Your team is busy fluffing its chance of automatic promotion to football’s top table in spectacular fashion, 3-0 down at home to a side who’ve struggled all season and who have nothing to play for. So how do you react? Redouble your efforts, clinging to the hope that you might somehow defy the odds? Or take out your frustrations with a cowardly assault on an assistant referee and then trot off without a sniff of an apology?
Of course, the fact that the assistant referee in question just happened to be Sian Massey has meant the incident has received more column inches than it might otherwise have done. Has the guilty man, Cardiff defender Kevin McNaughton, been hanging around with Richard Keys and Andy Gray of late? He certainly seems to have misunderstood what the pair meant when they were sniggering about “smashing it“.
Watching the footage, it’s hard to see how McNaughton could defend himself on the grounds that the manner of the collision was accidental (even if the collision itself perhaps was). While that abrupt change of direction might be justified as him following the path of the ball (as a “club spokesman” has claimed), there’s no mistaking the lowered shoulder or the complete lack of concern for the official. Perhaps that’s why he’s been silent. Regardless of the identity of the person he felled, surely it’s just common decency to check on their well-being? McNaughton’s insouciant jog away reflects badly on him – as the Cardiff fans’ roar of mirth reflects badly on them. Fair play to Massey for picking herself up from a challenge that would have left many a player writhing in agony on the turf.
You’d hope that McNaughton receives some kind of retrospective punishment – otherwise the (justifiable) outcry in the British media about the intimidation and abuse of officials in last week’s Champions League El Clasico will ring very hollow indeed.