Hey folks, super short post today. I did my behind the numbers piece on the Vorskla match for The Arsenal Review this morning and that ate up most of my time and I have to run off to work. But I wanted to address the “bombshell” article published in the Sun by former Stoke City player Steve Kitson claiming that Pulis was to blame for Shawcross breaking Ramsey’s leg.
On the one hand I want to believe this article. It confirms everything I believe about Pulis and how he set Stoke up to play against Arsenal. It also confirms my theory that while players often get the blame for these things, it’s the mangers (especially when it came to this tactic as deployed against Arsenal) that are really to blame. But I still think the article and source is problematic at best.
Kitson is a Sun columnist, he’s also the former “secret footballer”, and now frequent guest on talksport where he regularly courts controversy with his opinions. Earlier this year he came out publicly stating he hates Pulis, that he nearly attacked him with a pair of scissors, and that he tried to undermine him once in front of the Stoke chairman.
He’s also publicly stated how much he hates Alan Pardew and has gotten into spats with Brendan Rodgers and Sam Allardyce. These aren’t people I have the greatest love for but everything about Kitson screams “loves controversy”.
So while I want to believe that Pulis charged his men up like raging bulls and that they responded with a bloodlust that eventually led to Shawcross breaking Ramsey’s leg I also have to acknowledge that Kitson is an unreliable narrator and that in the interest of at least common sense we should wait for others to chime in.
And that, ultimately, is the real problem for me: the lack of voices. We know this is happening all the time or at least it used to happen all the time. This wasn’t a new template for (literally) beating and (literally) breaking Arsenal. Ferguson did it with United, most famously in the 50th unbeaten match, aided by referee Mike Riley (now head of PGMOL). Sam Allardyce made a career of sending in players to deliberately rough up Arsenal. And when Martin Taylor went in on Eduardo’s ankle, I was one of the first to say that this is a management problem; managers were telling their players to kick us off the pitch. That was 2008. By the time that Shawcross poleaxed Ramsey this was old news. And yet, we hear very little from former players and managers in the way of apologies, explanations, or even admission of guilt.
So, while I appreciate Kitson starting the conversation (albeit in the Sun, which made me filthy to read) I won’t be sitting over here waiting for more players and managers to come out and say “yeah, we deliberately tried to kick Arsenal off the pitch, we were out of control, it was my fault, I’m really sorry for what we did to Reyes, Diaby, Eduardo, and Ramsey.” Because, frankly, they were cowards to attack player’s shins the way that they did and as far as I’m concerned they are all still cowards now.