James Lawton: Players' on-pitch behaviour is not a matter for the police

Along, I imagine, with all those other countless victims of car smashing and theft who over the years have parked near Anfield or Goodison Park and then been greeted with a yawn by the desk sergeant, I will be severely exercised if the Merseyside police waste a nanosecond of time on the fatuous complaints raised against Roy Keane and several of his team-mates by the fans of Everton.

If it is proved that Keane, who, for someone who regularly lectures the world and its dog, has a remarkable tendency to behave stupidly in public, did indeed offer the V-sign and shout obscenities to his tormentors on the terraces, he should be fined by his club and reminded that he is a very highly paid professional.

Involving the police is, however, an outrageous waste of public money, and it was something of a relief to discover yesterday that they are of a mind to leave matters to the Football Association. Of course it is easy work feeling the odd footballer's collar, it helps crime statistics and is guaranteed a nice little splurge of publicity.

Amusingly enough, in a sick little way, a first review of the film of Saturday's game reveals only that a certain section of the Everton crowd made it their business to taunt several United players, and with no great restraint on their language. They pay their money and have the choice of behaving like genuine sports fans or a bunch of maladjusted adolescents. When they take the second course they should not expect the reinforcement of the law.

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