You've all made a meal out of biting incident, says Defoe

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The Independent Online

Jermain Defoe may have shocked football when he appeared to get his teeth into the Argentine Javier Mascherano on Sunday, but West Ham United indicated yesterday that they will not be biting back. An examination of the midfielder's arm after the match revealed no teeth marks and the Tottenham Hotspur striker himself argued that he was just being "mischievous" .

West Ham, who face Chesterfield in the Carling Cup tonight, are unwilling to force the issue and the Football Association has ruled out any action because it was dealt with at the time by the referee, Steve Bennett, who gave both players a yellow card for their parts in the incident. While the pictures of Defoe do not portray the 24-year-old in a favourable light he would appear to have escaped censure.

The West Ham manager, Alan Pardew, said yesterday Mascherano was "fine" and "did not bear any grudges" towards Defoe while the Tottenham man said he thought the incident had been "blown out of all proportion". "The referee was standing right over me and if he felt I had done anything bad he would have sent me off," Defoe said.

"The incident doesn't look great on TV and I accept that as a role model to kids I have a responsibility to conduct myself in the right way which I always try to do on and off the pitch."

While Pardew said on Sunday that Defoe was fortunate to have stayed on the pitch in Tottenham's 1-0 win there is little evidence to suggest he applied much, if any, pressure with his teeth. Sources at West Ham have said that as soon as it was clear from replays what the striker had done, Mascherano's arm was looked at by club officials and there was no serious injury.

Dismissed as nothing more than a "comical nibble" by Tottenham's manager, Martin Jol, Defoe was encouraged to defuse the furore around his actions, captured by photographers at White Hart Lane, by releasing a statement. Like the recent Stephen Hunt clash with Petr Cech, there is little chance of the FA being able to make a case against the player that warrants punishment beyond what the referee deemed appropriate at the time.

Of much greater concern for Pardew is the run of seven straight defeats which has put him in a vulnerable position while the board attempts to negotiate the sale of the club to one of two rival bidders. Kia Joorabchian, who brought Carlos Tevez and Mascherano to the club, is understood to be close to carrying out due diligence on the accounts which would put him in pole position to take over.

There is still interest from Eggert Magnusson, the 57-year-old Icelandic Football Association and Uefa committee member, but there is greater impetus among certain figures at Upton Park to agree a deal with Joorabchian. However, given that West Ham have not won a game since the arrival of the two Argentines, Joorabchian can no longer count on popular support from the fans.

With few supporters now prepared to agree that the acquisition of Tevez and Mascherano was a positive step, the West Ham board did find support from Jol who said he believed they would come good.

"It can take a couple of months for new players from abroad to come to terms with what is a consistent challenge week in, week out," he said. "West Ham's new Argentina arrivals will be okay because they are top-class players. It doesn't always work like that and you can never be 100 per cent certain that quality will succeed but I am confident that given enough time, they will prove their worth."

As for Pardew, he has found himself under pressure after West Ham slipped to 19th in the table. The former West Ham defender Alvin Martin said: "I think he will deal with it, the players will deal with it and the West Ham fans will stay with them as long as they see the effort there. Commitment is something the West Ham fans will absolutely demand. As long as the West Ham players give that, with the predicament they are in at the moment, the fans will be with them."

West Ham, who face Chesterfield in the Carling Cup tonight, are unwilling to force the issue and the Football Association has ruled out any action because it was dealt with at the time by the referee, Steve Bennett, who gave both players a yellow card for their parts in the incident. A spokesman for the FA said last night: "Under Fifa regulations, we are prevented from taking retrospective action." While the pictures of Defoe do not portray the 24-year-old in a favourable light, he has escaped censure.

The West Ham manager, Alan Pardew, said yesterday Mascherano was "fine" and "did not bear any grudges" towards Defoe while the Tottenham man said he thought the incident had been "blown out of all proportion". "The referee was standing right over me and if he felt I had done anything bad he would have sent me off," Defoe said. "The incident doesn't look great on TV and I accept that as a role model to kids I have a responsibility to conduct myself in the right way which I always try to do on and off the pitch."

While Pardew said on Sunday that Defoe was fortunate to have stayed on the pitch in Tottenham's 1-0 win there is little evidence to suggest he applied much, if any, pressure with his teeth. Sources at West Ham have said that as soon as it was clear from replays what the striker had done, Mascherano's arm was looked at by club officials and there was no serious injury.

Dismissed as nothing more than a "comical nibble" by Tottenham's manager, Martin Jol, Defoe was encouraged to defuse the furore around his actions, captured by photographers at White Hart Lane, by releasing a statement. Like the recent Stephen Hunt clash with Petr Cech, there was little chance of the FA being able to make a case against the player that warranted punishment beyond what the referee deemed appropriate at the time.

Of much greater concern for Pardew is the run of seven straight defeats which has put him in a vulnerable position while the board attempts to negotiate the sale of the club to one of two rival bidders. Kia Joorabchian, who brought Carlos Tevez and Mascherano to the club, is understood to be close to carrying out due diligence on the accounts which would put him in pole position to take over.

There is still interest from Eggert Magnusson, the 57-year-old Icelandic Football Association and Uefa committee member, but there is greater impetus among certain figures at Upton Park to agree a deal with Joorabchian. However, given that West Ham have not won a game since the arrival of the two Argentines, Joorabchian can no longer count on popular support from the fans.

With few supporters now prepared to agree that the acquisition of Tevez and Mascherano was a positive step, the West Ham board did find support from Jol who said he believed they would come good.

"It can take a couple of months for new players from abroad to come to terms with what is a consistent challenge week in, week out," he said. "West Ham's new Argentina arrivals will be OK because they are top-class players. It doesn't always work like that and you can never be 100 per cent certain that quality will succeed but I am confident that given enough time, they will prove their worth."

As for Pardew, he has found himself under pressure after West Ham slipped to 19th in the table. The former West Ham defender Alvin Martin said: "I think he will deal with it, the players will deal with it and the West Ham fans will stay with them as long as they see the effort there. Commitment is something the West Ham fans will absolutely demand."

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