After the antics of Diego Costa in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Arsenal last week I thought I would look back at my time at Gillingham under Tony Pulis where such actions would not be seen so favourably!
I was with Tony at Gillingham and he said that he would single a player out and have a word with him for diving or any playacting.
He was quite funny really because he was a man’s man and didn’t like players feigning injury. I fractured my eye socket in a game when the referee punched the ball and caught me right in the eye. I had an operation which put a plate above and below my eye.
I was supposed to avoid contact for a four weeks. A week later I was doing a bit of jogging around the pitch, which was okay, and there was a practice session going on and he said he didn’t have enough players. He asked me to put a bib on and be a spare player. I was half looking at the physio and thinking this shouldn’t be happening here. He got me heading balls and I joined in!
I played again a week later. Instead of being out for four weeks, I was playing two weeks’ later with a couple of plates in my head!
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With the Costa situation, it was amazing to see that afterwards not one Arsenal player put in a strong challenge on Costa. They just let him have the ball and stayed away from him.
In the old days, situations like that used to be policed by your teammates. If someone had put a challenge on one of your players, it's been known that players would say to the referee don’t book him, I’ll get him back.
These days you can still challenge for the ball, but it’s slowly going out of the game now and it’s almost a non-contact sport. Players are too frightened to make a challenge because they are worried they will be sent off.
In reality, players know if a player has gone in to injure them. When Santi Cazorla got sent off, that was after a genuine challenge for the ball and there is no way he went in to hurt him but because he’d been booked before, he had to go. The players knew he’d gone for the ball there and a good referee might have given him the benefit of the doubt.