“I’ve always said I don’t like diving. He deserved to get booked. I don’t want any of my players diving; I don’t want anybody doing it.” David Moyes has been scrutinised, analysed and accused of being a bad manager since he took up the reins at Old Trafford, but his stance on diving should be applauded as he comes towards his first Christmas as manager of one of largest clubs in world football. It’s hard to remember a time when another manager of one of Europe’s finest clubs took such an uncompromising stand against driving. The refreshing aspect of the telling off was that this was not for an under nine playing his first game at junior level for the club, or a reserve player struggling to make the cut, this was one his top players.
David Moyes brought the diving debate back into the media fold but also showed a different side to Sir Alex, who would rarely criticised his players in public. This is Moyes’ style, not Fergie’s, and maybe other top managers should consider following suit. Moyes doesn’t do mind games, attacking football with wingers bombing on, he does resource management and results: style over substance. Maybe he feels his players flirting with the referee’s note book is part of the style of modern multi millionaire players or maybe he wants to show the world a version of football that is purer. Jose Mourinho, a rival of Moyes, re entered Stamford Bridge with a brief, to return Chelsea back to being a dominant force in English football, not to appease the press. Mourinho, who values results above all else, simply regards his players berating the ref and diving as a means to an end: a deadly tactic. Friends and admirers are a sign of weakness and do not win you titles, Mr Mourinho would say.
So which is right: the Mourinho camp or the Moyes camp? Over the past years these two clubs have clashed off the pitch as much as they have on it: money versus the nurturing of players, managerial sacking versus stability, attacking football versus anti-rational football, and this debate should be added to the mix .
The issues that surround this have led to much uncomfortable debate amongst British football fans over the last decade. The pubs of ten years ago would have said that this was a foreign problem, that foreigners were taking over Our Beautiful Game; it was as much about anti immigration rhetoric as it was about football. In today’s world that school of thought is beyond backward, if it still exists, because the English players are willing competitors in this footballing side show. Ashley Young, and Stephen Gerrard are just as guilty as next player and they know it but the real question is do they actually care? Moyes’s players will probably risk their Manchester United future if they continue to dive whilst on the Chelsea side, Mourinho would be furious if his players chose not to do it. Consensus is what drives change in the world , not sporadic comments from managers and fans.
The question is, as it usually is with football, how does the FA change things? The fan is king: like the customer, they will in the end get what they want. A brief listen to Five Live’s 606 will tell you that fans are not ambivalent about diving. They want it out of the game, just as almost everyone wants to see the back of racism. Commentators don’t like diving; managers are all different – some love it some hate it; chief executives want their managers patrolling the sidelines and not up in the stands. The FA has to decide how high a priority seeing the back of diving is, and like arguing with the referee there should be no doubt about it : this is a black and white issue. Fining players £6,000 pounds is like taking 1p out of a child’s monthly pocket money allowance, small change. Campaigns and smiling celebrities rarely work. A tough approach is needed.An immediate yellow card punishment should already be the procedure but needs firming up. Two strikes and you’re off would be a good start, two dives and you see red. Fives dives in a match by the team, results in £150,000 fine for the manager and a three match touchline ban. A harsh and uncompromising approach, yes, but it would work .
Greg Dyke so far has had a good chairmanship in the FA post, he has a certain understated authority and seems to be intent in creating more opportunities for English players, but severely punishing diving could be his next big statement. The FA’s approach of grass roots level football is basic and is just another case of misdirected resources. If an impressionable child sees Young, Gerrard or Rooney dive, or argue with the Ref, they will repeat that behaviour in packed parks across the country.
People argue that the FA have become too pompous and rule from their Soho Square towers without a clue, slightly unfairly perhaps, but often nearer to the truth then they would like. Football in this country regularly attracts worldwide audiences of 3 billion, and that makes the game a powerhouse. It’s about time the FA grew up. By appointing Dyke its seems to have made a good start. Being above public opinion does not make organisations classy, it makes them the opposite: they’re often childish, naff and arrogant. Diving CAN go, but the FA has got to walk the walk to enable this to happen, The English FA are seen as being ahead of the racism debate, diving could be next.
Football is theatre, yes millions of pounds are spent on players, ticket prices are ridiculous and tactics have become sophisticated but at its heart it is pure drama. Even on Football Manager players can leak stories to the media and managers can aggressively storm out of press conferences. Sledging is the norm, not a new slightly new dangerous development to the game, this quite literally is just not cricket and nor should it be. Sport should not all be the same and football is a passion filled emotional game and that is how it should remain. People in pubs go to rant, rave and debate, they go to be distracted from mortgages, Strictly Come Dancing and their partner’s online shopping addiction, and to enjoy the fruits of the football debate. This is where you come if you want diving to go, you can start by booing the player in question, and supporters should boo their own players. Drogba, when he first came to Chelsea, was booed and subsequently stopped diving. Don’t read the headlines: the fan is still king. Let’s keep it that way.
As David Moyes is quietly settling down into big time management he deserves our gratitude for taking an anti diving stand. If he could only come out and say he hated players arguing with the Ref he would have the public’s vote for the manager of the season. Does Mourinho deserve our absolute respect too? NO!