Paul Parker

Danny Rose should have kept dignity in Serbia

Paul Parker
Paul Parker

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Jack Butland helps Danny Rose off the pitch after England U21's 1-0 win in Serbia

What happened in Serbia with England's under-21s last night was disgusting, but Danny Rose cannot complain about getting sent off in the melee afterwards.

Danny had managed to keep his head during 90 minutes of racial abuse from the Serbian fans, so I just don't understand why he felt the need to kick the ball into the crowd as players and staff jostled on the pitch afterwards.

As a first generation black player in Europe, I suffered all kinds of horrendous abuse as a player - and not just abroad, where you expect it, but at home.

Elland Road was probably the worst for it, they would sing "there ain't no black in the Union Jack", but I'd get it all over Yorkshire and the North West in particular, with Bolton and Barnsley pretty bad.

The best and only way to respond is to keep your head down, play your game, and ideally win — so you can look the sheep in the eyes afterwards, knowing they are cowards and hypocrites. Those same people would walk past you in Leeds while shopping on a Saturday and they wouldn't even look at you — they're not racist in their daily lives but become sheep-like morons at the football, and that is just hypocrisy.

What was frustrating about Danny's reaction is that he had done just what you want of him — England had beaten Serbia to qualify for the European under-21 finals. All he needed to do was celebrate with his team-mates and smile down the idiots in the crowd.

I would advise any black or Asian player — or indeed anyone who faces prejudice like that — to block it out during the match, to respond on the pitch and save the complaints for the official channels afterwards. For some reason, players nowadays find it acceptable to react to fan abuse with gestures on the pitch, to take to Twitter, to mouth off at all and sundry. While abuse is unwarranted and should be punished, professionals are paid to keep their heads and should do so on the pitch. For some reason nowadays, they think they are above that, which has to stop.

Keep your dignity - that's the most infuriating thing you can do to the abusers.

NAIVE ENGLAND

I read an article before the match which quoted Stuart Pearce as saying there would be nothing to worry about in Serbia. I wondered where he was coming from as I always thought he lived in the real world.

The match was always going to be a flashpoint, regardless of whether England's team have black players or not — that is merely an additional factor.

We have seen it time and time again, some Serbian fans love to fight and cause trouble even when their teams aren't losing, at both club and international level.

That England has black players simply added fuel to their fire — and allowed England to get wound up when ordinarily they would just ignore the aggro.

The reason I point out Pearce — and England's — naivety before the game is that they should have expected trouble, and planned accordingly.

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England U21 player Danny Rose was sent off after reacting to racial abuse from Serbia fans

While Connor Wickham has probably never scored a more important goal, he would have been well advised to celebrate more discretely; Danny and England's other black players should have been advised to keep cool if racially provoked and leave it for the UEFA report afterwards; the whole team should have been advised to leave the pitch immediately after the whistle and have their fun in the dressing room.

That doesn't mean what happened is right - it clearly wasn't - but England need to be more streetwise.

UEFA MUST HIT SERBS WHERE IT HURTS

None of the above detracts from the fact that Serbia should be punished heavily for this. The cynic in me fears they will not, that Michel Platini will cock a deaf ear to last night's incidents and slap their wrists with a fine.

He made a rod for his own back on this particular subject as, last year, he said the Serbs would be banned if they stepped out of line — but then he said the same about Croatia and they only got a fine for their fans' behaviour at the Euros.

Everyone's had their say on this, with Paul Ince understandably reacting badly given his son Tom was involved — I don't think his suggestion of a five-tournament, 10-year ban could work though. The courts may have something to say about it for a start as there is no precedence and it could be seen as a restraint of trade, but I think we have to start talking in tournament and stadium bans.

I would recommend a one-tournament ban for the U21s, extending to the next qualification round. They should be barred from competing for two years at a competitive level, and I think this would be a suitable deterrent both for that group of players — whose behaviour after the whistle was unacceptable — and the fans who were present last night.

Secondly, I would force the senior national team to play three matches behind closed doors as the incidents on Tuesday night showed that the Serbian FA has not handled the racism and hooliganism problem as it promised, and that its stadia are not secure.

It would be unfair to kick out the senior team as they and their direct supporters were not involved — they were too busy losing to Macedonia — but a stadium ban would deprive the Serbian FA of income, and remind the wider Serbian football public that they must get their house in order.

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