Tuesday 16 July 2019

Call off the fun police - there's nothing wrong with elation

Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with his staff. Photo: Reuters
Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Nuno Espirito Santo celebrates with his staff. Photo: Reuters

Chris Bascombe

There were disgusting scenes at Molineux as Nuno Espirito Santo celebrated Wolves' last-minute winner against Leicester City.

The usually reserved coach stripped naked and beat his chest maniacally before rushing down the touchline to his players, picking up the corner flag and proceeding to wave it uncontrollably in what appeared to be a mimic of the barricade scene in Les Miserables.

He then led his team to the centre circle to perform a series of dance moves from Fortnite while beseeching Wolves' pyrotechnic team to start the firework display usually reserved for pre-match.

Upon grabbing the pitchside announcer's microphone he yelled: "Willie Thorne, your boys took one hell of a beating", and took the liberty to confirm a party back at celebrity Wolves fan Robert Plant's house at which everyone who turned up with a bottle of Jack Daniel's and vinyl copy of Physical Graffiti was invited.

Referee Chris Kavanagh was unimpressed and Nuno was sent to the stands to prohibit such nauseating revelry.

If you saw the scenes at the end of Wolves' 4-3 win, you will know this to be a complete fabrication.

None of the above happened … apart from the bit about the manager running down the line to his players to celebrate the last-minute winner - and the subsequent sending-off.

Nevertheless, Nuno's emotional reaction when joining his players was deemed so extreme that even he accepted it was wrong and deserved punishment.

Did it? Really? When did football's finger-wagging culture enter its Cromwellian nostalgia period?

"Yes, you're allowed to have fun, but there have to be limits."

"Where's the line?"

"Well, we've painted a technical area to help. Staying in there is acceptable fun. Running out is far too much fun, liable to lead to further investigation by our fun police."

If we could turn down our "offended by everything" dial for a while, we would see these 'incidents' (by law, anything considered vaguely abnormal in football must be described as an 'incident') as impulsive and entertaining rather than provocative. They usually remind you of dad-dancing at a wedding .

The management game has become such a highly-paid grind, riddled with pressure, paranoia and a general aura of melancholy, there should be more tolerance when managers unburden themselves.

Are opposition fans and staff really so offended? If so, can we organise empathy classes?

If there is to be action against managers' responses, it should be directed at the other extreme.

Here's my pet hate: managers and players who show no emotion after seeing their side score an especially important goal.

This is more rehearsed and self-aware than the heat-of-the-moment sprint onto the pitch.

You've seen them, pretending to be above the jubilation as they sit back in their chair and start scribbling on a notebook believing they resemble Ernest Hemingway chronicling Paris's cafe culture.

It is all so choreographed.

They think we are watching them with the same awe as a Marcelo Bielsa PowerPoint presentation.

"See how attentive and in control they are? They are so studious and so much better than those primitive blokes jumping up and down in their baseball caps."

How it must puncture their ego when they realise that they look more like an anxious husband frantically trying to reconstruct a mislaid shopping list.

Never mind if you have enough onions for that spaghetti bolognese you are cooking tomorrow, your striker has just scored his first goal for three months and there are only 30 seconds left. Lighten up.

As always, it would be remiss not to neatly conclude with a message to the authorities.

See all those regulations you have created to forbid spontaneity? You are wasting your time. Rip them up.

The revolutionary fun-seekers will keep stepping across that line, and there is nothing you can do to stop them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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