James Lawton: Police must protect clubs not sue them

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The Independent Online

The point of Millwall Football Club, other than as a place of gestation for some of the vilest tendencies of our national life, has rather escaped me for quite some time. However, this does not reduce the absurdity of the suggestion by a senior policeman that the club may be sued for injuries to officers and horses in the streets outside The Den the other night.

What happened in those streets was disgusting – and terrifying for those local inhabitants who peeped through their curtains to see anarchy on the march. But keeping law and order is the duty of the police, and for doing the job inside the grounds, not always with notable success, they are paid handsomely. Part of their charge is the right to determine kick-off times, often at vast inconvenience to peaceable citizens.

Millwall ultimately cannot be responsible for every mindless thug who spends part of his evening on their premises, no more than the proprietors of pubs and theatres or even the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Some years ago patrons of the Met became extremely angry when a famous tenor had to withdraw at the last moment because of a sore throat. Boos rang out, missiles were thrown at the stage, and the New York Times duly reported that on the following night the notorious ice-hockey fans of the New York Rangers left Madison Square Garden early because, "they wanted to avoid the opera crowd".

That was a joke, as it could only be in a city where the effective quelling of riotous behaviour is seen as a duty rather than a gift of the police.

McManaman evokes vapid prose

Whenever Steve McManaman fulfils a useful function for the most successful club in the history of our football continent – say scoring a goal in a European Cup final, as he did two years ago, or semi-final, as he did rather brilliantly in the Nou Camp just two weeks ago – it seems reasonable to speculate that he might just be an effective member of England's World Cup squad.

But no more of such whimsy. We are advised by a distinguished columnist that McManaman is a "shoulder-shrugging, self-indulgent pastiche of a player whose inability to admit mistakes is matched only by his reluctance to redeem them." Furthermore, this "vapid poseur" would evoke all the wrong images for Sven Goran Eriksson's "sweat-soaked" striving athletes.

It is hard to know which is the more amazing, Zinedine Zidane's publicly stated belief that he is surprised England have no use for his Real Madrid team-mate, or the fact that three of Eriksson's predecessors between them handed this preposterous wretch 30 caps.

One of those caps was given to McManaman for playing at right wing-back. It's frightening to think what that should say to somebody of a hypercritical nature about the football brain of Glenn Hoddle.

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