Sunday 25 January 2015

John Meagher: When Joey Barton is taking your side, you know you’ve done something wrong

Published 24/01/2013 | 16:10

23 January, 2013: Chelsea's Eden Hazard is sent off for kicking a ball boy during their English League Cup semi-final second leg soccer match against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Reuters

It is, unquestionably, one of the more creative reasons for getting sent off in a high profile football match.

Chelsea’s Belgian star Eden Hazard earned his first red card in the English game after kicking a ball boy in the ribs. No doubt he woke up this morning and wished he could turn back the clock.

Before I stick the boot into Mr Hazard, let’s get the ball boy out of the way first. We’re not talking a puny pre-teen here: Charlie Morgan is a 17-year-old Swansea City fanatic who apparently tweeted his desire to time-waste if given the opportunity. And time-waste he did by essentially lying on the ball in the dying stages of the match when Chelsea were desperately seeking goals.

It should also be pointed out that Charlie isn’t a bad actor, either: his agonised writhing on the ground was redolent of Cristiano Ronaldo in his pomp. Hazard’s kick wasn’t that vicious.

Still, there can never be an excuse for a player – professional or otherwise – to deliberately kick anyone on or off the field of play.

The referee was absolutely right to give the Belgian his marching orders – to have failed to do so would have been laughable.

Hazard can have no complaints – and he was quick to apologise to Morgan. But just what was he thinking? Yes, the ball boy was slow to release the ball but surely Hazard could have appealed to the referee or linesman to get the game moving quickly again?

One can only assume he experienced a momentary rush of blood to the head because his behaviour seems wildly out of character based on the way he has conducted himself this season.

It would be a very strange person indeed – or Joey Barton – would could side with Hazard on this issue. Barton – once capped by England, and now plying his trade with Marseilles – suggested that Eden’s only crime was not to kick harder.

That such a statement could come from a man whose roll call of shame includes stubbing out a cigarette out on a youth player’s eyelid should surprise nobody.

When Joey Barton is taking your side, you must know you’ve done something wrong.

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