Neil Warnock: I've been there – just never in kicking distance

The way he writhed about was comical - it was if he'd been studying Didier Drogba

I expect most people were shocked when the incident happened with Eden Hazard and the Swansea City ballboy on Wednesday night but I have to admit I wasn't surprised. I immediately thought, "That was bound to happen one day."

I can't condone what Hazard did, but I can understand his frustration at the kid lying on the ball at such a crucial stage of the game because I've been there, though fortunately I was always too far away to actually take actions into my own hands – or feet.

Ballboys are usually fans of the club they are working at and it is inevitable that they will tend to favour the home team, but some are worse than others. I still have a laugh with Steve Coppell about the time I was convinced the ballboys at Reading were working to a plan. When the home team needed the ball they got it immediately, at corners the ball would even be placed in the quadrant for them. But when the away team wanted it the ball would be rolled back slowly along the floor. It used to drive me mad.

What made things worse was they operated the multi-ball system. The ball would be whacked into the crowd, our players would wait for it to come back only to realise another ball had already been thrown into the hands of a Reading player on the touchline. Twice we got done with quick throws like that.

We wrote to the Football Association twice and asked if they could monitor what was going on. It was so bad that when I went there the next time I went to the referee's room before kick-off to hand in the team-sheet and when the ref said, "Any more questions?" I said, "Yes, is there any chance of us getting the ball in the same time as their players do? The last two years it has been a disgrace. And if we can't have it as quickly as they get it, can we do away with the ballboys?"

Nothing changed so we complained again at half-time and the ballboys were withdrawn leaving players of both teams to fetch the ball themselves.

I was accused at Sheffield United of doing similar things but we never spoke to the ballboys. I can remember opposition managers screaming at the fourth official and at me about it. I'd just say "It's nowt to do with me." I don't think they believed it but it was true. The kids were just Sheffield United fans doing, as they saw it, their bit for the team.

That's what the kid at Swansea was doing, but like Reading it was a bit too obvious the way he dived on the ball and laid on it. I thought Hazard kicked the ball to get it free, but his momentum meant he also caught the lad and I think a three-game ban and a fine is fair enough. However, I don't think he hurt him. The way the lad writhed around was absolutely comical, it was as if he had been studying Didier Drogba. Then he went off holding his ribs. He deserved an Oscar.

Then you find out he was 17 years old and tweeted before the game he was going to time-waste, which is a shame because it tainted and overshadowed what was a magnificent achievement by Swansea's players over both legs. It reminded me of when I was at Queen's Park Rangers last season and we beat Wolves away 3-0. We played really well but two minutes before the end of the game Joey Barton had a set-to with Karl Henry.

All the papers were about the fracas and not the fantastic display which spoiled it for the rest of the players. It will have been the same for Swansea's players. They would have gone out, grabbed the papers, and seen lots of headlines and pictures of Hazard and the ballboys, but hardly any paying tribute to them.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence