Outside the Box: Taylor's cultural lessons fail to make the grade
FOOTBALL is supposed to be a universal language but, just in case it's not, the chief executive of England's Professional Football Association believes culture lessons are necessary to teach footballers what's expected of them when they arrive in England.
"Up until now we have had cultural awareness courses for our apprentices and the plan now is to extend these to senior players and coaches, including those coming from overseas," said Gordon Taylor last week. "We want to make sure there is no misunderstanding with regards to the rules and regulations on discrimination."
There was something peculiar about Taylor talking about rules and regulations on discrimination while specifically mentioning foreign players, who, presumably, would sit in a classroom while an interpreter explains to them what is and isn't acceptable behaviour in English culture.
Perhaps they could just watch the superb sketch from the BBC show 'Goodness Gracious Me' in which a group of Indians end their drunken night out by "going for an English" in a Bombay restaurant. The scene begins with one of them belching loudly, another shouts "Alright mate" before becoming aggressive when asked if they're feeling unwell.
The women admire the waiter's "lovely pale, pasty skin", the men request the "blandest thing on the menu" then demand 12 bread rolls and 24 plates of chips between six of them. When told they may have ordered too much, they try to start a fight.
Like most great satire, there's a strong element of reality running through it as many weekend nights in England, and indeed Ireland, produce similar elements of boorishness. There aren't too many other cultures in which trying to get to 12 different pubs for 12 drinks is seen as reasonably normal behaviour.
Taylor believes cultural lessons would be beneficial in helping foreign players learn about their new country but, by mentioning them specifically, there seems to be an odd presumption that these players are too stupid to figure it out for themselves.
Perhaps John Terry could take the lecture about racism and explain that, by repeating what you thought a person said to you, you may only receive a four-game ban, while others will be treated more harshly.
Maybe Ashley Young could teach them the key difference in the eyes of many pundits between a player falling to the ground untouched because he was "expecting contact" and one falling to the ground untouched because he is a cheating diver. (Clue: the answer usually depends on the player's country of birth.)
When they sign their well-paid contract in the world's richest league, it might be worth asking Liam Ridgewell to make a special guest appearance at a lecture to explain that the new foreign players shouldn't scatter £20 notes on the bathroom floor and have a friend take a photograph while you're pretending to wipe your backside with one of them.
You would hope that foreign players would have enough common sense to know the range of decent human behaviour, but with Taylor expressing his desire to see them go through cultural lessons, it seems they can't even be trusted to do that.
If such classes were around when Marouane Fellaini signed for Everton, the club's former striker Duncan Ferguson could have explained the perils of head-butting somebody before he gave Ryan Shawcross a 'Brussels kiss' at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday.
This column regularly defends footballers for not being the out-of-touch, money-grabbing, boorish, idiotic mercenaries which they are often depicted, but when the head of their own union believes that players should have lessons to help them understand what is and isn't racist, it becomes even more difficult to stand by your case.
The notion of cultural lessons was Taylor's second foray into the media last week having already suggested that netting be erected in certain parts of the ground which could prevent players being hit by objects thrown from the crowd. If these are the ideas he goes public with, you'd wonder just how bad are the ones which are discarded.
Wanting players to be more culturally aware is an admirable idea but if somebody is at the intelligence level where they're not sure what is or isn't racist, they need to start back to something as basic as 'Ann and Barry' rather than trying to learn the nuances of a new country. If there is a universal language in football, it shouldn't include Taylor's particular brand of nonsense.
The question nobody asked: Is it more difficult to play against 10 men?
It's one of those phrases that is often trotted out in the course of a season but, judging by this season's numbers in the Premier League, losing a player during a game all but ends a team's chances of winning a game.
There have been 20 red cards in the Premier League so far this season and only once has the penalised team managed to pick up three points.
Otherwise, results have been dreadful for those who have lost a player, with a total of just 10 points picked up from a possible 60.
Overall, from 20 games in which a player has been sent off, there has been one win, seven draws and 12 defeats for the team with one fewer man.
While those players have been sent off at various stages during the games, the goals tallies also make for poor reading – with the team down to 10 men scoring just 17 times in those 20 games and conceding 40.
Bet you should have done
Liverpool have been on a good run recently but making them 4/11 to beat anybody in the league, as they were on Saturday, is a little optimistic.
In contrast, Aston Villa have been poor for most of the season but went into Saturday on a four-game unbeaten league run and having crushed Norwich 4-1 in the League Cup.
At Anfield, Villa made their 8/1 odds look far too generous – they now find themselves just two points behind Liverpool in the Premier League table.
Tweets of the week
Simeon Jackson (@JacksonSimeon)
Can you overdose on avocado? Real question
You really do wonder sometimes about footballers
Steven Reid (@stevenreid12)
Ryan Babel (@RyanBabel)
High expectations = High disappointments...
Liverpool supporters will know exactly what the Dutch winger is talking about
Jason Roberts (@JasonRoberts30)
1 behind closed doors game...and €80,000 fine for Serbia....plus bans for Ince & Caulker!! UEFA have ZERO interest in tackling this issue..
It’s hard to argue with the Reading striker’s views around UEFA’s feelings on racism
Lucas Leiva (@LucasLeiva87)
Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass it is about learning to dance in the rain. Good night everyone!
Liverpool midfielder has a philosophical Friday night
Cillian Sheridan (@CillianSheridan)
What you think of our result today your holiness @pontifex? Decent result eh? Amen
Darron Gibson (@D_gibson4)
I love @ShaneDuffy34 he’s my hero Seriously, I would be lost without @ShaneDuffy34 at everton, made me feel at home at the blues. Love use all. Decent result the day!
At 5.50 am, we suspect Shane Duffy may have taken command of his Everton team-mate’s phone