Let’s call it void and go again next season, City

PUBLISHED: 19:00 24 April 2020

Sebastien Haller escaped even a yellow card. Christoph Zimmermann was not so lucky in Norwich City's defeat at West Ham Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Sebastien Haller escaped even a yellow card. Christoph Zimmermann was not so lucky in Norwich City's defeat at West Ham Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Paul Chesterton

Your Posts is a new project which allows you to voice your opinions on the big sporting stories – Mike Taylor maps out his reasons why football should not return this season.

We are now so far into the calendar year that I think the league should be null and void.

I’m as competitive a sportsman as anyone else out there and the concept of calling off the season is against my nature, but this season has been a farce in many ways, often unfair.

Normally, I’d say ‘dry your eyes’ but now I think we’ve passed the point from which the season could be recovered. The workload will be unmanageable and that will underpin the inequality of the misplaced wealth across the teams, across the land. So let’s call the season void and go again next season.

Chris Basham saw his red card overturned through VAR at Carrow Road 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdChris Basham saw his red card overturned through VAR at Carrow Road Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

I have a few reasons:

1. VAR has been a farce and it has been unfair.

2. The FA changed some rules halfway through the season.

3. It’s getting too hot to be able to play a match every three days.

4. COVID-19 will still be out there, behind closed doors or not.

Firstly, VAR has been a joke. Let me plead, on behalf of the nation, for the following points to be addressed:

• Stupid rules for onside/offside. When the assistant referee incorrectly flags for offside, why can’t a player run through on goal and attempt to score and it be reviewed afterwards? Instead, an assistant or referee can stop play without video reviews. It’s stupid.

• Why can’t dubious decisions be reviewed during breaks in play? I remember an event earlier in the season, a player five yards offside at the back post, but a sensational near post save from Tim Krul meant they had a corner-kick. They get a corner rather than we get a free-kick for offside? How is that acceptable?

A rare sight at Norwich City this season. A VAR call in their favour at Carrow Road Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdA rare sight at Norwich City this season. A VAR call in their favour at Carrow Road Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

• Spurs at home, 2-2. A Christian Erickson free-kick (good as a penalty) following a Jamal Lewis handball. Harry Kane was offside in the build-up and then (much like Sanio Mane against Christoph Zimmerman a few weeks later) in my opinion he fouls Lewis as Lewis jumps for the ball, resulting in Lewis being out of sorts and hand-balling. It was so subtle, but just as Mane admitted after his goal, yes it was a foul by Kane. The rule is that a break in play prohibits video review/intervention so VAR couldn’t be consulted. Daft.

• ‘VAR shouldn’t be forensic’. Against Spurs, after five minutes of VAR, Teemu Pukki was offside, a computer generated best-guess about a big toe being ahead of the defender but critically, it is accepted that the technology cannot identify the precise nano-second the ball is passed! (In this case, by Mario Vrancic’s wonderful left boot).

How you can be forensically assessed as being offside without the ability to identify the precise moment that the ball is actually kicked? It is beyond absurd, it is the tail wagging the dog, it is pathetic.

Norwich City Ben Godfrey was dismissed after the referee viewed video footage of his challenge on Bournemouth's Callum Wilson 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich City Ben Godfrey was dismissed after the referee viewed video footage of his challenge on Bournemouth's Callum Wilson Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Secondly, the FA appeared to change the rules halfway through the season, or seemingly the interpretation, with red and yellow cards downgraded or upgraded after video review by the referees brave enough to do so.

Why is an improvement a gripe to me? Because you can’t change rules midway through a competition.

Early in the season, Norwich were away to West Ham. After 21 minutes Sebastian Haller should have been sent off, and if the rule for the referee to review a tackle had existed I’m sure he would have been.

Instead of a three match ban West Ham took five points from those three games and Haller played all. How would the table look if their number one striker had been suspended and how would that game have unfolded against 10 men at 0-0?

Instead of being sent off, he scored, three minutes later. With the ball not even in the frame, does that tackle look in control? Is he even looking at where the ball was?

Why is this relevant? Because the rules changed. In December Sheffield United come to Carrow Road and although losing 2-1 Norwich have United on the rails, we are battering them. Chris Basham sees a straight red for a late tackle on Kenny McClean. The referee rescinds the red and he’s called back from the tunnel to a yellow card.

Then, in January against Bournemouth, Ben Godfrey was initially shown a yellow card but after review was sent off for a foul on Callum Wilson. Both amended decisions were correct, in my opinion, but not Haller on Zimmerman, that was a blatant red card and worse than any of the other examples.

The point is, you can’t change the rules halfway through a season or any competition. It is completely inappropriate and unfair to do so.

Norwich must be the only club that apply Financial Fair Play (FFP) in the spirit in which it was intended, that is to say we live within our means. That means we have a limited squad. Playing three games in nine days (repeatedly) until the season is completed is absolutely ridiculous. It’s nearly the summer for goodness sake, and the outside temperature makes spring feel like a distant memory.

By the second week we’d be fielding our U23 team because the first team would be dead on their feet.

That is not me being precious, I’m as fit as a fiddle at 42 and until very recently would often play football three times a week. But that is not 90 minutes at Premier League intensity.

You simply cannot play that much outstanding football in the heat of the summer and expect a fair outcome; it will simply be a showing of those with the deepest pockets and the largest squads rotating players whilst other smaller clubs like ours have players develop muscle injuries within days or weeks because of the workload.

Finally, COVID-19

• The virus will still be out there upon any resumption of the season, albeit hopefully under more control. The consequences of a first team player even getting a mild infection are clear and obvious. The rest of the squad will be impacted too. How can the season possibly be finished in such circumstances?

• Above and beyond everything else though, COVID-19 is impacting everyone.

Granting special authority for football to be played whilst restrictions prevent normal people from also returning to work is wrong.

Whilst families are unable to see each other or whilst those struggling with extreme workloads (such as screaming children) cannot be relieved with some help (like childcare) because of restrictions then football cannot resume, it is a bad example.

How is the child meant to watch football on the television but be unable to go on to a park with friends and re-create their dream goal? It is wrong.

The world needs to start spinning again for everybody before 22 men can play football.

I’m afraid it’s time to knock it off and go again next season.

Hi to the Hong Kong Canaries.

OTBC

“Midfield Mike” Taylor

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