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Hard Men vs Crazy Men

By Simon Allen



MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM: Manchester United's captain Roy Keane (R) upends Middlesbrough's Spanish Gaizka Mendieta for a free kick 28 December 2003 during their Premier League match in Middlesbroug
MIDDLESBROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM: Manchester United's captain Roy Keane (R) upends Middlesbrough's Spanish Gaizka Mendieta for a free kick 28 December 2003 during their Premier League match in Middlesbroug

From the Official Liverpool website.

 Managing director Ian Ayre said: "The charges against Luis (Suarez) were his to consider and we have to respect his decision to not appeal the 10-game ban.

 "We are all disappointed at the severity of the punishment and in particular the differing standards that have been applied across various previous incidents.

"Luis is an important member of our team and nothing has changed in that regard.

"We are committed to helping him improve his conduct and he will be given our full support. We look forward to him returning to the team next season when he is available for selection."

 And that should be the end of the whole Suarez goes vampire story. Suarez won't appeal the 10 march ban.

 "I am truly very sorry about the incident with Branislav Ivanovic. I hope that all the people who I have offended at Anfield last Sunday will grant me forgiveness and I again repeat my personal apology to Branislav.

 I know that all the things that are happening to me in England will help me improve my conduct on the field. Right now, I just want to focus on becoming a better footballer on and off the field.

 I would like to explain to everyone that I decided to accept the ban because, while 10 games is clearly greater than those bans given in past cases where players have actually been seriously injured, I acknowledge that my actions were not acceptable on the football pitch so I do not want to give the wrong impression to people by making an appeal.

 I really want to learn from what has happened in the last 2.5 years, many things have been said and written about me, I just tried to do my best on the field. I hope to come back early to play.”

 That's nice!

 But not good enough for a lot of people out there except Joey Barton and Mike Tyson who understand the angst that Suarez goes through.

Everyone else has been very quick to condemn him. Robbie Fowler, Phil Thompson and Dietmar Hamann were quick to sound off on Twitter about how they thought his actions were “unbelievable” and “indefensible.” Hamann tweeted that “we saw Suarez for the last time in that red shirt today.”

 Mario Balotelli actually tweeted “Night night, sleep tight, don't let the Suarez bite.” Which was amazing because most people would have had him, top of the list, biting a player if there was ever an office pool of soccer absurdity.

 The thing is, we can huff and puff about how this incident embarrasses the EPL and Liverpool and professional soccer...and that Liverpool should sell him because no player is bigger than the club he plays for. But let's be honest, Suarez is worth double now what LFC paid for him when they got him from Ajax. He is the club's world class player (along side Steven Gerrard) and clubs outside the EPL have expressed interest in acquiring his services from Liverpool. Suarez has scored 23 goals this season and would probably be top of charts if his season wasn't cut short by his own madness. Alan Shearer scored 22 goals in the 2003-04 season and is an honest to goodness legend at Newcastle. An Honest to Goodness player like Shearer would be welcomed these days. Shearer had one red card in 441 times he played for his club. And the red card he did receive was overturned after the referee Andy D'Urso and his assistant Graham Beale checked the “video evidence.” Honest to Goodness.

 Speaking of Shearer. Fans will remember Roy Keane taking a swing at him, then getting a card and then running after him to “fight” some more. David Beckham got in front of Keane to hold him back. Shearer remained cool but it was Classic Roy Keane. And let's not forget Alf Inge Haaland.

 One of the must disgusting events on a football pitch was essentially a revenge foul that cost the career of another professional player.

 Paul Hayward, in the Daily Telegraph, wrote: "Keane by name, and manically keen by nature, Manchester United's captain struck Alfie Haaland with a tackle so vindictive that it would have aroused the interest of the constabulary had it been made in an ale-speckled pub that Saturday night. 'Gotcha!' is what Keane apparently said to his old enemy as Haaland clutched his leg to make sure all the components of a limb were still there. Blackjack dealers have delivered cards less swiftly than David Elleray did in reaching for red. It is a measure of Keane's capacity for belligerence that no Manchester City player attempted to exact retribution with a fist or even a handbag."

Keane's injury to Haaland was so bad that he retired two years later.

In Keane's Autobiography he wrote that he had set out to injure Haaland."I'd waited long enough. I f****** hit him hard," he wrote. "The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don't ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries."

For the initial foul, Keane got a 3 match suspension but when the FA got a hold of his book and read in the newspaper that he wasn't at all sorry about what damaged he caused, saying “ ...I had no remorse. My attitude was what goes around comes around. (Haaland) got his just rewards. My attitude is an eye for an eye.” things got a bit serious.

 For that comment, The FA banned him from 5 more matches. A total of 8 matches for essentially ending a career of a fellow footballer. Suarez doesn't even draw blood and he gets 10. Keane is a down right legend in the EPL, Suarez is an embarrassment. Not sure I can agree with that. It's the hard man vs crazy man argument.

 In Four Four Two Magazine there's a section called “The Boy's a Bit Loco.” Every issue “showcases” the craziest soccer players from around the world. Ironically I haven't seen too many that are plying their trade in the EPL. Perhaps it's a deflective measure on the Brits who publish the magazine to tell the rest of the world that the EPL is a proper League that doesn't stand for nonsense like biting another player...maybe in South America or Asia but not in England. Yet every so often the same magazine prints articles on the “hard men” of soccer. The players that left everything on the pitch, made bone crunching tackles that would end most players careers, did anything to win 50-50's, elbow you in face when the ref wasn't looking but buy you a round at the pub after the match cos there were no hard feelings. That's somewhat acceptable. Adam Ant sung “Hard men like mucking about. Give you the occasional clout. Don't try to be one of the chaps. You will find yourself on the wrong end of the slaps.” And who wouldn't want a team full of hard players? In my coaching days I would tell the midfield players that I wanted them to be the “Roy Keane” of the team. I actually like bone crunching tackles and players that play hard to win battles in all areas of the park. In my office I have one signed poster. It's the famous Vinnie Jones “coming to grips” with Paul Gascoigne and it's signed by Gazza. I admired Jones for being the kind of player that would do anything to win the match. Anything!

 Jones became the hero (some say anti-hero) of the League when he was at Wimbledon. Jones was the player that lads wanted to be, a tough, win at all costs, I got your back kind of soccer player.

 Jones was interviewed in his playing days and asked about being a hard man and playing hard and dirty. He said “ I mean obviously in football there are things that go on which the spectators don't see and the referee doesn't see...one of the oldest ones in the book is one going up for the header with the elbow out giving the opponent a nice lump being the ear. There's always the poke in the eye when you're not looking. Or when the ball is up the other end of the field the centre half lays out the centre forward with a right hander. The one where you're following the player and he passes the ball off everybody follows the ball and then you come in follow down with your studs on the back of his Achilles down the calf....that's always a nice one....these sort of things do happen and there's no good saying they don't. It's not something that's seen unless you're a little bit acute. There's always the one where you put your opponent down, tackle him very hard and you go to lift him up and you put your hands under his armpits and pull his hairs and he's screaming blue murder...and you're just saying to the referee that you're only helping him. Or there's the Gazza one when they get a bit close to you and you grab him by the testicles and say can you speak in a lower pitch of tone...”

 Everyone remember  "The Gazza" even if they weren't there.

 No one remembers the goal Jones scored against Liverpool in February 1992 when he was with Chelsea. It was one of his best. A mistake in the back and the Liverpool defence dropped the ball to Jones feet. Jones tapped it forward, let the ball bounce and then shot it over Bruce Grobbelaar. To Wimbledon and Chelsea supporters Jones was a hard man. To Manchester United fans, Keane was a hard man. To everyone else they were both dirty players. And coming full circle, to fans of Luis Suarez and Liverpool, Suarez is a hard player that does what it takes to win matches. To non-fans, he's a dirty player who doesn't belong in the League.

 The FA have said that the biting incident was “truly disgraceful” and “an unprovoked attack alien to football.” But Suarez can rest easy because in 1995 the Cantona Kung Fu incident was described by Gary Lineaker the same way a lot of players are describing it now. “I think it's unbelievable and inexcusable” said Lineker back in 95. Tabloid Paper, The Sun wrote “Eric Cantona is a soccer genius, but English football can no longer tolerate the lunatic side of his nature. Manchester United have stood by him through all his mad moments. But enough is enough. The Football Association now have no alternative but to put him on the first plane back to France.”

 FA Chief, Graham Kelly described the King Fun Kick as “a strain on our game...the incident brought shame on all involved and, worst of all, the game itself.”

 Incidents like that often do. But its safe to say that if the guy doing the shameful incidences is wearing your jersey it wont matter quite as much. And Suarez will rest easy knowing that even after a ban, Cantona went on to play for United and as the years go on he will be remembered as the guy who kicked a hooligan, became a philosopher and went on to become the director of soccer for the new New York Cosmos. Inspiring! Keane became a legend and Jones became a movie star. Suarez will learn that it's better to be a hard man than a crazy man...and when his career is done...he too may very well be a legend. He'll certainly have a long time to think about it.