Monday Moan: Blame officials, not Suarez

Mark Holmes defends Luis Suarez over his handball but calls for an FA Cup rethink and issues a 'told you so' to Wolves and Blackburn.

Last Updated: 07/01/13 at 12:52 Post Comment

Luis Suarez: Just a footballer

Luis Suarez: Just a footballer

Suarez just doing his job

Luis Suarez is attracting negative attention yet again after he clearly used his hand before scoring what turned out to be a crucial second goal in Liverpool's FA Cup win at Mansfield on Sunday.

However, there is no rule that says an outfield player cannot handle a ball and I wrote last season that I find it ridiculous when defenders are penalised for having the ball blasted at their arm.

There is, however, a rule which states a free-kick or penalty should be given if a player handles the ball 'deliberately', and many people believe that is what Suarez did against Mansfield. I can't make my mind up but I hold nothing against Suarez even if he did deliberately use his hand.

Whether we like it or not, cheating is rife in football and virtually every other competitive sport. If a player can gain an advantage by cheating then the chances are he will do it. That's why we have referees - to look out for cheating and punish the players accordingly.

Either the officials saw Suarez's handball and decided it wasn't deliberate, or they missed it. If it was the latter, Suarez should no more be vilified than any team that scores off a corner they knew should have been a goal kick.

There is gamesmanship in every game of football at every level, and there is not a player or team in the world that does not cheat in some way or another.

Some players appeal for throw-ins and corners that they know they should not get. Others spend longer than is needed to take a set piece or call for treatment on a non-existent injury to waste time. Some dive, while some feign injury in an attempt to get an opponent booked or sent off for a tackle which was not as bad as they made out. Some players deliberately commit a foul to stop a dangerous attack. Certain teams harangue referees throughout games in an attempt to bully them into making decisions in their favours. Defenders hold and pull shirts, while attackers push and hold down opponents to attack a high ball. Oh, and sometimes players deliberately use their hands.

Mansfield's goalkeeper Alan Marriott summed it up perfectly: "I don't think you can call him (Suarez) a cheat because this is what happens everywhere in the game, same as in a Sunday league match, that if you can gain an advantage you do."

As with every other form of cheating that goes unpunished - if indeed Suarez's handball was deliberate - our only complaint as football fans should be with the officials.

Suarez outrage sums up my diving debate

It is slightly off-topic, but the reaction to the Suarez handball highlights why I continue to moan about diving.

As I often say, I have no problem with the divers themselves. I applaud that small percentage of players that always try to stay on their feet, but the vast majority will look to gain an advantage, and it is the job of the officials to punish those they deem to have cheated.

However, many of those pundits and fans that slammed Suarez for using his hand have no doubt defended a player at some point for diving. Why?

Why are more people willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a player that falls over under the slightest touch - this only ever happens in or near the penalty area; players are quite capable of riding contact elsewhere on the pitch - than they are to a player who may or may not have deliberately used his hand to score a goal?

Each and every person that moans about one form of cheating, whether it be a deliberate handball, a tug in the box or some time wasting, yet says a player is 'entitled' to fall over when they feel a touch, is a hypocrite.

I on the other hand will never have a problem with any player or team seeking to gain an advantage, even if done illegally. My problem will only ever be with the officials who allow cheating to go unpunished and, even worse, the people that complain about certain forms of cheating yet try to justify others.

FA Cup scheduling needs a rethink

It is an annual complaint of mine and pretty much every other football fan that the FA Cup has lost some of its magic, but it is a complaint which has been ignored.

When Championship sides are making wholesale changes to their sides for what is laughably still called one of the biggest days in football, you know there is a problem.

The FA Cup is still hugely exciting and important to lower-league clubs hoping for the chance to draw a giant, but it's a dull inconvenience for most clubs in the top-two divisions.

The third round comes just after the busiest few weeks on the football calender - should anyone really be surprised by the amount of shadow sides on show over the weekend?

The clubs can't be blamed in the slightest for resting key players, and nor can fans be blamed for saving their money so soon after Christmas, knowing full well their team's reserves will be on show.

Someone recently said to me that the League Cup feels like bonus football, whereas the FA Cup is an unnecessary break from the proper action, rather like international football.

With so much emphasis now on league football, third-round weekend is no longer special and if the FA Cup is ever to regain its full magic it might need to sacrifice its traditions.

The third round should be moved to a time when teams do not feel the need to rest so many players and at a time when fans are not counting the pennies so much. The scrapping of replays would also be a positive move.

Maybe then we will see better teams and fuller stadiums on third-round weekend.

The grass is not always greener

On the day that Mick McCarthy sacked Wolves last February, I wrote that Wanderers fans 'should not assume this move will save their season'.

I accused the Old Gold's board of a 'knee-jerk' reaction after their defeat to West Brom and warned of a 'dearth of suitable candidates available' to replace McCarthy.

It is fair to say my fears were proven correct. After Alan Curbishley turned down the job, Wolves turned to McCarthy's former assistant, Terry Connor, and ended up being relegated in last place having failed to win any of their last 13 games.

McCarthy's critics may argue Wolves would have faced the same fate regardless, but the club's continued struggles in the Championship under the stewardship of Stale Solbakken have surely had fans wondering where they would be were McCarthy still in charge.

The last 12 months at Molineux should serve as a reminder to every club that, unless you have a better one lined up, simply sacking a manager is often not the answer.

Another club to have sacked their manager in the past week are Blackburn Rovers, a club whose fans I regularly upset last season with my support of Steve Kean.

It was hardly the most resounding of backings, but my view on Kean was that he was not as bad a coach as many Rovers fans made out and that he was not to blame for the mess the club found itself in.

Plenty will disagree, but I think Blackburn's struggles since the Scot's departure prove that. He was not the world's best manager, but the facts are that a team he left in third place in the Championship won just one of 10 games under the control of his successor, Henning Berg.

It has been clear from day one to me that the problem at Ewood Park is with the club's owners, and I will always believe that many fans' treatment of Kean was entirely unfair, unnecessary and unhelpful.

Kean, Berg, Shebby Singh, Jerome Anderson are all just byproducts of the Venky's.

Let me know what has annoyed you over the past seven days, and remember you can follow me @Homzy on Twitter for plenty more moaning.

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