I’m shocked that I was shocked by the tawdry tactics that marred what should have been a dramatic and exciting League One game between Doncaster Rovers and Peterborough United last weekend.
Actually there was plenty of drama. It was just the wrong sort, the kind that forces you to scream at implausible plot lines in television soap operas.
At least Emmerdale and Coronation Street are fictional efforts from the pens of people with vivid imaginations.
Football is supposed to be real, but half of what you see these days is hard to believe.
It’s sport without sportsmanship now. It’s all cheating, diving, time-wasting, orchestrated attempts to influence weak officials, negativity, feigning injury, embarrassing theatrics and a complete lack of respect for fellow professionals, match officials and fans who pay a fortune to follow their favourite team.
Gamesmanship is now sadly a big part of the game, from walking slowly off the pitch when substituted to 10 players running to the corner of the pitch, i.e as far away from the centre circle as possible, to celebrate every single goal.
I came home in a foul mood last Saturday and not because of the result. I’ve watched far worse Posh teams than the current one lose to far worse teams than Doncaster.
It was the whole sorry spectacle which included a lame attempt to get an opponent sent off by a Posh player, a troubled Doncaster substitute doing his best to annoy opposition fans, an immature Doncaster player insulting the Posh management as he walked off and the sight of a home player who made one honking appearance for Posh before retreating into Irish football, shushing the visiting fans after scoring a highly dubious goal against nine men.
But nothing was as disappointing as Grant McCann’s post-match press conference. The former Posh hero tried to justify a goal which basically blew up the last pretence of sportsmanship in football.
It’s true players are not averse to using an unwritten law about returning the ball to an opponent when it’s been deliberately kicked out of play so a teammate can receive attention to their advantage.
But that’s not what happened here. Posh goalkeeper Conor O’Malley rolled the ball out of play without realising teammate Joe Ward was actually lying stricken off the field. It was obvious what O’Malley thought though and that’s really all that should matter if there was any honour left in the game. Instead Doncaster kept possession from the throw-in and promptly scored the third, match-clinching goal.
To suggest as McCann did that he had no idea why O’Malley threw the ball out of play seemed remarkably disingenuous, particularly as the Posh camp are pretty confident a Doncaster player actually advised O’Malley to act as he did.
Just think how well Doncaster’s players and manager would have been received if they’d realised the error of their ways and allowed Posh to walk in an unopposed goal in response to a dodgy moment. They’d still most likely have won the game as Posh looked out on their feet after playing with 10 men for the entire second half.
But no, winning at all costs was all that mattered. It’s such a shame, especially for McCann whose popularity rating among Posh folk has dropped a little.