Ipswich Town used to be justifiably acclaimed and renowned throughout the football world for the dignified and principled way that they went about their business. Unfortunately things seem to have changed and men of real integrity and class like Bobby Robson and former chairman John Cobbold would doubtless be turning in their grave if they had still been alive to witness the straits that their once great club was reduced to last Saturday.
Not content with crippling Brentford’s star player Alan Judge with a tackle from out of the dark ages Ipswich piled insult onto injury by their blinkered reaction to Luke Hyam’s uncontrolled and dangerous lunge.
There was not a hint of remorse, an apology or even any awareness or an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the situation and the unacceptability of his player’s behaviour from beleaguered manager Mick McCarthy who truly beggared belief when he instead turned matters on their head and attempted to deflect attention away from the incident by bemoaning his club’s apparent misfortune on the day.
Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong, whined McCarthy and he reacted with incredulity to Brentford manager Dean Smith’s remarkably restrained reaction to Hyam’s early challenge (if you can dignify it with that word) which he described as being merely a bit naughty and deserving of a straight red card.
McCarthy replied: I’m disappointed if he’s said that. I think he’s won the ball. I’ve actually complained to the referee as to why it’s a booking if he’s won the ball. I don’t think it’s naughty at all.
I really do not think that his words require further comment from me or any reasonable or objective observer and a cursory look at the match footage renders his claims laughable.
I appreciate that managers are expected to protect their players in public but you cannot defend the indefensible and retain your credibility and McCarthy would have been far better advised to have refrained from saying anything at all if he found it impossible to make the unreserved apology that was without doubt called for.
I have now lost all respect for a man who I had previously considered a decent and intelligent individual – it is amazing what pressure and the disappointment at dropping away from contention for the playoffs does to somebody’s judgement.
His players simply followed their manager’s appalling example. Luke Varney, himself the perpetrator of a two-footed tackle from behind on Ryan Woods after the interval that rivalled Hyam’s earlier attempt for its maliciousness, premeditation and spite gave his team mate the benefit of some quite considerable doubt:
There was no malice in it at all, we all know Luke, he gets stuck in and we’d never stop him doing that. If I thought there was any malice in it I’d know. I’ve had a couple of those tackles off him in training in the last week, he’s that sort of player.
Yes, we do all know Luke and he certainly is that kind of player as his disciplinary record attests.
Hyam himself eventually made a mealy-mouthed, carefully drafted and weaselly attempt at an apology which was as badly timed and directed as his tackle which broke Alan Judge’s leg, in which he asserted that there was nothing malicious in the tackle and I hope Alan recovers quickly.
In other words whilst he regrets the result of his challenge he saw nothing wrong in what he actually did. Incredible!
Players have a duty of care towards their fellow professionals and Hyam totally abrogated his responsibility on Saturday.
We Brentford supporters are still too angry and distraught to give an impartial view so I will let the final words on this subject go to a totally objective observer in former Eire International fullback Paddy Mulligan who certainly did not sit on the fence when asked to comment on what he had seen:
It’s not football as far as I’m concerned. It was a horrible, horrible tackle. It was an over-the-top tackle. It was two-footed and there was absolutely no excuse. The referee didn’t even send the player off. It’s quite incredible really. It was a really nasty tackle.
There really is nothing more to say after that and I only wish that the referee, the hapless Phil Gibbs, had seen the incident in the same light as Mulligan and taken the appropriate action.
The real losers in this situation are Alan Judge, Eire, Brentford FC and our supporters.
Judge has suffered a serious injury as well as the cruel and totally unfair blow of being denied his perhaps once in a lifetime opportunity of playing on a world stage at the forthcoming Euro 2016 tournament, a prize that he had more than deserved after his series of incredible, consistent performances all season where he had been the shining light in the Brentford team and scored fourteen goals and assisted on eleven more. At twenty-seven years of age he is approaching his peak and had just made his full International debut with the promise of more caps to come.
It is hoped that this is a clean break without complications and that he will return to action speedily and without any permanent damage or handicap. At this stage there can be no guarantee that this will be the case and given that Judge is a player who relies upon his acceleration, change of pace and ability to turn quickly, to wreak havoc upon the opposition, who knows if he will return as the player he was and who he was still developing into?
Hard though it is to speculate, it is even possible that this injury will be a terminal blow to his career and we will all have to live with the uncertainty for several months to come. Even if he makes a full recovery he will lose perhaps the best part of a year from what is inevitably a short career as a footballer.
Judge will also lose the opportunity of making a lucrative move in the Summer as it seemed inevitable that he would leave the club perhaps for a team in the Premier League.
Given his quality, commitment and the length of his service to us, no Brentford fan would have begrudged him that move, one that now appears likely to be denied him, at least in the short term.
He would likely have been playing at a higher level than the Bees next season and he fully deserved that opportunity as well as the massively increased salary that he would have earned. Footballers live under the permanent shadow of a career ending injury at any time and cannot be blamed for chasing the money when it is on offer.
There is also a knock-on effect as Brentford too would have been banking on receiving a fee of around three to four million pounds which might well have comprised the greater part of our transfer kitty for the close season. That money will now not be coming into the club and that loss means that we now all have even more reason to figuratively pull on a Burnley shirt and will them onto promotion given the three and a half million pounds that we will receive in bonus payments should they go up to the Premier League.
As for Judge, who knows what happens next? The nightmare scenario is for him to require all or the majority of next season to make a full recovery, play not at all or at best very little for us and then, having been paid by us all season, leave the club next July on a free transfer when his contract expires. Surely that cannot be allowed to happen but the situation might well be out of our control?
Perhaps we will now offer him a new contract which could be considered more carefully by Judge and his agent given the changing circumstances?
Maybe he will be fully fit and playing again before Christmas which will enable us to sell him in the January Transfer Window? That would be the best option in my opinion should Judge still be determined to seek a new challenge elsewhere.
So many questions and imponderables and no immediate answers. As always appears to be the case with Brentford, bad luck seems to strike when all is otherwise going so well.
Whatever happens over the coming months we shall just have to get on with things and make the best out of a difficult situation.
No player, however talented, is irreplaceable and if Alan does leave, or is out of action for a long period then I am sure that moves are already afoot to replace him although we might now be scrambling around to find the necessary funds. Kemar Roofe is the nearest that I have seen to a like-for-like replacement but he might now be well out of our price range.
I will end on a positive and simply thank Alan Judge for all the pleasure, enjoyment and success he has given us and I can clearly picture some of the amazing goals he has scored for us this season like the curler at Charlton, the screamer against Rotherham followed by a rare header and the solo effort against Derby. I can also afford to ignore some of his more interesting efforts from the penalty spot!
He is a crowd pleaser and a player full of effervescence and tricks who has been a privilege and delight to watch. Without him we would probably now be reconciled to visiting the like of Accrington Stanley next season, so we should simply give thanks for what we have already received from him , perhaps even hope for more and wait for the future to sort itself out as it will inevitably do.