Do you need glasses?
How you view Jack Wilshere’s latest misdemeanour seems to rather depend on which side of the Emirates fence you sit.
Arsenal fans are rather bemused, while many of those from other clubs are egging the media on with glee, as much to see how badly they can get Jack punished as because they genuinely think he’s done something heinous.
I even heard one Spurs fan remark that Wilshere absolutely deserves to be punished because “you can just tell he’s a nasty piece of work”.
Yes, a nasty piece of work who befriended a little boy dying of cancer and helped his whole family through the most difficult time in their lives.
What a scumbag.
Toby Moses of the Guardian has been one of the few voices of reason in a week where that same commodity has been in such short supply. He makes an excellent point when he says that Wilshere is forced to take 90 minutes of unbridled abuse from the Tottenham faithful twice a season without reply, so if a couple of light-hearted chants aimed at those same fans from afar rile them, they need to take a long, hard look at themselves.
Laying down the law
Clearly the Football Association take a rather dim view of the incident, having charged Jack on Wednesday afternoon, under the catch all of conduct which was “improper and/or brought the game into disrepute.”
The trouble is, it’s hard to take it too seriously when you consider the context.
Mountains and molehills
Former England captain, John Terry, was banned for four matches after racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. Mountain.
Former England captain, Rio Ferdinand, was banned for eight months after missing a drugs test. Mountain.
Current England captain, Wayne Rooney, has never been that far from controversy himself, with former manager David Moyes suing him over comments made in his 2007 autobiography or allegations of infidelity. Mountain.
And these are men that, in naming them captain of the national side, the FA has publicly endorsed.
If we look wider in the Premier League, it’s hardly a rosy picture either.
In recent weeks alone we have seen reports of three Leicester City academy players being sent home from a club tour after allegedly being caught on tape sexually and racially abusing a woman in Thailand. Mountain.
We have seen reports of a Sunderland player being released on bail after denying the alleged charges of grooming and sexual activity with a child under 16. Mountain.
We have seen reports of a Hull City player testing positive for cocaine. Mountain.
Jack Wilshere, lest you have missed it, has been charged with making and/or inciting with certain comments. For which he has already apologised. Molehill.
And yet there seems to be a greater media song and dance about Jack Wilshere than those other – rather more serious – incidents combined.
This is just a young man mocking his club’s rivals in front of an audience consisting exclusively (one hopes, anyway!) of fans of his own club.
The question is: is it Jack’s choice of language that is deemed unacceptable, or the sentiment it conveys?
Let’s say the exchange had gone like this:
“What do you think of Tottenham?”
“Well, they’re a bit rubbish.”
“What do you think of rubbish?”
“Well, it’s a bit like Tottenham.”
Would we really be having this conversation? No.
This is entirely a question of the language involved. And let’s face it, it’s not even the first time we’ve heard it – Jack did the exact same thing on last year’s parade!
To those of us of an Arsenal bent, it’s hard to understand the furore over a little light-hearted participation in a chant that does the rounds on the terraces every week. And therein lies the rub.
Improper, adj, not in accordance with accepted standards
I didn’t see policemen arresting the numerous Arsenal fans who marched past them at Wembley loudly singing that same anti-Tottenham song. Nor did I see them arresting the Villa fans regularly and repeatedly chanting “My old man said be a City fan” for that matter. If those are the accepted standards, then how can Jack’s conduct have been improper?
Was it wise in a world where people can be offended by their morning cereal? Probably not.
Was it improper? No.
If there have been any complaints by parents of children at the parade, I’ve not heard them. Even if I had, my sympathy would have been rather hard to come by, given that in attending the parade you know exactly what you are potentially exposing your child to.
Get some perspective, before you make yourself miserable.
Hypocrisy is rife
Another point that has been well made in recent days is the contradiction between the broad brush media message that players don’t connect with the fans, and behaviour that embodies a player connecting with those same fans.
When Szczesny played “Oh when the Spurs” mockingly on his piano or took a selfie with teammates on the pitch at White Hart Lane, no one considered it to be “bringing the game into disrepute”. Likewise, when Andros Townsend responded with a well-timed “Who thinks we will see another selfie from him after today’s game” tweet after our dismal loss to Chelsea, no one claimed it was “improper”.
It was simply a bit of fun, designed to elicit some of the passion and humour which make us love the beautiful game. Rivalries are the very bedrock of the English game, whether up on Tyneside or down on the south coast, and if we lose that passion, we lose so much of what makes our league the best league in the world.
Of course, all of this comes in a week when seven officials of world football’s governing body have been arrested over bribery allegations. The irony.
So please, dear FA, if you want to talk about bringing the game into disrepute don’t bring Jack into it.
In a season where officiating has been under the spotlight, and has contributed to Jack himself losing five months of competitive football, surely you have bigger things to worry about.