James Lawton: Mourinho right to defend his keepers but wrong to accuse Hunt of a deliberate foul

Believe me, a striker does not drop his knee. That is inviting serious injury

Jose Mourinho has been quite specific in his technical explanation of how it was that his goalkeeper Petr Cech finished up in an operating theatre with a fractured skull. Though the Chelsea manager was open-minded enough to concede that inflicting a life-threatening injury was perhaps not the intention of the Reading striker Stephen Hunt, he was quite detailed in his description of the "deliberate foul" for which he is demanding a heavy punishment by the Football Association.

Said Mourinho: "Hunt clearly fixed his leg to catch Petr. He dropped his knee. He didn't go with the foot to try to catch the ball. He went with his knee at the keeper's head."

Hunt, while plainly guilty of a clumsy and ill-conceived challenge, vehemently protests his innocence and has received the total backing of his famously fair-minded manager, Steve Coppell, the former Manchester United and England winger who brought his team into the top flight without resorting to the kind of cynicism that is commonplace in most areas of the game today.

Though Chelsea have given official backing to Mourinho's stand, it was interesting yesterday to chart a groundswell of opposition among more independent observers. The consensus was that a credible gut reaction to Hunt's unquestionably reckless move almost certainly depended on some experience of playing the game at a decent level. This, unfortunately, disqualifies Mourinho, who has been known to defend ferociously the sometimes excessive physicality of his own players, most notably Michael Essien, who, since his arrival at Stamford Bridge, has been the author of some fouls so harsh that even the blood of hardened old pros has run cold. This was particularly true of a breathtaking demolition of the former Liverpool player Dietmar Hamann in the Champions' League last season.

However, this did nothing to restrain Mourinho, who also declared: "I don't know if Petr is a Catholic, but if he is he should go to the shrine of Fatima because he is lucky to be alive. It was that bad." Away from Fatima, where a vision of Our Lady is said to have appeared to a Portuguese girl, there was rather more down-to-earth assessment.

It came from three major figures in the game, two of whom - Ian St John and John Giles - were particularly adroit performers in the cut and thrust of football in one of its most violent phases in the Sixties and the Seventies. The other was Sir Bobby Charlton. All three of them were quick to say that while the Hunt challenge was unacceptably risky to the health of both the victim Cech and himself, it bore no evidence of a deliberate attempt to inflict injury.

St John, the great striker of Liverpool and Scotland, felt particularly sure of his ground. "I think anyone who played the game seriously would have a pretty clear idea of what happened. Reading faced a big test and this was the first minute of the game. The talk in the dressing-room would inevitably have been about the need to be aggressive, to take the game to Chelsea and so of course there would be quite a bit of adrenalin flying about.

"A striker like Hunt would be right in the middle of of that. Rightly or wrongly, he thought he could put Cech under pressure but as he ran at him it was clear he got his feet wrong. In those circumstances if a striker is trying to do 'the goalkeeper' he leaves his foot in - not his knee. That is fraught with all kind of risks, especially to the striker. Mourinho said he 'dropped' his knee. Believe me, a striker does not drop his knee. That is an invitation to serious injury - a striker dropping his knee is an unnatural act."

Giles, who over 10 years played 520 times as the general of Leeds United and who won 59 caps for the Republic of Ireland, said, "The lad should not have gone for the ball, but saying that is a long way from claiming that he tried to injure the goalkeeper. Ian St John is right. When it is the intention to hurt the goalkeeper the boot goes in - not the knee. I don't know how bright Hunt is but no one playing professional football over any length of time could be so stupid as to try to use his knee in that situation. It would be a form of professional suicide. No one who ever played the game for a living would dispute this."

Charlton said, "It wasn't a good challenge and you have to feel sorry for the goalkeeper but I have to say I didn't think it showed any intention to cause injury. It was one of those unfortunate things that are always going to happen in football."

Perhaps the point stretching beyond the unwelcome crisis the incident brought to a brilliant and brave goalkeeper is that Mourinho was once again utterly subjective in his view of the game in which he wields so much power - and influence. The headlines, as he would have known they would be when he made his charges, were lurid enough. "Make him Pay" declared one. "Hunt in dock as Cech suffers a fractured skull." Last season he accused Lionel Messi, Barcelona's star teenager, of play-acting when he was felled by Chelsea full-back Asier del Horno. A more objective view was that the Argentine prodigy had been obliged to take evasive action to avoid serious injury.

At such times the casualty is generally the truth. No one would dispute the legitimacy of a coach's concern for any of his players and if Mourinho had merely said that Stephen Hunt was guilty of a "stupid" challenge no one could have complained.

But the Chelsea manager went further than that. He pushed the truth beyond its limits, as he had in the notorious Anders Frisk case, when he alleged the Swedish referee had had private talks with the Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard. In this case, he said that Hunt had aimed his knee at Cech's head. It was a statement guaranteed to inflame a painful situation. No matter that it didn't make sense because, after all, you had to play the game to know that.

Cricket's values exhausted by the crazy pursuit of financial gain

England's impending disappearance from the Champions Trophy is not the best of portents for the Ashes series but patriotic concerns for the moment surely dwindle against wider concerns about the health and the morality of the wider game.

Positive results for the performance-enhancing drug nandrolone on the first samples of Pakistan's Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif are the latest indicators that the old game of manners may be subsiding ever more depressingly under the inevitable pressures created by a year-long treadmill of competition.

Ball-tampering, match-fixing and a failure to finish a Test match have all played their part in tearing at the image of a game which was portrayed so beautifully for a few enchanted months by England and Australia last summer. Now there is the spectre of drug use - an inevitable response, some might say, to the ever growing demands on the bodies of the star players.

In one drug scandal of the Tour de France the great Jacques Anquetil shook his head and said, "Some people are amazed that some of the boys use drugs. What really would be amazing if all of them were able to get round the course without them."

The same can be applied to cricket's crazed pursuit of the entertainment pound, rupee and Australian dollar.

Something has to give and of course it is the flesh and blood of the competitors. England go to Australia like a gathering of the halt and the lame - and two great Pakistani players are cast under a shadow. Already it seems that Ashes glory, that perfect competitive balance, happened in another lifetime.

Beckham is not England's answer

Apparently 70 per cent of England football fans are now craving the return of David Beckham... or put another way, three per cent more than those who want to see the summary dismissal of the new coach, Steve McClaren.

In all the angst there is an exquisite irony - that McClaren is suffering most for the decision to jettison Beckham, which was considered a formality if the job had gone to superior candidates like Martin O'Neill or Guus Hiddink.

However, they would have done more than say goodbye to the celebrity king. They would have insisted on fundamental improvements, starting with the knack of passing to members of your own team rather than any old Macedonian or Croat. Also, goalkeeper Paul Robinson might have expected something other than a hug after his fatuous mistake.

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin