Cooney and Black

When Kevin Mirallas, holding the ball like a schoolboy returned to the playground, demands that he takes the penalty, we must assume that the game we once knew and loved has gone

Kid football


ON the evidence of Kevin Mirallas’s departure from protocol this week, you must assume that the game we once knew and loved has gone – and that player power has claimed the ultimate victory.

It’s time, therefore, to reprise an embarrassing situation for Everton manager Roberto Martinez: his team are awarded a 44th minute penalty against Stoke. The score is 0-0. They desperately need to convert that penalty, having won only once in 13 Barclays Premier League matches.

Leighton Baines is the designated spot kick taker – and there’s logic to that, because he generally delivers with metronomic accuracy. But historical fact eludes an adamant Mirallas. Holding the ball like a schoolboy returned to the playground, he demands that he takes the kick. He misses.

The half-time whistle sounds and this is the last the crowd sees of the player, who is immediately substituted. A recurrence of a hamstring injury is reported. Strangely, there are no reports of another variety of dressing room carnage: no-one has strangled the Belgian.

The second half is goalless and Everton’s problems deepen. Martinez’s facial lines deepen. In the subsequent television interview, it is possible to count the cringe factor on his face. But, incredibly, he is pretty supportive of the player: his one tiny concession to disloyalty comes when he describes the situation as “unfortunate.”

It’s perhaps a propitious time to take a closer look at the Everton boss. However colourful your imagination, you cannot envisage the DNA profile of Roberto Martinez triggering Interpol’s alarm system.

I’ve never met the man, but I’m impressed by what I know of him. He approaches the game in a studious way and insists that his team plays with panache. He has form for this with Swansea and Wigan.

Martinez rarely betrays the foibles associated with much of his profession. He seems an equable fella, generally avoiding hysteria in the dressing room and the touchline, and apparently preferring reason to rhetoric; he appears solicitous. even to troublesome members of the Fourth Estate; significantly, he is blissfully short on ego.

And, while some of his peers advance, disingenuously, on television cameras and shamelessly peddle porkies to the football nation, you are given the feeling you could trust him.

Having said all that, you must remember that the Spaniard is locked into one of sport’s most brutal bear pits. After last Monday evening, many people will be wondering whether when a critical situation arises, he possesses the necessary ruthlessness to be a great manager. I would have been tempted to cut Mirallas off at the kneecaps: shame him in public. But I am not a manager and therefore not versed in their code of conduct. Anyway, public shaming is not advocated nowadays.

For some reason, you don’t “diss” men who have astronomical amounts of money credited to their accounts each month. Any manager guilty of this is immediately awarded leper status by the players. In the event of this occurring, a dressing room is “lost.”

Martinez chose to abide by the new status quo. Could it be that he felt that this was an isolated case of disobedience, the player having been one of the few success stories of an unfortunate season?

Or, was he pursuing the Alex Ferguson mantra? To whit, if you destroy a player in public, you not only hurt the man himself but those closely associated to him: ie: his family and children.

Whatever, it seems possible that this transfer window may take Mirallas to Tottenham, if an appropriate fee can be agreed upon. Everton have dismissed the possibility of swapping his talents for Aaron Lennon.

It is entirely feasible, then, that the winger will see out the rest of the season with a team trying to demolish the perimeter fencing of the top four. it’s also entirely feasible, knowing the protocols of teams desperate to save their Premier League status, that Martinez could become a managerial victim.

I trust, if this scenario unfolds, that Mr Mirallas will experience a shame that refuses to go away. I somehow doubt it.

SOMETIMES I despair of sports reporters’ intros. Many are clichéd and dull enough to make ditch water seem transparent.

But this week, regarding the furore over Mirallas, I discovered an example of a delightful opening paragraph. It came from the Guardian’s Andy Hunter and I’m pleased to reproduce it here:

Everton fly to Qatar on Wednesday and, contrary to rumours, Kevin Mirallas has not insisted on piloting the plane.

There are some big names in Fleet Street who, on reading this, are entitled to experience some discomfort. Whether they will is another matter.


1 CommentLeave a comment

  • Nice take on Martinez, Bryan.
    I would just love it if he came and managed Newcastle United!
    Tony Boullemier, Geordie exile, Northampton.

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