Police Squad & Real Men 

Phoney punch the real danger for football

If the shoe shiner from Police Squad ever relocated to work outside FA headquarters his soul would soon erode with a lack of decent information.

‘Say Johnny what’s the scoop on West Ham losing points?’ a passing reporter would ask.

‘Well see I dunno about that…’

‘Oh yeah, will a tenner help that memory.’

‘They’re setting up and arbitrary committee see…’


‘And of course the FA would like at this time to comment no further…’

There’s one of Johnny’s customers lost anyway – the poor man would be gasping for decent information but lets face it there never is from Soho Square.

Their motto of ‘do fuck all and don’t upset Fergie’ is wearing a little thin but they’re getting away with it because people keep on asking them the same questions. If it’s not video technology they’re being asked about McClaren’s future and Sven’s hourly rate for being an ex-England manager.

There are many queries outside of these the FA should answer but one seems to have been ignored completely. Is it that one about what McClaren’s hair would look like in a wind tunnel? Possibly that as well, but it’s not the one I’m referring to.

In the aftermath of the fight that became the centerpiece of a surprisingly decent Carling Cup final, should the FA charge Wayne Bridge as well?

The poor fella who got punched over the head they’d ask. Yes him. Because there was no punch, just like when Arjen Robben fell to the ground against Liverpool last season after being caressed on the cheek by Pepe Reina.

Both times a Chelsea player fell to his knees after barely being touched (in Bridge’s case this was helped by Arsenal’s Eboue falling on top of him), then feigning injury of the type most only suffer at the hands of CIA interrogations.

They lay, apparently near death while being attended by their physios instead of staying on their feet and brushing off the meager gestures of their ‘attackers’, like any man worth his salt would do.

Bridge’s face after Eboue gently rubbed his head for good luck is a disgrace in itself. Firstly, annoyance. Secondly, anger. Then the realization that ‘I, Wayne Bridge, a professional footballer have been hit, now what would Deco do in a situation like this’.

He should have asked ‘what would Graeme Souness do’. Or any other Premiership footballer before around oh… 1995, what would they do?

They would have told Eboue to fuck off or he’ll get a real punch the next time he tries that. He went with the ‘tonne of bricks’ approach instead and Eboue got a three-game suspension. No one bats an eyelid either, they might throw a comment in about how they wouldn’t go down so easily but surely there should have been a stronger response to this act of deception.

What did Bridge actually say to the physio as well? Forget refs and their mics (when they work), surely the medical staff of a team must be kitted up for Sky viewers’ entertainment.

‘What’s wrong Wayne?’

‘Eh… well, yer man kinda… well nothing but I’m just gonna lie down for a while and pretend Mike Tyson hit me in the knackers.’

I’m paraphrasing, but come on, what else can he say? Can he tell a medically trained professional that he’s hurt when he so clearly isn’t? Surely some team doctors must question their calling – they could be saving lives when instead they’re helping footballers gingerly to their feet fully in the knowledge they’re acting like, as Arnie so wonderfully puts it, ‘girlie men’.

Maybe Bridge was excellent at sickies in school and is used to faking injury before doctors. Back then it allowed him to watch his Police Academy video collection for a week under a duvet, while being served chicken soup around the clock. Nowadays he gets a League Cup medal instead.

Robben’s fall from grace was far worse it has to be said, coming at the end of a bad-tempered Chelsea win (is there any other kind) in February 2006. At the time Rafa Benitez shared his shock at the pathetic crumbling act from the Blues’ often-brilliant Dutch winger.

“I have to go to the hospital,” Benitez uncharacteristically fumed, “I think Robben has a broken jaw.”

Meanwhile, in keeping with his character, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho said nothing, and he did likewise on the subject of Bridge, but like I said earlier, nobody asked that question of him or the FA.

Diving, at this stage of the game, is part of football and it’s not going to be rooted out unless the FA charge every player who does it retrospectively as referees can’t see everything. Feigning injury after a ‘punch’ is pretty easy to see though and far worse; there’s no excuse of ‘attracting a foul’ for instance, just deception and a deep sense of the pathetic about the whole thing.

The Carling Cup final is already drifting out of the public consciousness but it’s doing so without this major question being answered. The FA need to take a stance on the whole thing and get Bridge, and anyone else who perpetrates such a crime, to sit down, look at the footage and tell them, straight-faced, that he was injured. He couldn’t because he wasn’t.

Johnny the shoe shiner however will still be starved of information because, for now anyway, this practice will remain unpunished, save for slight, but well deserved, public humiliation. Girly men indeed.