Just found this great article from Brian Reade, a sports journalist.
I’ve told this story before but in light of ‘Ball-boygate’ it bears repetition.
During the 1971 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup semi-final, the ball landed just below where I was standing at the front of the Kop.
As Billy Bremner of Leeds United picked it up he was greeted with 25,000 voices belting his way “We all hate Leeds and Leeds and Leeds…” plus one teenager next to me, with a boil-riddled face only a blind mother could love, yelling: “… and we really hate you Bremner, ya ginger ****”.
To which Bremner bounced the ball off his nose and said darkly: “Well there’s another reason to hate me. I’ve made you even uglier.”
Cue universal laughter as the kid was silenced. No-one remonstrated with the Leeds captain, screamed for the match officials to send him off, or reported him to the police (even though Leeds won and Bremner scored). There were no debates on Twitter, 10 o’clock news items, leaders written in serious papers or non-sporting commentators fulminating on the evils of today’s morally bankrupt players. Just a good feeling among those who saw it, that a cocky little runt had got what he deserved for trying to put off a player in a tense semi-final.
Which brings us to the sure-to-become-legendary Swansea vs Chelsea game on Wednesday, and another cocky little runt who’d told the world before the game (#needed #for#timewasting) that he was going to do his best to frustrate players in a tense semi-final. Now, if this ‘child’ Charlie Morgan was your average 13-year-old ball-boy who had genuinely fallen on to that ball, Chelsea player and Belgian international Eden Hazard would be in serious trouble. But he isn’t… At 17 Morgan is mere months away from being old enough to join the British Army and fight the Taliban. Instead he is a wealth-flaunting rich kid who brags on Twitter about driving a souped-up Audi, drinking champagne and sitting in first-class plane seats.
In other words he’s more like your average professional footballer than your average ball-boy. Which probably explains why his first-class time-wasting act got the desired result on Wednesday. “Laudrup, Laudrup sign him up” should be a new chant at The Liberty Stadium.
Which doesn’t excuse Hazard’s actions. I agree with referee Chris Foy that he had to be sent off for violent conduct. But I also agree with former Chelsea player Pat Nevin: Had I been Hazard, and seen a Swansea fan/employee deliberately trying to stop me getting the ball, with ten minutes to go in a semi-final I was losing, I’d have kicked it from under him too. Had I known that the little cretin had been publicly bragging beforehand that this was his intention, brushing his ribs would have been a juicy bonus. And I’m guessing ‘young’ Morgan is more than happy to be granted “cult-hero” status by the Swansea Evening Post in return for a few tickled ribs. As his extra 80,000 twitter followers prove, he’s got a massive result here. Celebrity Big Brother surely beckons?
It’s become very easy to kick Chelsea for having no morals. But in this case the boot’s on the wrong foot. Hazard stupidly fell into a trap, he’ll miss at least three games, and he’s apologised. Let’s not use an incident in which neither side comes out well, as another stick to beat today’s “over-paid prima donnas” with. The hysterical portrayal of Charlie Morgan as a victim, does not prove that today’s footballers are more thuggish than they were in Bremner’s day, but that society has lost all perspective and has leapt off the precipice of sanity.
The saddest aspect of this saga is that three people reported Eden Hazard to South Wales Police, even though Morgan himself (unsurprisingly) wants it to go no further. What could possibly make anyone want to waste over-stretched police resources on such non-criminal trivia? Maybe they’re sniffing their 15 minutes of fame in a court-room, or a compo cheque for suffering post-traumatic stress.
You want to really know what’s wrong with Britain today? They are.
Keep your chin up Eden Hazard, the truth will eventually out.
Again, credit to Brian Reade for the article.