The Peter Corrigan Column: Feud, glorious feud - but isn't football a game for feet rather than mouths?

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Unless something else flares up to distract them, the flouncing exchange of cat-calls between Arsenal's Arsène Wenger and Chelsea's Jose Mourinho is likely to break out again in the next few days.

As long as the upper echelons of the game have managers possessed with the wiles and wilfulness of the present lot, I suppose we have to put up with it, but it is not the most edifying facet of the game.

Having called for a truce, or cree as we used to call it when I was a kid, Mourinho might think he has established a moral foothill in their much-publicised spat. But what his conciliatory offer amounted to was "If he apologises to me, I'll apologise to him, but he's got to do it first".

Wenger responded with clear disdain: "I will still give my opinion about Chelsea if I want to. We are not in a dictatorship."

With the Football Association appearing to be totally unconcerned with the dignity of the game, it is further from a dictatorship than it ought to be.

We should be grateful that Sir Alex Ferguson has not stepped in to make it a three-cornered wrangle, but considering that Manchester United play Chelsea today - I'm hoping for a United win myself - there is plenty of opportunity for an extension of the falling-out fetish.

But Ferguson has an internal problem with free and frank expression of views. His injured captain Roy Keane's scathing opinions of the team after last weekend's defeat by Middlesbrough is a serious matter. Berat-ing his team-mates on the pitch or in the dressing room is one thing, but being so willing to slate them off in public is dangerously morale-threatening, and can't be allowed by the club.

There is an irony here. All our top clubs have been trying to control media coverage, and by creating their own television channel United hoped to establish a flow of news and views to their supporters that would untainted by the independent press. That Keane should have chosen MUTV to mount his attack meant that United ended up censoring their own tame outlet. It is difficult not to regard that as delicious.

As long as football matches last only 90 minutes the media are duty-bound to fill the boring bits in between with whatever we can lay our hands on.

We used to get away with plenty of transfer speculation until the introduction of the January window. And with access to players becoming harder, there is more space available for critical columns and the rantings of the managers.

There was a time when football was regarded as a game more for the feet than the mouth, but those happy days have long passed into the dim and distant. Can you imagine managers like Matt Busby, Stan Cullis or Bill Nicholson blowing raspberries and pulling faces at each other? I imagine Brian Clough would have enjoyed a public dialogue with Mourinho, and might have proved more than a match for him, but he was inclined to be more seriously philosophical in his meanderings and far more interesting to listen to.

The direction in which the game seems destined to go was depressingly outlined in an interview with the Chelsea chief executive, Peter Kenyon, in the Independent media section last Monday.

He talked of customers, not fans, of delivering eyeballs and of brand domination at a global level. Apparently, it is all about marketing, and gimmicky marketing at that.

If Kenyon is typical of those engaged in shaping the future of the game we must be grateful for the infusion of a Wigan every now and then to remind us that the fabric of the game can still carry a touch of the homespun.

Kenyon also talked of the value of the manager's charisma. I'm not sure how long charisma lasts if you are continually carping on about something or other.

Perhaps they would reach their goal sooner by leaving the diatribe to those trained to dispense it without fear or favour. That's what the press are for, after all.

Twenty-first century vision makes Ringer less of a sinner

Welsh rugby spent last week knee-deep in nostalgia in the build-up to the centenary Test between Wales and New Zealand yesterday.

Each of the three Welsh television channels devoted a documentary to the intense rivalry that dates back to 1905, when Wales inflicted the only defeat suffered by the All Blacks in the 35 matches they played on their first tour of the British Isles.

At a dinner I attended they were still debating the disallowed try by Bob Deans that would have saved the game for New Zealand.

But it was not only the controversies of 100 All Black years that agitated the memories. A rugby quiz on BBC Wales television, featuring my colleague Jonathan Davies, showed a clip of Paul Ringer's sending-off for a foul on John Horton in the 1980 England v Wales match at Twickenham.

Ringer, the Welsh openside flanker, was the first player to be dismissed in the long history of that fixture, and if it seemed harsh at the time it looks ludicrous now - especially when compared with the unpunished spear-tackle that put the Lions captain, Brian O'Driscoll, out of the summer tour of New Zealand.

"Looking at the Ringer incident again was an eye-opener. It was so innocuous it would hardly qualify for a yellow card these days," said Jonathan.

When I bumped into Ringer the following day he was as philosophical as possible. He was unfortunate in that the game had been cutting up rough and the ref was looking to make an example.

"What people don't remember is the effect it had on the rest of my career. Without doubt, that black mark cost me a place in that year's Lions tour of South Africa. When they suffered a few injuries early in the tour, some of the senior players asked for me to be called up, but they wouldn't budge in their refusal to consider me. They seem far more forgiving these days," he said.

Ringer had another reason for complaint in a week when the Welsh had to look back to 1953 for their last win against New Zealand. His first game for Wales was against the All Blacks in 1978, when the infamous dive out of the line-out by Andy Haden cost Wales victory. "We should have won that match easily," he said. "Think of all the dinners we've missed because of that dive."

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