“All Craig has done is go over there and tell the guy to get off the pitch,” said Mark Hughes. “Craig wasn’t privy to how much time was left to enable us to get back into the game. The guy made an aggressive move towards him and Craig wanted to get him off the pitch. Craig just put a defensive hand out to push him away. You can never be quite sure what is going to happen in those situations.”
Oh Sparky, what have they done to you?
Turned you in to a total cunt? Sadly, it seems so. One week he is defending Adebayor for that savage kick on Van Persie (it’s hard to feel much sympathy for that horrible Arsenal git, it doesn’t change the fact Adebayor’s actions were fucking horrible!) and now he has the nerve to defend Bellamy for hitting a fan! It’s embarrassing.
If the fan was running wild, getting in the City players’ faces and looking aggressive, there would have been cause for Bellamy to ‘tell the guy to get off the pitch’.
However, the fan was being restrained by two stewards at the time, about to be lead off the pitch, before Bellamy ran over to him. At this point, the fan had no choice over what he was going to do, getting off the pitch or otherwise, as he had his arms wrapped around his back, so what use was Bellamy’s command? And I suppose repeatedly shouting “get off the fucking pitch you fucking knobhead!” is the command Hughes is referring to.
Bellamy had no place being there. He got himself involved in a situation that had nothing to do with him. How the fuck can a guy with his arms held tight behind his back by two people ‘make an aggressive move’?
Hughes is right when he says that ‘you’re never sure what is going to happen in these situations’. That’s why any player with half a brain cell wouldn’t have charged over to the fan. Say the fan was capable of behaving in an aggressive manner (which he wasn’t, given that he was being restrained), who’s fault is it that Bellamy is in that situation?
As if Bellamy behaving like a thug wasn’t embarrassing enough but for the manager of the club to then defend him takes it to a whole new level. Money can’t buy you class, eh Sparky lad?
The FA got the decision wrong and again let City off, so I was curious as to what City fans felt about this ridiculous behaviour so I had a chat with City blogger Jack and Danny Pugsly from Bitter and Blue about the situation.
STR: What do you think of Bellamy running over to hit the restrained fan?
J P-B: Bellamy was stupid to go up to the fan and slap him when he was being restrained, no question.
DP: It’s strange in a way because given the drama in how the game ended, there hasn’t been anywhere near the focus on the incident, especially with it being Craig Bellamy, there would have been had the game been a dour 0-0 draw. That’s not to excuse what he did however as the facts are that he has hit someone in the face and a three-game ban should have been the punishment handed out. The news that he hasn’t been charged frankly shows the FA to be incompetent given the fact they deem Adebayor’s conduct during his goal celebration are a more serious offence than striking a fan.
STR: What do you think of City’s decision not to punish him and instead excuse him for hitting a fan in the face?
DP: Hughes is clearly trying foster a ‘them against us’ siege mentality which started with some very negative press from some of the less than reputable elements of the media leading upto the season. This has continued with the Adebayor, injury time and Bellamy incidents. To be fair, it has worked to great success for sides in the past. Maybe you would want your club to make some sort of moral stance but rightly or wrongly, I don’t see our actions to not dish out any punishment any different than any other club would react when defending their own interests. If he had been charged, I think without question they would have defended him to the hilt. However, given he hasn’t been, you’d hope there would be a sense of relief that he won’t miss any games but that there is a strong conversation between Hughes/the club and Bellamy outlying a conduct of behaviour that is/isnt acceptable as we really could do without any PR faux-pa’s such as this.
J P-B: I’m sure Hughes and Bowen will give him a dressing down in private. On form he’s our second best forward and we would have missed him if he got banned. But I don’t think a fine or ban from MCFC would be correct, given that he’s likely to get that from the FA.
STR: Ok, but do you not think it could send out the wrong message for the club to publicly back a player who had punched/slapped a fan in the face, regardless of the fact the fan ran on to the pitch (but not to Bellamy)? United banned Cantona for 4 months for kicking the fan and the FA added another 5 months to it. Whilst Hughes may very well bollock Bellamy behind closed doors, does it not show publicly that the club have no problems with one of their players punching a fan who runs on to the pitch? That was essentially what Hughes’ post-match comments said anyway, as well as a further statement yesterday (when he no longer has the ‘heat of the moment’ as an excuse), which both completely justify Bellamy’s actions.
J P-B: I see your point but I’m not convinced by it. I appreciate that there are cases when player violence is so bad that it warrants a pre-emptive club punishment. Cantona is the best example but we have previous too: Ben Thatcher’s ten match ban for his shameful assault on Pedro Mendes was issued by MCFC and not be the FA. So there are certainly cases when an incident has brought such shame on the club that the club has to take the first move. But I’m just not convinced that this is one of those cases. Bellamy slapping the fan was nasty and uneccessary, and revealed an unpleasant side to Bellamy’s character that we knew was there. But it was of a different nature to Thatcher on Mendes or Cantona on the Palace fan. So it’s not worth a club punishment.
STR: But I suppose that was under a different regime, where you didn’t have Mark Hughes bending to his ‘superstars’ and big egos. City didn’t care if Thatcher got pissed off with the club for not supporting him, but given Bellamy and Adebayor are your best strikers, Hughes will certainly want to keep them onside, even if that does include defending the indefensible. It seems totally bizarre to me that any manager would excuse that kind of behaviour in public, whatever is said behind closed doors. But moving on, do you think this comparable to what Eric Cantona did at Selhurst Park?
DP: Not at all. I think they are two very seperate incidents. From what we know about the two, Cantona is likely to have received a far greater and more personal level of abuse, but equally, his reaction was far in excess and more severe than Bellamy’s, which looked to be somewhere halfway between a push and a punch. I’m not sure Bellamy is likely to be Canonised anytime soon as a result either!
J P-B: Well it’s comparable on only the most obvious level of being examples of player on fan violence. But no further. First there’s the issue of invasion. When Eric Cantona kicked Matthew Simmons he was invading the fans’ area, where he had no right to be. Bellamy’s slap was not an invasion but a reaction against the invasion of Jake Joseph Clarke. And then there’s the content of the violence. I don’t want to see a slap in the face or a flying kung-fu kick to the chest at a football match. Slapping a restrained man is very unedifying. But to suggest that the two are equivalent risks trivialising the serious nature of the kick.
STR: Whilst I completely agree the violence in Cantona’s attack was worse, there is a big difference in that he was actually provoked. The fan was calling him a motherfucking French bastard, a French son of a whore etc. (according to the witnesses around the fan and to Cantona himself), served prison time for the offence, was banned from football and fined for his behaviour directed at Cantona. Cantona then reacted to that behaviour – that doesn’t make it OK, but it explains why it happened. What reason was for there for Bellamy to run over to a fan that was already restrained and hit him in the face? Whilst the fan will be punished for running on the pitch, there will be no punishment for anything he directed at Bellamy, because he didn’t do anything to Bellamy. Is that element of it not far worse than Cantona’s, as it was a totally unprovoked attack and the fan posed no threat, verbally or physically, to Bellamy himself?
J P-B: Again I accept your point that Bellamy did not obviously receive abuse equivalent to that of Cantona. But Cantona chose of his own free will to kick the fan, as Bellamy chose freely himself. Footballers have a stronger power of agency than that which we attribute to them. Take coin throwing. In recent years Didier Drogba and Jamie Carragher have had coins thrown at them and have chosen to throw them back. Javier Garrido was hit by a coin thrown from the Stretford End on Sunday, and could have thrown it back. But he chose not to. Footballers – even footballers being abused – still have free will. So I don’t accept that the provocation issue makes the Bellamy slap and Cantona kick morally equivalent.
STR: The difference with coin throwing is that, like Drogba, the coin is thrown at anyone. If someone is verbally abusing you and you choose to kick them, you’ve made the wrong choice because two wrongs don’t make a right, but nobody innocent has got involved (BNP and National Front man Simmons, who’d have killed a Sri Lankan petrol station worker had it not been for a slip which saw the spanner he was attacking the guy with smack in to his shoulder, rather than the intended target, his head, was never going to be an innocent party). Whilst I’d agree players can’t go around kicking fans, or hitting them, there has been a lot of talk of ‘if you can’t take it, don’t give it out’, particularly since the Adebayor celebration. The lad who Bellamy punched didn’t give anything out though, he just ran on to the pitch! Bellamy behaved like a thug, whilst Cantona literally was kicking racism out of football…No?