THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tuesday 1 September ~

It's been creeping back into the game, as anyone who goes to matches will know. Most of us prefer to pretend that we haven't noticed, but soon it may out of control again. It can involve organised groups but often the worst damage is done by individuals acting on the spur of the moment. The excessive goal celebration is a blight on football. At least the FA appears to think so, having declared that they will treat a post-match incident at the City Ground as "a matter of urgency".

The offender was Nathan Tyson of Nottingham Forest who picked up a corner flag in celebration at the end of his side's 3-2 win over Derby, in front of the away section. This triggered a bout of pushing and shoving involving both teams, although it was the Derby players' furious reaction rather than Tyson's gesture that seems to have promoted the bundle.

Several days of negative headlines over the trouble at West Ham v Millwall have left the football authorities feeling anxious. Scarcely a day goes by without referees’ chief Keith Hackett feeling obliged to express regret for a mistake – his latest apology being made to Arsène Wenger for being sent off at Old Trafford on the word of an over-zealous fourth official. So we can expect to hear that a stern rebuke has been issued to Nathan Tyson who will reminded of the obligation to behave responsibly.

Some players do seek to goad opposition supporters, notably with shushing or ear-cupping gestures when they have scored or by making a point of kissing their badge when playing against a former club or in a derby match, as Robbie Savage did at the City Ground at the weekend. This is often in response to the player receiving a barrage of verbal abuse, although in Savage's case it may simply be that he's a self-promoting fool looking to generate material for his newspaper column.

Players are taken to task for these gestures because they are said to inflame the crowd. But the people who are prone to being inflamed can generate anger and disgust all by themselves. Football spectators are entirely within their rights to express volubly their opinions on what they are watching. But there's an increasingly nasty edge to the abuse that sections of crowds dish out these days, which extends to players and managers being barracked as they walk off the pitch. The complaint culture, nurtured by phone-ins and message boards, is flourishing in football stadiums.

Footballers’ escalating wages are sometimes offered in mitigation – with the money they're on, it's said, they should prepared to put up with anything. But anyone who is driven to hateful apoplexy several times in every match they attend has far more on their mind than can be resolved by attending football matches. Carl Hawkins

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