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Premier League

Tottenham bring in referee to help Gareth Bale lose ‘diver’ tag


Gareth Bale’s reputation for diving led to referee Andre Marriner visiting Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground last week.

Marriner spoke to Bale and his manager Andre Villas-Boas three days after Tottenham’s win at Fulham, in which Bale was booked for simulation.

It was Bale’s fourth such yellow card in the last two seasons, but Villas-Boas believes there is an unfair perception of the Welshman. “We received the visit of the referee this past week,” Villas-Boas revealed yesterday. “[It was] just a consequence of what happened in the game against Fulham. It came naturally. It was not a big agenda. But it generated a useful conversation where Gareth explained his points of view and the referee explained theirs.”

Premier League clubs tend to be visited by referees once or twice per season as a matter of routine.

Bale was booked against Fulham after being tripped by Steve Sidwell; three days earlier, he had been similarly booked after a challenge from Liverpool’s Daniel Agger. Villas-Boas believes that Bale is wrongly thought to be a diver. “Whatever reputation he gains he does not try to do it. It is a tag that, if he has gained, it is unfair,” the manager said.

Bale has been badly injured by tackles in the past and is understandably keen to avoid the same thing happening again. “Gareth has gone through a difficult time in his career,” Villas-Boas added. “He has had potentially career-threatening injuries and sometimes for the pace that he goes at it looks like a dive from the player when he is actually protecting himself. He told me that.”

Bale is unlikely to be risked against Swansea City tomorrow as he recovers from a hamstring injury. The Swansea manager and former Barcelona and Real Madrid midfielder Michael Laudrup said yesterday that he thought Bale could struggle if he were to move to one of La Liga’s two giants – as has been suggested.

“It is a completely different type of football,” said Laudrup. “If you play in Barcelona or Real Madrid, you don’t play on the full pitch, you play in the last 20 to 25 metres of the pitch. If you have seen some Barcelona games, they play 19 players in nothing, so you don’t have space. You can’t run.

“If he does go to Spain and play for one of the top two teams there, then that part of his play would be very difficult. It will be a different way of football, but if you have quality I think you will always adapt.”

The Spurs centre-half Steven Caulker is set to face the club he played for last season on loan despite a difficult week in which he received a two-game ban for his role in the fracas between England and Serbia Under-21 players and officials after October’s game in Krusevac.

“He has been amazing, for his age and for the way he made the step up from Swansea to Tottenham and the way he has been doing so well and playing so much,” Villas-Boas said. “He is a major player. The last couple of days will not really affect it. Although he is young he is mature enough to differentiate the things.”

Scott Parker, who has not played all season due to an Achilles injury, could well be back on the bench tomorrow. “He’s been out for so long and he’s such an important player for us,” Villas-Boas said. “He’s been decisive last season. We’ve been really patient with the situation. We’re glad to have him back; it was wonderful to see him out there on the pitch. Certainly he offers other possibilities. He can be a major influence,  offensively and defensively. It’s good to have him on our side and good to finally count on him.”

Michael Dawson could return to the Tottenham side but Benoît  Assou-Ekotto is unlikely to make the squad yet after a knee injury.