Reid: What Cazorla did was absurd. Players who dive should get bans
The West Bromwich Albion midfielder tells Steve Tongue why only strong action will tackle the conmen
A sense of injustice can be a powerful driving force, and West Bromwich Albion's players and supporters will be fuelled by one going into this afternoon's home game against West Ham as they attempt to propel their season back on track.
Having reached the top three 13 games into Steve Clarke's reign, they have slipped back after defeats by Swansea, Stoke and Arsenal, but it was the circumstances of that third loss last weekend, to two Mikel Arteta penalties, that brought about a feeling of iniquity.
Clarke only just stayed on the right side of a disciplinary charge for his comments about the referee, Mike Jones. Steven Reid, the defender whom Jones judged to have conceded the first penalty after Santi Cazorla collapsed in front of him, had to tread equally carefully in making his feelings public. Fortunately Reid is a bright man who thinks before engaging his power of speech or his Twitter account.
By Wednesday night, when Cazorla missed one of the penalties against Bradford City, Reid could not resist tweeting "Karma" to his 29,000-plus followers, and "Congratulations Bradford, enjoyed that shoot-out immensely". Earlier, he had spoken in measured tones about the crucial incident to The Independent on Sunday, saying: "I knew there was no contact. A lot of the time you can tell from the reaction of both sets of players. If you look at Cazorla, he looked a little bit embarrassed by it, and every West Brom player close by knew there had been no contact.
"You've got two linesmen and the fourth official all with earpieces in, and you'd like to think between them they could help each other out. So it was disappointing. I did say to the referee that there was no contact and he said, 'There doesn't have to be', which I'd like to get to the bottom of."
The official was presumably making the point that a player who "attempts to trip an opponent" is committing an offence whether the attempt succeeds or not; but the most cursory study of the incident indicates that was not the case either. "I'm obviously not happy with the referee but for me the player's got to stay on his feet," Reid said. "He's not helped the referee in any way by going to ground."
Is the situation getting worse, perhaps with the continuing influx of foreign players, many from a different football culture? "I think it's just highlighted by the number of cameras and the coverage and the fact that we're trying to stamp it out of the game. For me it's not going to change until there is some sort of ban or punishment in place retrospectively. Otherwise it's always going to happen. When it's big, big decisions like that, it's disappointing and it changes the game."
Until those past three matches, Albion's form had been a rebuke to those who predicted a relegation struggle, and in some cases an unsuccessful one, once Roy Hodgson moved on to higher things. Having joined on loan from Blackburn just in time to help secure promotion three seasons ago, Reid believes they are now strong enough finally to have ended the yo-yoing from one level to the next.
"Under Roy we went out there every week knowing our jobs inside out," he said. "I was 29 or 30 but I don't think I've ever learnt as much as at the time. I was pretty new to playing at full-back and every day at training I was learning something new about defensive play and tactical awareness. But it's been a smooth transition to Steve Clarke and Kevin Keen. It was important too that Keith Downing and Dean Kiely were kept on, as they've been at the club a long time.
"When I first signed there was maybe an acceptance that it was a yo-yo club and perhaps the squad didn't have enough characters, but now we've got some real strong characters and leaders in the dressing room, and when things aren't going well we can dig people out.''
He includes himself among the senior players with responsibility to do that "digging", having tied down a place at right-back after playing at Millwall and Blackburn in midfield. That was his position for the Republic of Ireland too until, just as he was recovering from a series of depressing injuries, the manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, publicly doubted whether Reid would be able to play at a high level again. "I was pretty shocked and upset. And not even a phone call either. You'd like to think a man of his experience would know better. Sam Allardyce, who was Blackburn's manager at the time, was outraged by it and came out in defence of me in the press, and rightly so."
The run of injuries brought "some really dark days" when "after finishing sixth with Blackburn and having a really good season you're not involved, you get labelled 'sicknote', there are times you struggle even to go and watch the lads".
For now he is through the dark tunnel. The Baggies just need to start bouncing again, ideally against Allardyce's Hammers today.
Steven Reid campaigns to raise funds for research into nystagmus, a rare visual impairment that affects his three-year-old son, Harry: www.justgiving.com/steven-Reid12
West Bromwich Albion v West Ham United is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm
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