Leboeuf 'scared' by violence in England

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The Independent Football

FRANCK LEBOEUF, Chelsea's French defender, came out in defence of his beleaguered compatriot Patrick Vieira yesterday - and said that he was frightened by the violence in English football.

FRANCK LEBOEUF, Chelsea's French defender, came out in defence of his beleaguered compatriot Patrick Vieira yesterday - and said that he was frightened by the violence in English football.

"English fair play is a myth. I have never seen as much violence on a pitch as in England," Leboeuf said in Clairefontaine, near Paris, where he is preparing for his country's crucial European Championship qualifier against Iceland on Saturday. "Before certain matches, I'm scared that an opponent might harm me."

Leboeuf also said he would defend Arsenal's Vieira, who faces a lengthy suspension for spitting at West Ham's Neil Ruddock and who allegedly struck a policeman after being sent off in Sunday's stormy Premiership encounter at Upton Park.

"I cannot believe what people say about Patrick. He is aggressive on the pitch and he should calm down at times," Leboeuf said. "But he was provoked by Ruddock, who is always looking for trouble and knew that, when you provoke Vieira, he will react."

Leboeuf added that he was also often provoked by opponents hoping for him to lose his self-control. "They're also after me, thinking I'm temperamental because I'm French and because I'm a world champion," he said.

Leboeuf claimed that some Manchester United players he had played against had been especially rough. "Last week, Teddy Sheringham tried every trick to make me blow a fuse," he said. "Roy Keane or Nicky Butt, they're also players who give it 100 per cent on the pitch in terms of tackling, even a little bit more," he added. "I don't want to indulge in English bashing, but that's a fact."

Vieira, who has been charged by the Football Association with bringing the game into disrepute following Sunday's events, yesterday claimed that Ruddock had insulted him throughout the game.

On Monday, the Arsenal midfielder apologised for his actions but, in an interview with a London newspaper yesterday, he was in more combative mood.

"The provocation - a little physical and a lot of verbal - was going on all through the game," Vieira said. "I was pushed over by Ruddock at the first corner and it was right in front of the referee. He gave nothing. I asked Ruddock why he did that and I was told that I was a 'French prat'."

However, Vieira denies being involved in an argument with a policeman in the tunnel after his dismissal. "Honestly, I don't remember speaking to any policeman," he said. "As I came up the tunnel, there were so many people. I said I wanted to be left alone and I wanted to go to the dressing- room."

However, the Frenchman insisted that he will accept whatever punishment the FA decides to give him. "I promise all I wanted to say to the referee was that he had made a big mistake. Then something was said to me and I reacted as I did," Vieira explained. "What I want to make clear is that I was completely in the wrong. Nothing can excuse what I did. Spitting at another player is an awful thing to do. I have had it done to me before and it's dreadful.

"I saw a television replay of the incident and I could not believe I was watching myself. I have never done anything like that before."

Another troubled Frenchman, Nicolas Anelka, claims he wants to start his career in Spain with Real Madrid afresh, starting with next week's Primera Division game against Barcelona.

The former Arsenal striker has yet to score for Real since his £23m summer move from Highbury. He has returned to training following a knee injury and yesterday he said: "I want to play in the Nou Camp for Real. It would be good for me to be in the team. I want the game to be the proper start of my career as a Madrid player."

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