Rod Liddle

Memo to all footballers: quit whining

Memo to all footballers: quit whining
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This, from Roger Alton in this week’s Spectator Sport: “Manchester United and Aston Villa players are moaning about the state of the Wembley pitch for last Sunday’s Carling Cup Final. Give over, lads. Football’s not billiards. A harsh winter’s just a fact of life, and your skills have been flattered by manicured surfaces for too long.”

Absolutely right, as per usual – although Alton does not go far enough. We have now had Sir Alex Ferguson whining about the state of the pitch and how it may have incommoded both Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen. When he’s not whining about pitches, Ferguson whines about how the referees are out to get him.

There is no excuse at which today’s players and managers will not grasp when things are not going their way. Just watch as South Africa draws nearer; they will be whining about the gruelling number of games they’ve had to play, or, if they haven’t had to play them, (like Aaron Lennon and Ashley Cole), their lack of match fitness. They will be whining about tackles, about referees, about media intrusiveness, about fickle fans. When they gift the USA a goal in the opening game, it will not be their fault, but an act of God. When they fail to equalise it will be just one of those things.

Incidentally, do you remember the fun of watching football in the winter a few decades back? The fabulous quagmire of a pitch – none worse than Derby County’s old ground, The Baseball Ground; the orange ball in case it snowed and no players at all wearing tights or mittens?