Early Doors

New year, same old anger

Early Doors

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Neil Warnock shouts the odds at some poor sap

New Year, same old anger steaming out of the Premier League's dugouts.

At the head of 2012's vanguard of rage storms QPR boss Neil Warnock, whose acid-tongued rants are starting to wear thin even on Early Doors.

The delightful Warnock appears to have found a loophole in the rules regarding criticism of refs.

Rather than accuse the match officials of incompetence, he expresses mock sympathy for them while labelling opposition players as cheats.

His reaction to Joey Barton's red card against Norwich amounted to nothing less than a character assassination of Bradley Johnson.

It was a frankly despicable performance, not least because it forced ED to criticise Barton, whom regular readers will know this blog absolutely loves.

Warnock began: "I think Bradley has conned everybody today - we feel like we've been mugged."

He went on to use the words "cheat" and "disgrace" before adding: "I've seen Bradley Johnson do things like that a few times so it doesn't surprise me."

Most preposterously of all, came this: "If that had been the other way around, I don't think Joey Barton would have gone down."

First of all, Johnson didn't go down. He obviously made a big deal of what contact there was, but he stayed on his feet.

More than can be said for one Joey Barton, playing for Newcastle against Arsenal on the opening weekend of the season.

On receiving a light slap from Gervinho, Barton hit the deck faster than a belligerent Ant McPartlin, and Gervinho was sent off.

On that occasion, Barton defended his actions thus: "I went down easy, no doubt. Still, you can't raise your hands." Addressing a dive by Gervinho, Barton added: "If there's contact, go down - but don't blatantly try to con the ref."

Compare that to his description of the Johnson 'headbutt': "A touching of skin with no velocity what so ever ... My head dosent move forward at all."

So... there was contact? So didn't Johnson have a right to go down (which he didn't even do)?

Clearly the officials made a right mess of the incident. Referee Neil Swarbrick allowed play to continue following the confrontation, and there was no flag from his linesman - so it is hard to know how the decision to dismiss Barton was reached.

However, Barton did make contact, however slight, and ought to know that a man of his reputation is unlikely to be cut much slack by the ref.

But by going after Johnson rather than Swarbrick, Warnock and Barton are taking aim at an easy target knowing they are unlikely to face sanctions.

If the bedraggled 'Respect' campaign is to carry any weight, it should encompass respect for the opposition as well as the officials.

So how about this: It's not OK to tell several post-match interviewers that one of the other team's players is a cheat?

Also in myopia corner: Arsene Wenger, who called Lee Probert's decisions "ridiculous" in yesterday's defeat at Fulham.

Probert denied Arsenal a marginal penalty in the first half, which probably was a spot-kick but it took ED three slo-mo replays to reach that conclusion.

He then sent off Johan Djourou for what looked two obvious bookable offences - Wenger did not see it that way, raging: "The referee influenced the game completely the wrong way in my opinion."

He also, bizarrely, accused Fulham of targeting Djourou after his first booking, particularly through the exciting winger Kerim Frei.

So, it's not a legitimate target to try to exploit an opposition weakness? In this case, Arsenal had a shaky defender playing out of position on a booking.

It hardly takes Rinus Michels to work out that you might want to try running at the guy.

MAN FAILING TO LOCATE HIS POCKET OF THE DAY: If Arsene Wenger needs to brush up on the concept of human error, he might want to have a look at this video of himself not quite managing to put his hand in his pocket. Seriously, it's funnier than it sounds. (Video in UK only)

FOREIGN VIEW: Perils of Twitter, part 1394.

Karim Benzema is in prison. In Morocco. No really, he is. He was in Marrakesh to celebrate the New Year and was involved in a car crash. Now he's in jail. It's true. I saw it on Twitter. It's trending and everything!

Benzema's lawyer dismissed the story as "bulls***" and further disproof came when the Frenchman turned up for training as usual at Real Madrid.

This is why we should never have a winter break in English football. Imagine the made-up Balotelli stories...

COMING UP: Seriously, more football? You bet your sweet hiney - Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion and Wigan Athletic v Sunderland at 19:45, then Manchester City v Liverpool at 20:00 UK time.

Also, Bristol City v Millwall at 19:45 in the Championship and a load of Copa del Rey action including Real Madrid v Malaga at 21:00.

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