Brian Viner: Deductions would make clear point to Planet Football's squabbling managers

It's not football management, but anger management these guys need Who I Like This Week...
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The Independent Online

Even by the general standards of bad temper on Planet Football, this has been an unusually grumpy week.

The Wigan Athletic manager, Paul Jewell, was furious with referee Phil Dowd over his officiating at the Emirates Stadium; the Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, was furious with referee Mike Dean for failing to send off Joey Barton for his bad tackle on the decidedly bad tackle-prone Pedro Mendes; Stuart Pearce was furious with his old boss Redknapp for pursuing a "witch-hunt" against Barton; Arsène Wenger was furious with Sam Allardyce, and Allardyce furious with Wenger, after the Bolton manager lent his weight to Wigan's cause, accusing his Arsenal counterpart of habitually and "very, very cleverly" pysching out referees. Never mind football management; it's anger management that these guys need.

Meanwhile, the Luton boss Mike Newell was fined £6,500 for his self-confessed sexist tirade last year at assistant referee Amy Rayner, and Queen's Park Rangers suspended their assistant manager, Richard Hill, for his part in what the late Eddie Waring would have termed "a bit of argy-bargy" during the supposed friendly against the China Under-23s.

And that was only in this country. In Spain, Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o and his manager, Frank Rijkaard, were reportedly at loggerheads and practically exchanging blows, while in Italy angry recriminations continued following the tragic death of a police inspector during rioting outside the Sicilian derby between Palermo and Catania. And that after the hand-wringing had only just stopped over the revelations of corruption that led to mighty Juventus, of all clubs, being banished to Serie B. The beautiful game? At the moment it's about as beautiful as Bernard Matthews' turkeys.

Of all the outbreaks of anger listed above, the one that interests me most is Jewell's. He is a man of great conviviality and wit, and an hour in his office is among the more pleasurable experiences I have had in eight years of interviewing notable people in sport. Moreover, he is not generally given to histrionics when things go against his team. That he blew his top at Arsenal I suppose reflects the pressures of a brewing relegation battle. The one point that Wigan came within five minutes of taking back up the M6 might have been priceless in their struggle for Premiership survival, to say nothing of the three points that were nine minutes away from being theirs. So to leave empty-handed was cruel indeed, the more so as refereeing errors - and I did not see the game, so I cannot make a judgement - appear to have been a strong contributory factor.

All that said, the Football Association's disciplinary department should throw the book at Jewell. In fact, they should go further, and institute a system whereby clubs are docked points following particularly intemperate outbursts by their managers, whether referees are the objects of their ire, or other managers. That would stop all the public slanging matches at a stroke, it would encourage managers to get on with managing, and might even free up some space in the sports pages of national newspapers for the reporting of sports not increasingly dominated, as football regrettably is, by spats and squabbles.

It won't happen, of course, but it is a nice fantasy. After all, managers themselves complain that in this day and age of multimillionaire footballers, fining a player even a fortnight's wages for some misdemeanour or other amounts to no kind of censure whatever. But the same applies to them. The record fine levied on a manager is £20,000, demanded of Graeme Souness after he stuck the boot into referee Barry Knight following Newcastle United's defeat at Everton a couple of years ago. Yet Souness is a millionaire many times over. The deduction of a point would have hurt him and Newcastle United a damn sight more, and if the football authorities have confidence in their referees, they should protect them more robustly.

As for managers attacking each other, more attention should be paid to the animosity that their tiresome barneys provoke between the two sets of fans. If violence flares up between Portsmouth and Manchester City fans next time the clubs meet, Redknapp and Pearce will be partly to blame. None of which is to say that managers do not have every right to complain vehemently about referees, each other, or whatever gets their goat on any given day, but they should do so privately, if needs be in front of an independent arbiter. Their every whinge does not have to be amplified by, it has to be said, an indulgent media.

All that said, the Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate got it absolutely right when, in the light of Jewell's attack on Dowd, he suggested that referees at the biggest, fullest grounds more often than not subconsciously favour the home team, simply because there are 60,000 people or more there expecting them to win. How many years was it that Manchester United went without conceding a penalty at Old Trafford? I rest Southgate's case. Although of course if he'd taken one, he would have missed it anyway.

Who I Like This Week

Milan Mandaric, who on Tuesday completed his takeover of Leicester City. Foxes fans should be cock-a-hoop, if Mandaric's record at Portsmouth is anything to go by, because he would not have paid a reported £25m for Leicester if he could not see huge potential.

He likes value for money, which is why, when Pompey were hammered 5-0 by West Bromwich a few years ago, and he agreed with fans who accused the team of rolling over, Mandaric declined to pay their wages. "I think, 'How can I pay people not earning their money?' So I call my controller and say, 'No releases on the salary'. I told the manager, Graham Rix, 'I'm not going to pay you, the coaching staff or any players.' I don't like it when people take money and give nothing back. I got my money the old-fashioned way. I earned it."

Leicester players, you've been warned.

And Who I Don't

The elderly racehorse owner Oliver Carter, who insisted against the advice of his trainer, Sue Gardner, that his veteran chaser Venn Ottery should compete in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury last Saturday. "We pleaded with him that it was absolutely useless to run Venn Ottery in a race like the Game Spirit," said a distraught Gardner, after the 12-year-old - pulled up at the third last after indeed being hopelessly out of his depth - was found to have fractured his pelvis and was put down. Quite enough racehorses die as it is without blinkered owners pulling rank over their trainers.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

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