12 November ~ There are certain footballing basics that all who play the game are expected to master quite quickly. The trap, for example, is one that I clearly remember my dad drumming into me as a small lad. For hours, it seemed, he would play balls to me in our garden until the simple act of making the ball stop dead at my feet became muscle memory, a force of habit. It is rare to see anyone with any ability above that of a clodder committing cardinal sins like heading a ball with the top of the head. There is a footballing staple, however, that seems to me to be surprisingly common among many adult players, even professionals – the foul throw.

It really is a very simple concept – throw the ball with both hands, from behind the head while keeping both feet on the ground. Yet for some people whose job it is to kick a ball around and occasionally throw it on to an area of grass, it is surprising how many seem to fail to follow the basic rules of the throw-in. Referees, for the most part, seem to be all too happy to ignore these transgressions, but to me it rankles like no other minor footballing offence.

My own style is one of no frills, no length, just a solid, regular, textbook throw. To see someone with the technique of Jack Wilshere, for example, committing a foul throw saddens and annoys me. Maybe that is why Mike Dean penalised Wilshere for this offence when Arsenal played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Maybe he had grown tired of player after player lazily lobbing balls into play without pulling the ball all the way back or bothering to keep their feet planted on the ground. I thought this was all too rare an instance, and yet in England’s recent game against Montenegro a foul throw was blown up by the referee. Maybe things are changing?

Arsène Wenger once famously called for the throw-in to be replaced by a kick-in, which I can see working to some extent, but the throw-in offers a dimension that a kick-in cannot provide – that of limits. Of course there have been some proponents of the mega-throw, like Dave Challinor (who seemed to single handedly propel Tranmere on a cup-run in 2000 using his bionic arms) and the current master Rory Delap. They can be very potent weapons – the chaos caused by their throws is testament to that.

Looking to the past, one player who was able to combine a throw in with something else to cause a completely different kind of chaos was Pat Brady, brother of Liam, who while playing for Millwall in the 1960s would in one motion throw the ball in and punch an opponent: a foul throw of a totally different kind. I hope the recent spate of foul throws being penalised is not just a flash in the pan. Here’s to picky refs putting sloppiness to rest. Duncan Palmer

Comments (11)
Comment by LaVecchiaSmoggie 2010-11-12 11:49:31

Surely David Challinor double-handedly propelled Tranmere on thier 2000 cup-run lest he fall curse of being the worst foul-throw offender in the history of the game?

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-11-12 13:27:00

I suspect around half the throws taken in the average professional match are illegal. I also suspect the players know that the referee won't stop the game for them.

Comment by Lincoln 2010-11-12 13:43:49

I have yet to play a Sunday League game where a foul throw is not given, strangely enough it is the only decision that never receives a complaint from the offender. In your piece you missed a key part of the rules which is keeping both feet behind the line, the Sunday League ref is very careful to make sure you don't go over that line. Assault, tripping, and spitting are all fine, but a foul throw is cardinal. Too many and you feel lucky to escape a yellow card.

Comment by Reed John 2010-11-12 14:59:40

YES! This has something that has bothered me for years. It was such a big issue when I played as a little kid and yet I've never seen a foul throw called.

Comment by colinzealuk 2010-11-12 16:55:58

Although Wenger may not be aware, the kick-in was trialed about 20 years ago in the Isthmian League and proved an utter disaster - several managers threatened their teams with the sack if they used them istead of the throw-in and the whole thing was quietly dropped at the end of the season.

Comment by Toby Gymshorts 2010-11-12 18:35:43

Totally agree, I can't seem to watch a game without having a litany of "foul throw" running through my head. It's even worse when you see players throwing the ball down directly to someone's feet.

Comment by potts4 2010-11-12 20:52:07

Any fan of West Ham who went in the late 90's will know that Trevor Sinclair was by far the worst foul throw offender. He would literally release the ball at about eye level meaning the ball went down and skimmed along the ground. It became a running joke in the stands. The huge ironic cheer that came when he finally got pulled up for it about three years after joining was a moment for all West Ham fans who were in the know.

Comment by Ostravak 2010-11-13 12:00:58

Former Celtic player Davie Provan had a great, big, long, throw-in capability. I remember a game against Rangers where Willie Johnston stood RIGHT ON the touch line to try and counter the long throw. The bold Davie took a massive run-up, released what can only be described as a beautiful, text book throw-in then followed through with the nut, smashing poor Willie right on the nose and wide open.

Comment by FCKarl 2010-11-13 19:23:28

Excellent topic. Not so much because it tremendously impacts the outcomes of matches BUT because it indeed matters. And it is a flagrant and frequent offense. The law governing throw-ins is easy to comprehend and follow.

Yet we see countless pros and semi-pros flaunt it with referees doing nothing. (at every level of the game)

Please comment on what I call the illegal "one handed/one arm throw in." That is what irritates me most. The player is a right arm man, so he heaves the ball using about 80% of his right to achieve a greater distance. (Yes, he's still touching the ball with the left hand but its coming over the player's right shoulder as he releases the ball.) The legal throw is to come directly from behind the head, over the head. (in other words, BOTH hands/arms EQUALLY involved)

Why does this bother all of us? Simple. It's cheating. Just one more "professional foul" which reminds us that cynicism is about 45% of the game.

You think this is overstated? Ha! How many of these throw-ins even occur within about 5-6 metres of where the ball actually went out of play?

Cheat because no one is looking. Or, yes, if they're looking, well they're really "looking the other way." (translation: refs willfully ignoring the obvious, managers who don't give a rip)

Cheaters prosper. And very well-paid, sanctioned officialdom cannot be bothered to make the simple, necessary corrections.

As a youth coach, when you try to properly instruct the RIGHT technique and the laws of the game, well, the 10-14 year olds look at you as an idiot. Because they've all seen 40 flagrantly illegal throw-ins made by the pros and never heard a whistle -- just in the last year while watching on the telly.

The flagrant abuse of the simple football throw-in is symbolism for the deviancy of the game as presently played over 90 minutes.

So nothing improves. No honor. No one honorable. And we all sit like bumpkins saying narry a word.... (while claming that this is the greatest game on earth)

Comment by Red Adder 2010-11-15 10:34:37

Still it nowhere near as bad as rugby and the put in to the scrum. In union it rarely straight - in league it almost seems like its fed to the 2nd row - and neither is rarely or never penalised.

Comment by El Nacnud 2011-02-08 09:43:35

Hi this is Duncan here. Thanks for all the positive comments. Saw lots of foul throws during the Wolves-United game. Every time, my heart sinks.

I only just realised this actually got published on the website yesterday! Just shows how rarely I check in. Must do it more.

Thanks again.

Related articles

Players must learn the tricks of the trademark
18 October ~ Fans complain a lot nowadays that everyone’s trying to make money out of football, but to me it’s obvious that the game&...
Final fling
The long throw is back with a bang, as Rory Delap bamboozles Aston Villa. Glen Wilson champions this strong-arm tacticAugust 23, 2008, will be noted...