Raheem Sterling Critics Need To Get Off Their High Horse

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 10 November 2018, 07:07

SEAN DYCHE proved yet again why he is a top class human being and an admirable manager this week with a pearl of wisdom which sneaked under the radar.

Unfortunately, a lot of what Burnley’s highly-rated but underachieving coach says goes unnoticed and football’s poorer for that.

Gruff Dyche witnessed his team put up a fight but ultimately go down 4-2 last Saturday at West Ham. After which he confessed the home team could have ended up with a fifth had justice been served and a penalty awarded when Hammers’ rookie Grady Diangana was clearly tripped in the box.

Referee Roger East waved away the animated appeals and Dyche believes it is because Diangana played fair by falling normally according to the laws of gravity, instead of performing a Tom Daley swan dive for maximum theatrical effect.

As a result referee Roger East dismissed the incident with a firm swipe of his two arms indicating no spot kick.

It is most unusual for a manager to take a spanking like Burnley did then admit the opposition shot themselves in the foot with their own honesty.

Honesty and integrity came under the spotlight by sheer coincidence four days later when Raheem Sterling was given a penalty despite merely stubbing his own toe in the turf during Manchester City’s 6-0 demolition of Ukrainians Shakhtar Donetsk.

Sterling’s reputation is as a cast-iron diver but even he was bemused when City were handed a free shot at goal as a result of his self-inflicted tumble.

The England star has since taken stick for not coming clean to blundering ref Viktor Kassai. City boss Pep Guardiola motioned to the fourth official that the ref had got it wrong but didn’t protest for too long, it must be said.

The criticism that has come Sterling’s was is an easy get for armchair fans poised with laptops and phone keypads armed and ready. And in normal circumstances there’s little sympathy for the winger who polarises opinion more than Marmite.

In such a one-sided game as this was, it is easy also to single out City as the wrong doers; the cynical big club greedily snaffling another goal as if they really needed one.

Sterling should have followed the example of Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler who famously tried in vain to change the referee’s mind who had given him a penalty against Arsenal in 1997.

Maybe so and Sterling may have learned a lesson from this experience. But consider this.

Imagine the same scenario with Sterling darting into the opposition penalty box, only this time he’s wearing an England shirt in a crucial international, not a routine Champions League group game.

Maybe it could even have been last summer and England had tossed away the lead against Croatia in the World Cup semi final? Sterling goes over and by some miracle of myopia the ref thinks it’s a foul and blows his whistle.

It’s an opportunity to get England back into the game and possibly into a first World Cup final since 1966.

Now go and look at yourself in the mirror and ask what would you want him to do now?

How many of us can say hand on heart that Sterling should be the bigger man and put fair play above the once-in-a-lifetime World Cup final? The biggest prize in football awaits, it requires a little bit of deception and will live with him forever.

But what would the nation say now?

Paolo di Canio won a FIFA fair play award while playing for West Ham in 2001. Everton has never been a happy place for the visiting Hammers but on this occasion the feisty Italian striker stopped dead in his tracks after spotting Everton keeper Paul Gerard on the deck injured. Had he carried on it would have almost certainly given his team a 2-1 win.

Di Canio’s manager at the time Harry Redknapp declared his Italian maverick a hero - through gnashing teeth because privately he was seething.

Were Sterling to play fair and wave away the chance to put England through would you want to pat him on the back or give him a good shake and tell him to be a bit more ‘professional’?

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Paul Cook
Paul Cook
(Wigan Athletic)
1st August
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