Tuesday, 1 December 2009


The goal celebration at Manchester City has received pretty much universal approval, although some people within the media still don't quite get that it was they, not Phil Brown, that the players were mocking.

On BBC Radio 5 Live last night, the witless Ian McGarry still claimed that Brown's actions counted as among the stupidest things a manager could have ever done. Conveniently he, like so many other people paid to critique football, has forgotten again that a) the Tigers were 4-0 down at half time and as wretched as such a one-sided scoreline would suggest; b) all players interviewed about it (including Dean Windass, whose last game for the club was on that day and has no love lost over the way his City career ended) have said categorically that their opinion of Brown didn't alter at all as a result; and c) the second half ended 1-1, and three days later City were an injury time own goal away from holding a rampant Aston Villa to a draw.

On the same 5 Live panel, John Motson upset me (because I thought he, of all people, would be able to recognise a well-timed gag when he saw one) when he battered to bits all the congratulation for originality in celebration by saying "it wouldn't have been so funny had Manchester City then scored the winner at the other end, would it?"

For goodness sake.

Letters to football pages in the press and online have also claimed that no player at Manchester United or Arsenal would have dared "disrespect" their manager in such a way. True, but if Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger had conducted a furious team talk on the pitch the media would not have dared risk a future media blackout from Old Trafford or the Emirates by criticising them for their actions again and again and again. Indeed, they'd have probably been obsequious in their praise for "no nonsense" management.

Anyway, one hopes now that any future memory of Brown's unusual motivational methods will be coloured nicely by the satirical response from the players. The fact that it was Jimmy Bullard, a player the media adores, who scored the goal and therefore, by previous agreement within the squad, had to do the faux-lecture made the gag all the more agreeable. Paul McShane, notably the only player in the circle of "harangued" players who adopted a look of despondency a la Boxing Day itself, deserves the most credit for coming up with the idea.

Actually, it's also notable that McShane was the only player who took part in the celebration that also sat before the angry Brown on Boxing Day. Others were on the pitch on both occasions, but Dean Marney and Geovanni had been substituted by the time Bullard struck the spot kick. Only Kamil Zayatte was in a position to join McShane in a rather unusual exclusive club, but as a defender, he was on halfway in case the penalty was saved and a counter attack launched. It took him a while to get to the celebration.

Heaven knows how they'll top this. Adam Pearson's return has coincided with Brown ceasing to wear that daft and conspicuous white earpiece on the side of his face, so perhaps Bullard has given the kitman a job lot of these for each player to don for when an equaliser or winner goes in at Aston Villa this weekend.