GILES SMITH'S THURSDAY THOUGHTS

Posted on: Thu 03 Oct 2013

Two away games since his last column have led to Chelsea supporter Giles Smith to write about misfortune, experiment and landmark performances in his latest column, plus a revisits a monument…


A good friend who supports Tottenham texted me after last Saturday's game to offer the virtual equivalent of a post-match handshake. His text simply said, 'Fair result.'

Well, far be it from me to seem to be unsportingly declining an extended hand, and particularly from a good friend: but it wasn't, really, was it?

Not a fair result, I mean. Certainly I would have liked to have seen what would have happened to the general sense of the game's fairness if we had had a full complement of 11 men on the pitch for those last 10 minutes. Nothing is certain, of course, because football doesn't work like that. But, at the point at which Fernando Torres got sent off for jumping up and down in the vicinity of Jan Vertonghen, causing him to fall over and clutch his face, a winning goal seemed to be coming, and it seemed to be coming to us.

So, no, I'm not sure that 1-1 was a 'fair result', all things considered. History, of course, dictates that a point at White Hart Lane rarely feels like a point gained. It nearly always feels like two points lost. But this really was no exception.

On Tuesday afternoon we learned that there would, after all, be no retrospective disciplinary action from the FA arising from the key incident at White Hart Lane.

Jan Vertonghen must have been a very relieved man, then. We can only conclude that the officials at the time saw enough of him rolling around on the pitch to make up their own minds, and that, even with the benefit of hindsight, it will just have to be one of those things that we try to draw a veil over and move on from.

This season a new system is in place wherein a three-man panel of former referees can review passages of play and bring charges in cases where the officials on the pitch are deemed to have missed something. But this time, it seems, the panel was satisfied that the on-pitch officials had a view, so no further punishment was merited.

On another matter altogether, there was no further punishment for our own Fernando Torres, either, for the earlier business in the match, when he briefly took hold of Vertonghen's face. Again, it was decreed that the officials on the pitch had understood enough of the incident to form their own judgment.

This was a pleasing outcome for many reasons, not least that it showed how the FA can, when it needs to, be admirably strong enough to resist reacting to the public heat under an issue, which, in this case, by Monday morning, had grown unhelpfully and distractingly high, with various people mounting various pulpits to cry out for three or four further games to be added to Torres's ban.

Or even more than that. Racheting the debate all the way up to Regulo 8, with quite some style, Peter Schmeichel, the former Manchester United goalkeeper, told Radio 5 Live that he considered what Torres did to Vertonghen as a sin on a par with the bite that Luis Suarez inflicted on Branislav Ivanovic and which earned him a 10-game ban.

Well, it's a point of view, I guess, although one which made me want to invite Schmeichel to join me in a controlled experiment. It would involve the two of us getting together somewhere and agreeing to perform a little trial.

First, at a given signal between us, I would enclose one side of the Danish international's face in my hand. And then, after that - with his express permission, and at the moment of his choosing - I would bite him. And then we could sit down and have a proper discussion about which of those two actions left him feeling more affronted, which one caused him the greater sense of revulsion, which one shocked him more as a heat-of-the-moment reaction from a fellow human being, etc. And then maybe we would arrive at a definitive view on the matter.

I do think the still photograph of the incident is open to misinterpretation. In my opinion, it doesn't just make it look worse than it was, it makes it look like something it wasn't. And even in the still image you've got a discrepancy to reckon with between the supposed aggression of the gesture and the expression on Torres's face, which is hardly that of someone intent on brutal damage.

Personally, I find it hard to rule out the possibility that Torres was merely attempting (and, admittedly, fumbling) the old cheek-waggle - a gesture which, admittedly, is out of fashion these days but which, in its heyday, especially when delivered to naughty but harmless schoolboys, was felt to say 'you little rascal, you' extremely efficiently and, indeed, affectionately.

However, we're with the rulebook here and in favour of law and order: that kind of a thing is best not attempted on a football pitch, where it is open to misinterpretation. I'm sure Torres realises that now and will more than heed the warning in the future.

Meanwhile, it was all perfectly set up. A roaring, if frustratingly truncated, performance at Tottenham; a real sense of a threat recovered; no retrospective ban standing in his way… Positive feelings about the striker abounded on Tuesday evening. Here, surely, was the perfect platform from which to launch into Steaua Bucharest and blast his, and our, season into the future.

Torres

And what happens? After just 11 minutes, he's coming off with a knee injury. Is there an unluckier footballer than Torres? I'm not sure I've ever seen one playing for Chelsea. This week, once again, his ship seemed to have come in. And once again he appeared to be at the airport. Surely that fortune has to change at some point. Anything else would be simply inhumane.

Still, great team performance, even in his absence. Superb goals, landmark performances from Juan Mata and Andre Schurrle and a move which would have produced a goal-of-the-season contender if Mata's shot hadn't come back off the post.

Final score: 0-4. I don't have any good friends who are Steaua Bucharest fans, but I like to think that, if I did, they would have texted me afterwards to say 'Fair result'.

Thanks to all who Tweeted their support for the campaign we launched last week to keep the Michael Jackson statue at the ground of our neighbours, where it belongs.

We're still hopeful that public outcry will cause Fulham's new owner, Shahid Khan, to reverse his bewilderingly unsentimental decision to fly in the face of tradition and ship out the seven-feet-plus tribute to the King of Pop, who loved the club with all his heart, and whose image has stood in a quiet corner of Craven Cottage since 2011.

Even if we can't get this rightly world-famous monument back in the ground, surely it can be re-erected somewhere in the surrounding streets, where fans can pass it on their way to matches and pay due homage. If all else fails, maybe there's a place for it in the National Football Museum in Manchester. All that matters, in the end, is that history is not forgotten. Bless you for your help with that.