Man up For Heaven’s Sake!!

11 Dec

Nasri’s wall-cowardice the final straw.


I’ve had it at this stage, I can take no more.  I vividly recall as an Under 10 playing in the South Dublin Football League for Newbrook Celtic away against Mackintosh, our Manager, the late John Hassett shouting “don’t turn your back on it!” when one of their players took a shot and our centre half (it wasn’t me, I was the speedy right winger) fearfully turned his back on it.  Whether our centre back did it again in future years I cannot remember, but it’s interesting that back in 1976 when Mr Hassett beseeched us to not “turn your back on it” as 10 year olds, he clearly felt that was the way things were done and that you wouldn’t get hurt.  He was correct of course, as was the vast majority of football wisdom he gave to us back then.  We didn’t get hurt then, you don’t get hurt now, or if you do, the hurt quickly disappears. 


So it was in the 93rd minute at Eastlands yesterday when Robin Van Persie ran up to take that free kick for United in the Manchester Derby. Yes, a Derby match.  Bragging rights were at stake for the respective fans, families split, friendships were put on hold for 90 plus minutes, three crucial points at stake in what is likely to become another two horse Premier League race.  The match stood at 2-2, City having done very well to claw back a 2 nil half time deficit, but as the clock ticked towards the end, Gael Clichy gave away that free kick on the left edge of the City penalty area.  Up stepped Van Persie, struck it sweetly with that educated left peg and the ball ended up inside the far post having taken a deflection.  3-2 and game, set and match United.  What happened there, I asked myself?  I didn’t have long to wait before my anger rose at the “defending”.


Samir Nasri, in a derby match, in injury time, with a point bravely salvaged by his team-mates, at the edge of the defensive wall, decided to hide behind his team-mate in the wall after Van Persie struck the ball.  With his sweet face, six pack and manhood suitably protected, the brave Samir stuck out a token leg in a feeble and cowardly attempt to block the shot.  The dangling leg of Nasri was what took the ball out of reach of Hart (whose positioning was also questionable, it was his side of the goal) and inside the post.  I couldn’t believe my eyes as the replay was shown again and again.  NASRI, WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?  But after my anger at his lack of bravery subsided, John Hassett’s words came back to me yet again. 


While Nasri hadn’t turned his back on the ball, he singularly hid all but his trailing leg, but there is in modern football an epidemic of cowardly and dishonest defending.  Rio Ferdinand has medals for turning his back; Sunderland and Ireland’s John O’Shea has done it on several occasions; Liverpool’s Martin Skrtl surprisingly did it when Young Boys recently equalised at Anfield;  Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny turned his back on a shot for Everton’s recent goal at Goodison; David Luiz at Chelsea has also been afflicted with the virus.  Say what you like about John Terry (and we all have plenty to say about him), JT doesn’t do turning his back, nor did his mate Ricardo Carvalho when he was at Chelsea.  Phil Jagielka at Everton similarly throws his body at shots, good on them.  But for Heaven’s sake, that is their job after all.  To prevent goals!


What are the hugely decorated and qualified coaches doing?  What are the Managers doing?  Are they not seeing this when they’re reviewing the DVD of why so and so scored from outside the area?  “Stop it there” as Dunphy would say…………”Koscielny/Rio/Sheasy/whoever, look at you, turning your precious back on it, if you’d have stood firm and big, you could’ve blocked that and they wouldn’t have scored”.  I just find this hard to accept that for 50 grand a week or whatever it is they’re on, too many players abdicate their defensive responsibility by turning their back on a shot and that almost as badly, coaches/managers are continuing to allow them get away with it.


In Nasri’s case, his shameful self-preservation was both embarrassing and unforgiveable.  Never was the term “taking one for the team” more apt.  He didn’t, he wouldn’t and the result was three points for United instead of one apiece.  To do it in a derby match made it all the more unpalatable.  Can you imagine a player in an Old Firm Derby doing similar?  He would be ran out of Glasgow by his own fans (after getting battered by his team mates and Manager).


If you think I’m slightly going off on here, think again.  Watch closely as many goals as you can from the edge or outside the penalty area and watch how many defenders turn their backs on the shot, it’s at epidemic proportions at this stage.  I’ve also noticed that some defenders try to hide it by making it look as if they’re watching the path of the shot and turning to view their keeper saving it (or not saving it in too many cases).  Well you’re not hiding it from me lads, you’re turning your bloody back on the shot, you big girl’s blouse.


Man up for Heaven’s sake, take one for the team and earn your money.  As for Nasri, don’t get into a defensive wall again.  Ever.



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