Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, yesterday accused the Football Association of double standards in their appeal against Wayne Rooney's three-match international ban, insisting there was no justification for "diluting" his punishment at a time when his own club and others are being asked to comply with football's disciplinary system.
Dalglish's claim that the FA had failed to "set a very good standard" in their exhaustive preparation for yesterday's hearing in Nyon, came before he dispensed with his usual press conference protocol and used DVD clips to reveal what he privately perceives to be severe prejudice against Luis Suarez, who has been charged with improper conduct over an apparent indecent gesture to Fulham's supporters during Monday's 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage.
Dalglish indicated that he would be speaking to Suarez about his conduct at Craven Cottage, though he said that the FA's decision to charge him went against a precedent firmly established in the cases of four players who had not been charged over the same gesture. It seems highly likely that Liverpool will deny both the charges of improper conduct and failure to control their players in that game, to which they must respond by 4pm on Monday.
The DVD clips Dalglish selected demonstrated what he perceives as an injustice to Craig Bellamy, who was penalised for a marginal challenge on Clint Dempsey and booked after a set-to with him. "Did you see Dempsey? Bellamy's conduct and discipline is superb here," said Dalglish, offering his commentary on the clips. Of the challenge on Dempsey, he said: "That's a foul, but when they smash Luis it's not a foul. We had to take [Bellamy] off so we weren't left with nine players!"
Liverpool are also deeply unhappy about the FA's decision to charge them with failing to control their players in the protests which followed Jay Spearing's 72nd-minute dismissal. "There is a rule that says something about getting in someone's space," Dalglish said. "I don't know if it can only be three players. If they have impinged that, fine. But one thing you can say about our players is that their discipline is good."
Dalglish's indignation was compounded by Brede Hangeland's challenge on Suarez in the closing stages of Monday's game which looked like a borderline penalty in Liverpool's favour. "He's really looking after the ball there isn't he? He's not got interest in the ball," Dalglish said.
The manager reiterated his deep discontent over the time being taken to investigate Suarez over his alleged racial abuse of Manchester United's Patrice Evra in October. "Nine weeks to reach a decision... is a bit of a joke," he said.
Asked if Suarez was a victim of prejudice, he said: "No but there is a danger you might write that." But he does feel that the Uruguayan is a victim of his reputation. "People just jump on the bandwagon and accuse him of this, that and everything else," Dalglish said.
Dalglish is on the weakest ground in questioning the time taken to conclude the Evra investigation – a result of the FA's attempts to investigate a complex case in which subtle linguistic nuances are at issue. Securing discussion time with Suarez has not always been straightforward and a further 23-day delay has followed the decision to charge him on 16 November because Suarez has had additional time to formulate his defence. It is understood that Suarez has now formally responded to the charge and that a hearing in the case is almost imminent.
The decision to charge Suarez with an obscene gesture is based on video evidence, though establishing consistency is harder in the alleged failure to control players. Friend will have detailed Liverpool's protests over the Spearing dismissal in his report and the FA's decision to charge was based on follow-up discussions with him. There is a different level of acceptance among referees. At least one is understood to have turned down the FA's offer to investigate a team's response in the past few weeks, insisting that he considered their conduct acceptable.
Reds manager projects his view of referee debate
At first, it seemed like "Rafa's rant" – with pictures. No-one present in the Melwood press room on the day that Rafael Benitez pulled a list of grievances from his inside jacket pocket and calmly assassinated Sir Alex Ferguson will forget it. And so it was yesterday when Kenny Dalglish launched into a slide show.
This was by no means the usual protocol. Since Dalglish's return to the managerial chair, Thursday mornings at Melwood have tended to involve five minutes' jousting with Sky, followed by something less – only slightly less – adversarial with the press in a side room.
But it became clear that something different was afoot when Dalglish cleared out the TV cameras whose presence has made subtle discussion of football so very difficult and asked for a previously unused white screen behind the manager's chair to be dropped down. "Which clips should we show?" he asked. "All of them," came the reply. "You can't see them all," he replied. It was not a rant but a revelation. As the projector light was extinguished, Dalglish had revealed a capacity for media management which had barely spoken its name across the course of three uncomfortable decades in the press room.
Ian HerbertReuse content