All’s Fer in love and war?

By All Blue Daze Injury time is ticking away and your team has battered the opposition for much of the game. It's one of those days however when resilience, an organised defence, a bit of goalkeeping excellence, plus a large dollop of the bounce of the ball looks like denying you the spoils.

Then, just when it seems that a single point from a goal-less draw is going to be your sole reward, the ball lands at your feet from a throw in. You turn, and see an empty net with the keeper yards out of position. Calmly, you roll the ball into the onion bag, and then – all hell breaks loose! Leroy Fer, take a bow.

The problem was of course that Cardiff City had dumped the ball off the pitch so that a Norwich player could receive attention. As is often the case, it transpired that the injured party was not really that badly damaged and had the game been played twenty years or so ago, he would surely have got up, and got on with it. That’s not the case, today is today not yesterday (actually it was Saturday!), and convention demands that the ball is returned to the team that put it out. In full expectation of the observation of this etiquette, Cardiff ‘keeper Marshall had sauntered to the edge of his box to await the expected tap back to him. It didn’t happen.

In fairness to the young Dutchman Fer, a £7million summer signing from FC Twente, there was no hiding behind a facade of a misplaced pass intended for the forlorn keeper, “Of course I tried to score”, he declared unashamedly. “I wanted to win the game.” Apparently Fer had earned the nickname of “The Bouncer” in Holland for his cavalier disregard of conventions and for the niceties of the game. Not totally free of a Jiminy Cricket sitting on his shoulder however, Fer quickly realised that the Cardiff players rushing towards him were unlikely to be offering congratulations for his quick thinking, and that they had what is often described in football parlance as “the proper hump” with him. Cue the kind of shirt-pulling normally only seen at a post-wedding jamboree when the best man is collared by the chief bridesmaid’s boyfriend rearranging her bouquet.

Over on the bench, honourable as ever, Canaries’ boss Chris Hughton goes over to the incandescent Bluebirds’ manager Malky Mackay and tells him that if the goal is given, he’ll tell his players to let the Welsh team walk through for an equaliser. The gesture calms things down on the sidelines, but back on the pitch, a cool head is called for. Fortunately referee Mike Jones has his head in gear. He declares that the throw in should be retaken as he hadn’t whistled for the game to restart. The ‘goal’ therefore is invalid.

In a trice, honour is restored. The ball is thrown to the Cardiff ‘keeper, who shapes to kick it down the park. Jones blows his whistle, and everyone is happy. Well, perhaps not happy, but less discontent shall we say.

I wasn’t at Carrow road to see the incident, but I heard it regaled in all it’s controversy by a TV pundit, who “really didn’t know what was going on.” Later that evening, having seen the pictures, it was pretty plain to see that although Jones may not have blown his whistle, he clearly waves his arm to instruct the Norwich player to take the throw in. Uh-oh! Some ‘Jobsworth’s’ going to spot that aren’t they? You’d better believe it. Quick as a flash, former referee and awarder of three yellow cards in a World Cup game, Graham Poll is jumping all over the incident in the newspapers, saying that Jones was wrong and that the goal should have stood.

No, Mr Poll, say I! The decision was spot on. Mike Jones created a common sense solution out of a messy situation. Sure, by the letter of the law of the game, he was wrong, but then again, so is driving at 30.01mph in a 30mph area. Some things just need a little sense and an element of finesse. Jones did that, and more power to him for it.

But back to Leroy Fer for the closing comment. Asked if would do the same thing again if faced with a similar situation, the laconic Dutchman, shrugged and said “Yeah.” Probably not the wisest response, albeit probably honest. Back in the Norwich dressing room, it’s probably safe to say that his manager may have had a word in his ‘Royal Dutch’ shell-like about how to deal with a similar situation in the future. After all, he may not have Mike Jones to get him out of trouble next time.

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Picture provided by pittaya.

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