No Nonsense but handball fury
You ran out of words coming down the stairs after the game… robbed, cheated, gutted, stunned, gobsmacked, bereft, angry, astonished, mugged, dumbfounded, fuming; then you thought of more as you drove home listening to the radio pundits who thought just the same as you, having seen a game that was decided by a goal that came after the two minutes added time was over, a goal that we thought initially was possibly offside and involved a clear, blatant handball that diverted the shot that was heading over the bar.
So exactly what happened? Referee Pawson was playing two added minutes. After those two minutes were over he allowed Arsenal to play on from the short corner. He found more time for a cross to come over from the edge of the box. By now the whistle should have been blown for full time.
Scenario 1: Walcott headed the ball onwards. It looked like Oxlade Chamberlain was on the end of it and shot with Koscielny very close by him. By now the whistle for full time should have been blown. The ball was ballooning over the bar. Centre half Koscielny was in an offside position immediately to the side and in front of him a couple of feet from the post. By now the whistle should have been blown for full time. Koscielny put up his arms and diverted the ballooning ball into the net.
Or: scenario 2. It was Koscielny whose foot made contact with the ball so he was not actually offside, but nevertheless the ball was sailing over the bar until his flailing arms diverted it. Referee Pawson unfathomably still does not blow for time or disallow the goal; a goal that we’ll talk about for a long time to come. But whatever the scenario, it was heart-breaking and in no way did Burnley deserve to lose. But the question remained; just how on earth was Walcott one of the smallest players on the pitch allowed space to head the ball onwards? Why did Arfield suddenly leave the back post and race away out of the 6-yard box? In doing so he left Chamberlain and Koscielny totally unmarked.
Ex-referee Dermot Gallagher said it was a fair goal, that Koscielny was raising his arms to aid elevation. What nonsense. Ex-referee Keith Hacket said he would have disallowed it without hesitation.
Pawson then found more time for Burnley to take the kick-off. Marney slammed the ball goalwards in frustration. It might just have worked with Cech still off his line. Pawson blew his whistle. We stood there just open mouthed at the brazen injustice. Koscielny said afterwards he wasn’t sure if he’d handled it. Well he would wouldn’t he? Wenger said he’d seen neither the handball nor even the replay yet. Well he always says that. But, he later agreed they ‘had got a bit lucky,’ and was fulsome in his praise for Burnley and the ancient old stadium and passionate support.
What made the result just so rank awful was the way Burnley had handled Arsenal during the previous 92 minutes. They’d played superbly, tied them up in knots, defended wonderfully, kept their shape, kept Arsenal out of the box other than occasional intrusions; they’d run, harried, intercepted, headed, and restricted Arsenal to only one real clear chance. The game plan worked to perfection until that fateful 93rd minute.
Before that they’d certainly created their own moments of menace with Arsenal certainly not having it all their own way. Vokes, the lone striker, was awesome once again up front but missed a glorious heading chance in the first half, sending the cross wide from a perfect position. In the second half a thumping Burnley header by Gudmondsson had Petr Cech sprawling to make a fingertip save. Then Keane hit the crossbar from a corner with Arsenal all over the place until they eventually cleared the danger.
At the end of the game referee Pawson was booed off the pitch. It was Pawson who had missed Keane’s header crossing the line at Brighton -funny that. But the team received thunderous cheers and applause for this outstanding performance against one of the best teams in Europe. They were tired and jaded, said Wenger. Actually, they were made to look tired and jaded as they found it impossible to get through the Burnley ranks until that nightmare final minute. For all their possession they were restricted to just two attempts. Throughout the game Keane was outstanding making his omission from Southgate’s initial England squad at best a mystery, at worst a disgrace, although Southgate would rectify that a couple of days later. Gudmondsson too was excellent, MOTM perhaps, having his best game by a mile for Burnley. ‘Tough little sod,’ someone described him perfectly.
Defour was again taken off early with a knock it seemed, but was admirable until then. Keane and Mee enhanced the statistical evidence that they are the Premier League’s most effective pairing with Heaton topping the goalkeeper charts with the most number of saves. Hendrick covered every blade of grass. Marney was a contender for MOTM. Boyd was back to his irrepressible best.
What a glorious day though, the ground bathed in warm sunshine, warm enough to make us think we were still in Tenerife as we peeled off layers of coats and sweaters. Meanwhile we wondered if we’d got away from Tenerife just in time as there were fears that the old volcano, Mount Teide, might well blow very soon. No end of seismic activity was being recorded in the immediate vicinity with mini quakes recorded on 92 occasions in the past few days with one an almost respectable 1.5 on the Richter scale. This was at Vilaflor reported the Express. The name’s familiar I thought and then realised, hell this was where we went to the Bodega to do some serious wine tasting and have a spot of lunch only a few miles from the summit of Mt Teide. Ey oop, those wine bottles on that shelf are wobbling, I noticed, but put it down to having just had a fifth glass of red.
Wenger came out to huge applause from all sides of the stadium in recognition of his 20 years at Arsenal. Tributes paid to him during the week had mentioned his love of the local sausages from the region in France where he had been brought up and where his brother still lives. If he was Burnley manager the local butchers would have been falling over themselves to make a sausage in his honour. Ian Wright said he still remembered the first week at Arsenal when the new manager had arrived. It was like black and white turning into colour, he mused.
Way back in Tudor times monarchs every so often set off with all their retainers on a Royal Progress around the country stopping in the major towns and cities receiving adulation, homage and especially gifts wherever they stayed. Wenger this season is doing much the same and at Burnley Craig Pawson presented him with the gift of a goal. He has produced teams for two decades that follow his philosophy of beautiful football and fast and intricate passing skills. It was with supreme irony that the goal they scored was as scruffy and messy as you will see anywhere. How any referee could allow that goal remains beyond my comprehension.
He has overseen the building of a new stadium and continually promoted young players. You cannot help but admire what he has done and achieved. He summarised the game neatly: ‘we could have won 1-0 and we could have lost 1-0. Burnley makes everybody suffer here.’ That last bit raised a chuckle; he should have been here in the 80s. Unfortunately it was referee Pawson who made us all suffer and we haven’t even asked what on earth the linesman was watching.
After two weeks away there was a garden to sort out, a greenhouse to empty, grass to cut, veg plots to clear. Never have I hoed so venomously. The Arsenal goal still rankled; the point lost could be the one we pointed to in May as being the one that was so crucial along with the two points lost when Hull equalised in extra time at Turf Moor. Every point lost is cumulative if the worst happens and relegation looms, but some end up so much more significant.
The Joey Barton book had arrived, on Amazon from £20 down to just £9. It was a toss-up between that and two others, the ones by Ray Parlour and Ian Wright. We’d been wondering how much of the Burnley season he would include. There was plenty – and utterly engrossing.
His portrait glares at you from the front cover; presumably that’s the image he wants to portray, a sort of look-me-in-the-eye and you don’t mess with me Robert de Niro kind of thing. It’s a philosophy that for sure dates back to his childhood and upbringing on the mean streets and estates of Liverpool, infested with drugs, crime and violence, with a father who preached the necessity of being able to look after yourself with either fists or a bat. Without the focus of football it’s a life he would have drifted into full-time. His father was a handy footballer himself who played at a respectable non-league level. Barton’s life was therefore immersed in football from when he was a toddler.
The end cover pages of the book consist of more portraits of himself, presumably from the same photo-shoot. You might just flick straight past them without giving them a thought, but their inclusion is revealing, they are in fact what the book is all about – who is Joey Barton, who is the real Joey, which is the one he wants to be; and can he ever really like and respect himself.
‘This book can attempt to make some sense of the person I was,’ he writes at the very end.
This is undoubtedly one multifaceted and complex individual; highly intelligent, driven, perfectionist, ambitious, ruthless, determined, blunt, in fact he even includes in the book the lengthy results of the psychometric aptitude and attitude tests that he completed at Burnley. They are incredibly positive. Whereas some players kept their own close to their chests, he pinned his up on his locker door for all to see as if to say ‘right lads this is who I am, this is what you’re getting from me.’
You hear on the grapevine that ‘the lads’ bought into his mentality at Burnley, the senior pro, kicking ass, never settling for second best, geeing them up, saying what he thought in the dressing room or on the training field, the gobby shop steward as he says. Maybe at Rangers they didn’t like it. It looks like there it backfired. His performance in the pre-season friendly up there was strangely lukewarm, almost disinterested; was he already thinking have I come to the right place.
Lord knows how many football books I have in the house, in the office, grandson’s bedroom, the spare bedroom and down in the basement. But this one: reading it is like being hit on the head with a shovel over and again with its pitiless honesty, revelations, brutal self-analysis and the gory details of his fuck-ups (his word), the St John’s estate in Liverpool where he grew up with its rampant crime and drug scene, and all his confrontations over the years. The tone is stark, humour is hard to find; blunt honesty pervades every page and frothy bullshit (his words) is non-existent. He can’t abide slackers, posers, wasters, football’s parasites; he is tough as old boots, has never backed away from a fight but by his own admission has been a monumental idiot in the past because of an inability to control his inner demons.
He goes through each of the clubs that he has been at, the dressing rooms, and each of the managers he has worked with and after some of it you just think wow because it is so candid. You begin to appreciate why the title is ‘No Nonsense’ when in a couple of sentences he can witheringly disparage another player.
He comes to the Burnley section and begins with ‘Burnley was a balanced environment, in which I could learn from the sort of manager I aspire to become. Sean Dyche saw through the tat and the tinsel.’ But Barton is candid; in their first meeting he was as much interviewing Dyche, as Dyche was interviewing him.
He focuses on two games; the title winning game at Charlton and before that the 5-0 demolition of MK Dons. The MK Dons game had fans purring as the goals went in but behind the scenes it was an occasion when JB let rip at half-time. He says that he had been quiet up to then, ‘pretty low key’ in his own words but he ‘showed his teeth’ on Tuesday, 12 January for the first time and ripped into the back four because he’d deemed them slack and casual ‘And I wasn’t having it.’
‘His teammates had been wondering when the explosion would come,’ he writes. ‘The atmosphere was expectant.’
Sean D backed him up. ‘He’s right. Joe is on the pitch. He can smell what I can see.’ Burnley went out and rattled in four more goals.
The Charlton game was the second when he went mad at half-time. Burnley were winning 1-0 but playing without energy or drive. Heaton was keeping them in the game with a string of saves. At half-time he goes mad (his words) kicks the skip and then loses it. He wants that title. Second place is no good. Nobody remembers runners-up.
‘The gaffer comes in, let’s me finish and then loses it. The bollocking works. We fly at them; confirm the title by scoring twice more in as many minutes, and ease off as the circus cranks up.’
He had a memorable season at Burnley and joined Burnley because of Sean Dyche. He says he was offered a two-year deal to stay, on a more lucrative contract than at Rangers. But Rangers was a chance to grow, improve and learn more.
‘Burnley was the perfect football experience; I was overwhelmed by positivity and by a lack of suspicion. The fans took to me and I made lifelong friends from Daisy the tea lady to a group of proper professionals.’
But he admits to not wanting to be worn out by the worry beads of merely consolidating in the Premier League. There was temptation to remain but Rangers offered something different and compelling. He was at the peak of his powers, he writes.
He has offered few tweets about life at Rangers since his 3-week expulsion. When the three weeks are up, what next? Will Rangers even want to keep him at all? Plus, the SFA is now after him for betting on football matches which is banned in Scotland. If he found some kind of peace and satisfaction at Burnley, at Rangers there seems only turmoil.Share this page :