WITCH-HUNTS, conspiracies and agendas.

All have been suggested regarding the media coverage Luis Suarez has received following his dopey dive against Stoke on Sunday.

But Monday’s newspapers were business as usual – the media doing what the media does.

It’s an industry built on negativity, conflict and criticism; one party having a go at another. That’s the story, that sparks the debate and that makes people read (or so the theory goes).

A manager suggesting a player from the opposition should be banned for his actions in a game that has just taken place is conflict.

And that’s why Robin Van Persie’s elbow on Yohan Cabaye was the sports lead for The Times, The Mirror, The Star and The Mail. The Independent led on Ashley Cole and his latest Twitter row (more conflict).

Suarez was the lead on the sports section of The Telegraph (‘In the dock – again’) and the story got a two-paragraph mention on the back of The Mirror and a down-page mention on the back of The Star (‘Pulis blast at ‘diver’ Suarez’).

Judging by some of the comments on Twitter, it was easier to infer every newspaper had produced a Suarez-dive wraparound.

So what about Robert Huth’s stamp? And what about Gareth Bale’s dive? They were barely mentioned, certainly not with the same prominence as Van Persie, Cole and Suarez.

Why? Simple. No conflict. Brendan Rodgers has come out tonight and raised the issue with Huth and that will ensure the story will roll on in the media tomorrow.

But after the match on Sunday he told reporters he was unsighted for both Suarez’s dive and Huth’s stamp.

Bale, too, didn’t warrant much Monday coverage as there was no ‘storm’ to report on.  Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert was too busy defending his decision to leave out Darren Bent (yep, more conflict).

In this instance, if there’s anyone to blame for coverage of Suarez’s dive, it’s two people: Suarez himself and Tony Pulis.

First Suarez. No dive, no opportunity for Pulis to tap the ball marked ‘diver’ into the the gaping media goalmouth.

Suarez should have known better. Yes, he’s frustrated. Yes, he was given a real battering by Stoke’s defenders, in particular Huth.

And yes, it does appear that, right now, when it comes to decisions in the penalty area, it’s one rule for Suarez and one rule for everyone else. He was given little protection by Lee Mason, who had a shocker at Anfield and let too much go with Stoke hell-bent on spoiling tactics.

But Liverpool had rammed home the point about recent decisions. The manager, the captain, Suarez’s team-mates – all had gone public on their frustrations that the striker was getting nothing. Even us fans – ‘We’re going to have a party….when Suarez gets a pen” – had made our feelings known.

It predictably provoked much mocking, but it also garnered some sympathy, especially after the laughable decision not to penalise Leon Barnett’s MMA move on Suarez in the penalty box at Carrow Road.

Sergio Aguero had also raised whether foreigners get a raw deal on decisions, and there were genuine signs that perhaps, narrative-wise, the tide, at least every so slightly, could be turning.

Suarez’s dive at Anfield was Moses-like in its effect on that tide and he deserves criticism for that. The dive was blatant. Many have said Suarez doesn’t regularly dive, and it’s true, he doesn’t. But what he does regularly do is add dramatic flourishes when contact is made – a neck turn here, a back arch there. That does him no favours, either, however it’s dressed up. The focus is on him, we all know it, he must know it, too. He HAS to stay on his feet, or the vicious circle will keep on turning.

And so to Pulis. For the second time this season, he was calling for three-match bans for divers after the game. Diving – or the ridiculously termed ‘simulation’ – ALWAYS sparks debate, especially if it’s a foreign player doing it against good old English up and at ‘em Stoke.

The first time Pulis leaned on this crutch, it deflected interest from a defeat to Chelsea. This time, it deflected interest from a blatant tactic to foul in the first half, Huth’s stamp, six yellow cards for Stoke and a £25,000 FA fine.

Diving IS a big problem in the game, but then so are all the other forms of cheating: stamping, blatant fouling, feigning injury, time-wasting, shirt-pulling, handballs, deliberate elbows and so on.

Is Pulis against all those things? You’d guess so, right? Last month, when Peter Crouch deliberately used his hand to control the ball before scoring against Man City, Pulis said: “If Peter’s got away with it, then brilliant.”

He also defended Andy Wilkinson after he received a three-match ban for elbowing Mario Balotelli in the face and was apparently furious when retrospective action could not be considered against David Luiz for a foul on Jonathan Walters. Presumably he’ll be less vocal about Huth’s let-off for studding Suarez’s chest.

If Puils was serious about his new role as a moral crusader in football, he’d be a hell of a lot more believable if he fined, banned or even criticised his own players for their indiscretions. That seems as likely as him realising he looks a prize tit in that cap.

Pulis knew on Sunday that there’s no way on earth that the FA would issue a three-match ban to Suarez for diving. It’s not in the rules. The referee saw the incident and gave nothing – no penalty, no yellow card for ‘simulation’. And that, like it or not, is the end of the matter.

Pulis’s suggestion doesn’t even stand up to scrutiny. Who would decide if a player had dived after the event? A panel? Who would be on it? What would constitute a dive? No contact? Some contact? It would be a minefield.

And why just diving? What protection does that offer the flair players? If there’s to be retrospective banning for diving, there should be retrospective banning for pulling shirts, flailing elbows and all the dark arts of defending, too, shouldn’t there?

Don’t expect to see Pulis backing that idea anytime soon. He can’t be taken seriously and not just because he wears crap tracksuits.

He was just playing to gallery and deflecting attention from the fact that his own player committed a sin every bit as ‘embarrassing’ – and more dangerous – than Suarez’s sky-dive.

But it still all comes back to Suarez. Pulis, the media, the radio shock jocks – their focus would have been elsewhere if he’d simply stayed on his feet.


  1. and if rodgers had defended him, he should be putting r spin on things the stamp was by far worse, rodgers need to get on to these incidents swifter cos ever other manager does it to get an edge not just the sports direct loyalty card holder

  2. Fair point. Even if he hadn’t seen it, or wasn’t aware of it, it should have been flagged up to him before he faced the press. If other clubs are going to employ the darker arts, so should we.

  3. too rite whiskey nose does it all the time, just gives us an advantage just like stevie handling the refs, if they can get away with it so can we, we need to set the agenda so we stop gettin hammerd

  4. I was watching the match in Cambodia. British commentators but I couldn’t work out who they were.

    In the first half there was an incident in the pen area with Suarez – from memort i think there was contact but not sufficient. The commentator immediately said he should have gone down. No praise for him when he tried to stay on his feet just criticism that he wasn’t clever enough.

    Then of course when he does dive he gets lambasted (correctly). The commentators are being so hypocritical when they are ‘encouraging’ it then being so outraged when it happens.

    Makes you wonder how some of these guys get the jobs in the first place.

  5. pete craven

    honestly i dont blame him for going down. he’d had the crap kicked out of him all day and got virtually nothing. then he runs into the box twisting and turning, he turns the defender (whoever he was) and is clipped by his trailing boot. its not much contact but it causes him to lose momentum. it was a foul, least it is on plenty of other occasions up and down the country. who could forget the pen we conceded to berbatov at old trafford, the day of kenny’s return. dan aggers boot tip ruffled the sock of berbatov and over he went. pen no questions asked.

    on sunday the ref waves play on and suarez flings himself ridiculously. well whats the point in staying on your feet? its got to the point that only the comical has a chance of swaying opinions. if he cant get the one at norwich then how on earth is he going to get what the likes of berbatov got.

    lets have some perspective on this. suarez does sometimes go down easily and he sometimes exaggerates the contact to win a foul. but he does not dive without contact like bale does and he does not instigate contact like young does.

    i do wish that sometimes he could tone down the exaggerations, (i think he would have got the pen against man utd if he hadn’t thrown his head back) but it was a foul and thats all the ref should be focusing on. everything else is irrelevant.

    apparently the f.a. will not take retrospective action against huth because the ref saw the stamp and thought there was nothing wrong.


  6. Disregard all the foul elements of Sunday’s game. Which team, manager, supporters, would you rather be associated with? Imagine having to be Pullis, immediately having to go on the offensive to deflect any criticism of his obnoxious tactics. Thank the gods we don’t have to watch his team week in week out. I remember traveling to the potteries back in the seventies, when Liverpool fans where generally treated with suspicion and threats, Stoke seemed a laid back and friendly venue. They deserve better than this. Personally, I’m comfortable with the evolution of the team, Suarez will recognize how much he is loved , supported and encouraged by the fans and will curtail his histrionics, recognize the skills and enthusiasm of the young, energetic and talented lads around him, and, just like Stevie, will eventually allow the youngsters to grow into the supremely gifted players they are. We are very fortunate to be Liverpool fans, that is what I believe, don’ t tell me otherwise . We are in transition, patience and experimentation, resolve and hard work, trust in BR, and a decent striker in January should see us through.

  7. I thought I was watching a rerun of South Africa vs the All Blacks…some of the tackles were that robust…

    Seriously though – at least 4 stoke players committed tackles that got Jonjo sent off without even a foul being awarded…

    The FA, the Refs and UK media are beyond corrupt…and appear to be extremely racist as well…

  8. I recall Dalglish getting pilloried for complaining about referees who were making the wrong calls against Liverpool after we played Stoke around this time last year because… well, that’s only a tactic the media will allow Ferguson to get away with year after year, decade after decade (and now it seems, that global giant of the game Tony Pulis).

    Incidentally some of the decisions were more than worthy of complaint. Like say, off the top of my head, the opposition player tripping Suarez up, just after he’s rounded the keeper and is about to pass it into the empty net, only getting a booking. Dowd wouldn’t be so outrageously lenient the first game of this season.

    And yet the only journo I’ve seen call Pulis out on his recent, nonsense attempts to be the shining beacon of fair play against those cheating, greasy foreigners (taking our footballing jobs with their ‘flair’ and ‘technique’), is Brian Reade.

    In fact, around the time Shawcross (England’s new JT, don’t you know) dropkicked young Ramsey’s leg into two pieces, Pulis naturally gave it the ol’ “he’s not that type of lad” spiel. I vaguely remember Danny Murphy coming out and saying something like, “Tony Pulis does send out his team to get stuck in” and what happens? Everyone sides with Pulis and criticises Murphy! Seriously, WTF?!

    Meanwhile, you’ve got softshite ‘Lawro’ finding Bale’s dive quite literally laughable, as opposed to ’embarrassing’ or ‘bringing the game into disrepute’ if it’s Suarez, on Match of the Day 2. Bale, like Ashley Young before him, is a good British lad; it’s unlike him to go down…

  9. Good article. Suarez is one of the most frustrating footballers I’ve ever seen – he’s stopping himself from being the best player in the league. The worrying thing is that he doesn’t seem to be learning lessons – all the negative body language, flailing arms, theatrics – just keeps churning out and all contributes to not getting decisions. Norwich he was a different person, but probably just because he scored after 2 minutes, had his one in the bank and was a bit more relaxed.

    Yes, we can blame the refs as they make the (consistently wrong) calls, and account for context but time to look a bit closer to home. Surely Rodgers has to be in his ear this time saying “look, enough is enough – you’re shooting yourself in the foot here” , despite what he is saying publicly. You would sincerely hope that it doesn’t happen again and if it did, for all his brilliance, you would need to question whether he was more trouble than he was worth.

    Anyhow, just play him a DVD of our penalties last season and he’d probably think to stay on his feet a bit more…

  10. Suarez is a great player. That said he really needs to stop embellishing contact. It makes everything look a dive and does him no favors.

    He gets fouled all the time, but because he embellishes the contact he doesn’t get the foul. If he just stopped the problem would ease or he could at least defend himself in saying he’s not diving at all.

    He’s such a wonderful player to watch, except when he’s embellishing every contact.

    • Suarez today, Sterling tomorrow. People just don’t get the point.

      Alex Ferguson targets an opposition player that he feels may do harm to his team & the sheep in the media (including alot of spinless ex Liverpool players) do his bidding. Nobody outside of the real LFC supporters want to see this club back at the top again.

      Suarez just happens to be an easy target. If he played for Man Utd he would be (like Ronaldo) a rare jewel of talent that needs constant protection from the Ref’s & EPL, look sidways at him & it would be a freekick. I think real LFC supporters are just too tired of the fight to do what’s necessary here.

  11. Gareth,It’s a good well written piece but a bit off target.

    Look at the outbursts and rantings of Pulis over the past few years.They always seem to be aimed at players and teams who have previously been condemned by that loveable and so well respected knight of the realm.

    Look at how a certain manager’s son was sacked and then players who were on loan to his team were suddenly recalled.And who was second in line to recall his players?Even though it apparently had nothing to do with him.
    Pulis is just another mouthpiece for the most respected man in football.

    People say I dwell on conspiracy theories surrounding football.They could be right.Maybe I just dwell on one coincidence after another till one plus one won’t give me any answer but two!

    Just look at the Suarez racism debacle.A certain well-respected figure in football “establishment” dragged his player into the referee’s office screaming “Suarez just called him a f****ng n”***er!” The rest is history.I could go on about the reporters who banged on incessantly over the following months but we all know that story.

    But just think about this;Leveson,Jimmy Savile,Hillsborough (coroners,police chiefs,lawyers,politicians etc.).

    There’s many more.It’s not like “who shot JFK or was Princess Diana murdered?”They were one -off incidents and that type of event frequently sparks conspiracy debate.Did the Americans really go to the moon?

    But when you have a catalogue of amazing coincidences over many years,sooner or later the truth will out.Referees who are immediately demoted for giving unfavourable decisions,reporters who publish every word as though it was gospel,shady dealings with dodgy Asian businessmen,members of the family taking big fees for players being transferred,The list is almost endless.

    And it’s a bit like those other conspiracy theories,eventually people start to question things despite what the media tells them.

    Just mark my words.Sooner or later somebody will break rank.Martinez alluded to it,Benitez shouted it loud and clear,Wenger has often referred to it ,Mancini hints at it,Even the odd reporter has had the temerity to suggest the possibility but has then done a u-turn before he got banned from press-conferences!

    Sooner or later…..sooner or later……!

    • Absolutely right. When Rafa rightly flagged up the hypocrisy of fergie, the media narrative was almost immediately set as the lone nut. But privately BBC journalists were saying that most of the managers in the premiere
      League agreed with Rafa but could not be seen to be supportive of him, as to do so was to go against fergie. He seems to have the ability to influence referees, the media, and the people who run the game and the league in this country. He is as close to football royalty as exists in the game here. And why? Because he is successful. When Keegan appeared to lose it on TV, the pressure of holding a challenge from the front had got to him, but the legend of “fergie mind games” was born. Apparently his outburst was caused by fergies powers of psychological manipulation. Could happen.
      United went on to win the league, and momentum piled on the idea that it was that pressure applied by Ferguson that had won them the league.
      Who was to argue? As long as Ferguson kept winning, then what he was doing was “right” and what others were doing was wrong. And the press loved it. A successful utd sold a shed load of papers. This seems to have developed as a symbiotic relationship between Sky, the FA and MUFC
      We talk about “the Liverpool Way”, but we struggle to define it. Well I can define it in one word. Winning. It worked because we were winning. Because if we weren’t winning so much back then, who the hell would even be bothered about the Liverpool way?
      If you’re winning then what you are doing is right, when you rant it’s ‘mind games’ when others complain it’s pressure. So now we see “The United Way”
      Manipulation of referees during games. Targetting of opposition players by the ,manager backed up by a compliant press and a cabal of managers in the league. Bullying of dissenting journos. Bullying of the referees by the ,manager in the press. It has to be admired. The Liverpool Way was in and of it”s time. Likewise The United Way. And it will run as long as fergie is in the job.

      And the fkn tablet I am typing on is responsible for all the rogue commas and inappropriate quotation marks.

  12. Well said Brian. Maybe Tom Warner could make a fictional movie about a corrupt sporting association being run by an evil dark shadowy figure.

  13. Or, if Ferguson really does have this far-reaching power that so many are convinced of, maybe the club should get to work on replicating that. And in the meantime, tell Suarez to stay on his feet.


    • Again Garreth you’re missing the point. We’ve had 3 scanalous penalties and 2 dodgy sending offs against us this year all added to the treatment of our own players. These were all game changing decisions that cost us 6 points and more importantly a good start for Bendan (but the. that was probably the point). This started last year with the return of Kenny & has continued ever since.

      • Come on mate. Shelvey/Agger and the penalties against us have hardly been scandalous – they could all have gone either way fair enough, but not scandalous or even dodgy. Put it this way, if any of them were the other way around we would be up in arms at not getting the decisions. Swings and roundabouts – ie. Rodwell last year which probably won us that game.

        We do need to be better at influencing the refs agreed on that, but Suarez flinging himself around doesn’t help. You don’t need any media manipulation or “dark arts” for that – all they have to do is watch the telly and see for themselves. No ref wants to be the one made a fool of by a dive so as long as that continues we will struggle to get any decisions involving Suarez. Stay squeaky clean for the rest of the season and the tide might turn.

        • Well now there’s it in a nutshell Chris. Rodwell’s was far more of a sending off than any of the one give against LFC this year, but due to a compliant press, he gets his reversed. I have never, ever, seen anything as bad as the penalty awarded against Skyrtl in the opening game. How come my Citeh mate can see this bias against us & you can’t.

          • He got it reversed partly because when it was played back it was clear Suarez over-egged his performance! I can see a bias against Suarez but he has created a rod (‘scuse pun…) for his own back. I just don’t see an overall agenda of bias against us that isn’t explainable by either our own players’ actions or our lack of influence on/off the pitch.

  14. Oh no! Tell me this isn’t the official “Anfield Wrap”please tell me somebody has hijacked the user name.

    Correct me about the underhanded deceitful shenanigans that have being going on since the 1950’s when Louis Edwards (Martin’s father) was convicted of selling condemned meat to schools for consumption by schoolchildren to make a few quid.Enlighten me about the same Louis Edwards who was drummed out for making illegal payments to entice players to join manu.

    Convince me that I got the wrong end of the stick about Martin Edwards being spirited away for constantly sneaking into women’s toilets and peeping under the doors.Give me the real story about ferguson trying to engage prostitutes on their South American tours.Help me to understand why they kicked survivors of Munich out of their club houses and paid them short on their contracts.Justify the £70,000 paid to cantona to make an appearance at the Munich testimonial.Explain why ferguson refuses to appear after matches on BBC in accordance with his contractual obligations with all parties including the “Premier League” and no action is ever taken.

    I could go on all night!But then just tell me why Suarez gets kicked from pillar to post in virtually every game and tries to highlight the fact but a certain individual decreed that he was a “diver” a couple of years ago.And now everybody forgets about Nani,Ronaldo,Rooney and the rest and it’s all about Suarez.

    Does anybody remember that cup game utd v Arsenal a few years ago when United players took it in turns to try and cripple Reyes.They took it in formation so they didn’t risk a red.Reyes left shortly afterwards because he had absolutely no protection from the ref after a sustained and brutal attack.

    Anyway,I hope this isn’t the Real “Anfield Wrap!”If it is you’d better wake up!

  15. Wow, am I dreaming or is Martin Samuel (nearly) sticking up for Suarez here?

    “Reacting to UEFA’s retrospective ban on Eduardo of Arsenal for diving in September 2009, what manager said this?

    ‘The biggest mistake is not coming out at the start of the season and laying the ground, so that everybody understands what is going to happen if people dive. To do it part of the way through the season is ridiculous.’

    Step forward, Tony Pulis, manager of Stoke City, who at the weekend called for retrospective action to be taken against Luis Suarez for diving. So let’s just say there is a degree of self-interest in this. Pulis now wants Suarez banned, retrospectively, having previously opposed such a move. Brendan Rodgers, manager of Liverpool, defends his player, although it is quite plain that he dived.

    Pulis, meanwhile, is less forthcoming on the subject of Robert Huth, who appeared to stamp on Suarez’s chest when he could have easily avoided contact. If retrospective action was permitted, it should not stop with Suarez in the dock. Why do we have such a problem with diving yet are relaxed about violent play? Suarez’s actions were reprehensible but no more than those of Huth, or Robin van Persie, who treated Yohan Cabaye of Newcastle United to a taste of his forearm during Manchester United’s match at St James’ Park.

    Ultimately, Suarez does get punished for diving because blatant penalty offences against him are being waved away; indeed at the weekend it is quite possible that Marc Wilson of Stoke caught his trailing leg and his belated and preposterous fall was only a desperate attempt to get this noticed. Referees seem to have shorter memories of violence, however, with repeat offenders often ignored. That does not appear to trouble Pulis, or many in football, as much; but it should.”

  16. I have a suggestion when we play Stoke. Just dont go in their half all game. When they hoick the ball up , dont even try to win it. Just clean the clock off their forward players. Just wipe the floor with tits like walters and the rest. Just put in a squad that will just kick the SHIT out off Stoke. Break a few legs! Bite a few faces off. Watch a few videos of how Souness used to just kick the shit out of people straight up. When you go in for headers lean in with your elbow on their backs, knees. Why try to play, get kicked to death. And then geting stepped on with studs. Get pillored by the Rugby coach. Just tear them a new asshole i say! This is not a rant. I say this with clear lucidity.

  17. The irony is that if we do get a penalty, we’d probably miss it anyway…

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