When Ashley Young found himself booked for diving against Crystal Palace, he could not have begun to imagine the media fallout that would follow. He came in for widespread criticism from the press, his own manager, fellow players and the Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish, who claimed that offences such as Young’s should be punishable with a red card.
The former Watford wide-man, whose dive saw Palace’s Kagisho Dikgacoi sent off, may feel that he has been victimised by the press and referees, resulting in the unwanted reputation he has built up. It should be noted that his booking against the Eagles was only the second time he’s been punished by a referee for diving in over three seasons.
Admittedly, the story seems all too familiar. A player from a ‘big’ club was trying to con a referee into giving decisions against a ‘small’, newly promoted side. It appeared to be a case of the club displaying arrogance, assuming that they have a right to certain decisions, a right to win. How appropriate then that the manager of this particular ‘small club’ is the outspoken Ian Holloway, a man who has previously vented his frustration at the ‘big’ clubs getting the majority of decisions in Premier League matches. It should also be said that the condemnation of Young’s actions, though inevitable, has been completely correct.
It also added Young to the list of so-called notorious divers, all of whom play, or did play, for a side regarded as one of the ‘big’ English clubs. While playing for Tottenham, Gareth Bale achieved the dubious honour of holding the most bookings for simulation, managing to get himself booked a staggering six times since the 2009/10 season. Chelsea’s Fernando Torres comes second with three bookings, while former Arsenal utility man Emmanuel Eboué, Liverpool’s Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli and Javier Hernández of United all join Young on two bookings. It would appear that referees have grown wise to the attempts of players from ‘big’ clubs to con them into awarding free-kicks or penalties.
However, when the statistics for the total number of yellow cards given for simulation in a season are considered, it would suggest more than this. In the 2010/11 Premier League season, nine yellow cards were shown for diving. The 2011/12 campaign ended with 20 bookings shown, and in 2012/13 a massive 33 cautions were handed out.
If we take Bale – a man whose reputation has proceeded him – out of the equation, the number of cautions given to those in the big six clubs is exactly on the national average. Clearly, referees are punishing all players from all clubs.
Therefore, if looked at in context, the antics of Young certainly don’t seem out of the ordinary. There appears to be a definite rise in simulation offences across the Premier League. So why has his been so widely reported?
Recently, it has become fashionable to attack the bigger clubs in the country and claim that they use their status to influence games unfairly. The recent influx of diving has only served to increase this school of thought.
Are we right to criticize Young extensively for diving? Absolutely. Are we right to seemingly ignore the other players who are being booked for the same offence? Absolutely not.