Only Half A Yard

Only Half A Yard.


Incandescent. Fulminating.


Foaming at the mouth.

Ah, that’s it! Brentford’s first – and equalising – goal against Forest on Saturday evening was something special for several reasons, leaving me, figuratively, foaming at the mouth. It was the worst example by the Reds of making a defensive wall against a free-kick that I’ve seen since I used to play on the park as a lad. The idea is to block, not offer openings. That said, it was a fine shot, scored by striker Ivan Toney, returning to the game (football, that is) after an eight-month suspension.

Toney had an impressive match and consistently asked questions of Forest’s defence and midfield. But his goal raised a very important question. Responding to his moving the set-piece ball – which had been foam marked-out clearly on the pitch by the referee as to where it should be placed for the free-kick – in a post-match Match Of The Day interview, the player said he was at liberty to move the ball either way.

‘It was only half a yard. You can move the ball,’ he remarked. News to me. News to Forest fans watching. News to however many millions who watched it on TV around the world. Clearly, Toney has spent plenty of his time out of the Premiership practising his undoubted free-kick talents. Also, to his credit, he seems to have kept up an impressive fitness regime. Perhaps he’d also found time to read a spot of Covid Inquiry reporting, too. Plenty of slippery tactics to pick up there! He would have found that politicians can redefine – in so many ways – what rules and regulations they set for the general public and which ones they felt they needed to follow themselves.

Let’s apply Toney’s logic to other sports and consider the consequences. You’re in the final of the Australian Tennis Open and smash a winning shot … because it was only half a yard out. In the forthcoming cricket Test series between India and England, you bowl a ball that misses the stumps by half a yard but are allowed to claim the wicket. Back on the football pitch, it no longer matters that the goal-keeper ‘saves’ a shot half a yard behind their goal-line, it’s not a goal. A ball for a penalty can be placed half a yard either way from the spot. Whatever suits you. You get the idea … chaos!

So there’s the referee on Saturday evening, squirting his foam to indicate, precisely, where the ball should be placed. He has officials on-hand to scrutinise the game for any foul-play and he has VAR to check that, if a goal is scored, it has been done legitimately. What happened? Was everyone so admiring of the striker’s return that he was given favourable conditions for playing? Surely not: too much like match-fixing. Even the Forest players seemed not to notice the advantage being sought. Brazen as the move was, Toney didn’t simply shift the ball once but twice and, for good measure, he took the foam with him. All there to watch on TV.

Nuno Espirito Santo was left as baffled as the rest of us. But what does he know? A mere manager with goodness knows how many years’ experience in the game. What do any of us know who’ve followed football for decades? Back in the BBC studio, post-match pundit, Alan Shearer, shrugged his shoulders when asked for an opinion on the incident. The gist of his answer was that players look to gain any advantage they can. Did you hear that, boys and girls, parents and carers? There’s responsible reporting for you. So that’s how to play in the spirit of the game!

Half a century ago, on bumpy bits of ground around our estate, we’d set up football matches with jumpers for goalposts and a few agreed rules, such as boundaries and who could handle the ball. We didn’t use time-limits as no kids had watches but we still agreed on some measure such as, ‘when you lose two players who have to go home for their tea, that’s the end of the game’. No mention of the word ‘only’ with us. A devious word. Never trust a phrase starting with it or within it. Only joking!

*Article provided by Stephen Parker (Nottingham Forest Correspondent).

*Main image @BrentfordFC Ivan Toney scores a controversial free kick.

One thought on “Only Half A Yard

  1. Some good points. Society is falling apart led by our politicians. Apparently, since introduced,more con MPs were charged with indecent behaviour than the election fraud. It’s only a crime if you can’t get away with it ask Mrs moone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *