearing and in charging him. "It has become a farce in taking so long for any decision to be made," the Leicester player said. "If the referee and linesman had acted in the right way at the time in dealing with what was a sending-off offence, then what has gone on since would have been unnecessary. That's where I have sympathy with Alan. If it hadn't been him, he would not have had to put up with all the publicity that has followed."