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Saturday, March 21, 2009

PREMIER REPORT

Reputation for bad behavior continues for Fabregas


LONDON — After Hull City's stormy 2-1 F.A. Cup quarterfinal defeat at Arsenal, visiting manager Phil Brown accused the Gunners' captain Cesc Fabregas of spitting at assistant manager Brian Horton.

Christopher Davies

"I was there, I witnessed it," said Brown.

Fabregas, recovering from a long-term knee injury, denied the allegation, so in effect both men are calling each other a liar.

One of them must be telling the truth. I have no idea what went on but it seems a heck of an accusation to make without any foundation.

Why on earth would Brown, a thoroughly decent guy, make it up?

The Football Association has written to Brown and Horton for their observations. It would be useful if it also wrote to Arsenal to ask if any of its stewards saw any spitting incident, which Hull chairman Paul Duffen claims was the case.

However, as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger never seems to have seen any controversial incident, perhaps it is wishful thinking for club stewards to have witnessed anything.

What is not in doubt is that at the end of the game Fabregas, dressed in jeans and a hoodie jacket, was on the pitch doing a good impersonation of an angry young man.

Why the need for an injured captain to be on the pitch?

It is claimed the Spaniard told various Hull players where to go.

Also undeniable is that Fabregas is one of the most influential midfielders in European football. He also has a growing reputation for disrespecting opponents, including Sir Alex Ferguson, Mark Hughes and Teddy Sheringham.

In the eyes of many, Fabregas will be guilty by association. Players say they would rather be thumped than spat at . . . that spitting is the lowest form of violence in a sport, the ultimate act of disrespect.

Any F.A. inquiry is likely to be inconclusive.

But I repeat, why would Brown accuse Fabregas of such a thing if he had not witnessed it?

* * * * *

IT MUST be one of the most expensive lies in history.

West Ham's economy with the truth over the Carlos Tevez affair, when it did not declare the third-party influence (Tevez and Javier Mascherano, now with Liverpool, were effectively owned by businessman Kia Joorabchian and not the club) has cost it £30.5 million so far.

West Ham was fined £5.5 million by the Premier League, but the real sting came in the wake of legal action by Sheffield United, which claimed the presence of Tevez, now with Manchester United, in the West Ham team was the reason it was relegated in 2007.

It is a ridiculous, preposterous, unjustifiable allegation, but Sheffield United took it all the way and an independent tribunal chaired by Lord Griffths last September found in favor of the Yorkshire club . . . that Tevez's performances for West Ham had directly contributed to the Blades' relegation.

Forget that Sheffield United lost half its games that season or that just about everyone thinks that over 38 matches a team gets what it deserves.

Forget that Sheffield United beat West Ham 3-0 at Bramall Lane when Tevez played so poorly he was substituted. Forget that Tevez scored only seven goals all season and went 20 games without scoring.

Lord Griffiths pointed the finger at the Argentine as the main cause of Sheffield United's relegation.

West Ham must now pay Sheffield United £25 million in compensation over five years because Lord Griffiths came to the conclusion the old cliche that one man doesn't make a team is incorrect.

Neil Warnock, the Sheffield United manager, who left the club three days after its relegation, and the players are now licking their lips in anticipation of individual compensation from West Ham. The legal gravy train is up and running.

How long before someone, somewhere sues a referee or an assistant referee for a team's relegation?

Or even the guy who owns the hot dog stall outside Sheffield United's ground suing for loss of earnings?

It is as farcical as someone ruling an individual player was responsible for relegating another club.

The saga is far from over, though. West Ham also has to contend with a new Premier League inquiry into its playing of Tevez and his contractual situation in the final three games of the season. If found guilty then it could face a points deduction for the beginning of next season.

* * * * *

SIR ALEX FERGUSON does not think Manchester United can complete the Quintuple.

"In cup football you need to be at your best but you also need a lot of luck," he said. "It's asking too much for all the games to go your way."

Man United had luck when Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed an open goal and Adriano struck an upright as it beat Inter Milan 2-0 in the last Champions League tie at Old Trafford.

The Reds have a maximum of two more F.A. Cup ties and five in the Champions League, but Europe poses the biggest challenge simply because the quality of the teams is so high, not least because Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are in the quarterfinals, along with Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Villarreal and FC Porto.

The Club World Cup and League Cup are already in Old Trafford trophy room. The Premier League is Man United's to lose, but even if it makes a clean sweep of honors do not expect Ferguson to retire.

We should make the most of Ferguson, for all his refraints and media maulings, while we can. There will never be another manager like him in longevity or success.

Christopher Davies covers the Premier League for the London Daily Telegraph.


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