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Leeds warn 'diver' Walcott to expect hostile reception

Leeds manager Simon Grayson has warned Theo Walcott to expect a hostile welcome at Elland Road tonight after claiming that the Arsenal forward should have been suspended for confessing to diving during the FA Cup draw at the Emirates earlier this month.

England international Walcott issued an apology following the 1-1 draw between the two clubs after attempting to win a late penalty by feigning contact from a challenge by Leeds defender Paul Connolly.

Despite his rare admission, Walcott has escaped censure by the English FA, and will be free to face Leeds in this evening's third-round replay, with the winners due to host Huddersfield in the fourth round.

While admitting Walcott deserves credit for his confession, Grayson believes the scourge of diving will only be eradicated when players are banned for attempting to deceive referees.

"He apologised on television, but I've not spoken to the lad," Grayson said. "He's honest enough to admit what he did, but it's a real area (diving) that I don't agree with.

"I think that if people are caught diving they should be banned for the next game. If that was the case, it would suddenly stop people trying to influence decisions. But there are so many grey areas within the FA rules, whether it's sendings off, Twitter or diving, that you don't get clarification on the rules. It's all about how they (refs) interpret it.

"You don't see too many people coming out and being as honest as that, though, and Theo should be applauded for doing it. He will have learned his lesson because he didn't do it very well and, if he plays tonight, our fans will make their feelings known."

Arsenal's last three visits to Elland Road -- the most recent being an FA Cup tie in January 2004 -- have all ended in 4-1 victories for Arsene Wenger's team. But Leeds have become a resurgent force under Grayson, winning promotion from League One last season and now occupying a play-off spot in the Championship.

Grayson's team are committed and physical, with the developing quality of Jonny Howson and Robert Snodgrass adding silk, but with Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas bemoaning the 'rugby' tactics of Ipswich following last week's League Cup semi-final defeat at Portman Road, the Leeds manager insists the Gunners can expect more of the same tonight.

"You can't stand back and let the opposition, with the quality of Arsenal, dictate how they want to play," Grayson said. "As long as you play within the rules, there's nothing wrong with closing people down, putting them under pressure and working them. That's part and parcel of the game. If you're allowing top players 10 yards of space, they'll destroy you and you'll end up losing by a cricket score.

"There's always some sort of option for players to have an excuse when you don't win a match, but if any of the Arsenal players are complaining about refereeing decisions then fine, it will mean we've done something in the game."

Leeds are expecting a 40,000-plus sell-out for the visit of Arsenal, but Wenger insists his players will not be intimidated. "I believe that, no matter what they do, the fans will be behind the team at Leeds. But on the other hand, we are used to that and that would not be any excuse for us. We have played all over the world, everywhere, in vociferous stadiums," said Wenger.

"What's important is that you show your quality no matter in what kind of environment you play." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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Irish Independent