Figuratively at least, poor plaintive David Duckenfield has been in the dock in the devastating inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster. But should he be? Is he, whatever his shocking mistake in having that gate opened, truly responsible for the tragedy.
Duckenfield admits that he lied about the Liverpool fans forcing their way in at that Leppings Lane gate and is duly ashamed of it, but surely we have long known about his culpability. Much more significant to me, though again this was something long ago made clear, was his admission of being wholly unprepared for such a vital task. He was burdened with it because the officer who capably handled the same FA Cup semi final between the same two teams, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, a year earlier, had been abruptly taken off the task for alleged disciplinary breaches by the men he commanded. Horseplay, as I clearly remember, it was termed at the time.
But surely the paramount consideration was whether the demoted officer, named by Duckenfield, should have been taken off the Hillsborough task for wholly unconnected reasons. The buck stops…where? Plainly with the senior copper or coppers who decided to appoint poor Duckenfield and his identity is something the current inquiry should surely devote itself to discovering.
It has already made us grimly aware of the sheer mendacity and duplicity of senior officers who shamefully did their best to blacken the wholly innocent Liverpool victims and survivors. This resulted in the infamous accusations in The Sun, themselves reportedly derived from distorted messages from a small local news agency primed by dishonest police.
Managerial twists and turns. Suddenly, after their crushing of Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford, Manchester United and their dour Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal.
Only a few days earlier Van Gaal despite all his glittering success at Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Ajax, had seemed a busted flush. The team had just lost to Arsenal there for the first time for many years and had been well beaten in the process. Van Gaal had put out a lopsided team which excluded the elegant Juan Mata and relegating the colossally expensive Falcao to the bench; deploying him humiliatingly the following day in United’s Under-21 team.
Having time and again revised his tactics, Van Gaal had finally, deprived it is true of the injured Robin Van Persie, brought in the towering Mamouane Fellaini previously surplus to requirements. This inevitably meant use of that long ball which over the years been anathema to United, Alex Ferguson and their fans.
It may have seemed an act of some desperation but at least it worked after its straightforward fashion up to a point. Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger had cleverly exploited however consciously that old Italian adage The Immutable Law of the Ex whereby a former player will always score against his old club. And so Danny Welbeck exuberantly did, getting the Gunners’ second goal from centre forward, preferred to France’s Giroud who’d had a nightmarish game at The Emirates against Monaco.
He scored and celebrated, how he celebrated for revenge was evidently sweet. Van Gaal last summer having cast him out, the local boy, with derisory unconcern. None of your muted response to scoring against his old team for delighted Welbeck.
Yet only a few days later came the grand transformation scene. At last recalling Mata, including an inspired Michael Carrick, 33, at last back from injury, into midfield, United were, versus Spurs, transformed and inspired. They simply swept aside a Tottenham team whose immaturity – the average age after all is only 23 – was never at the races.
I’m still not wholly sure about Pochettino. He tends to throw away games with some facility – Leicester at home in the FA Cup, Fiorentina away in the Europa League nonsense. This time, his side were less thrown away than blown away. Kane and all.
And Jose Mourinho? Embarrassingly cut down to size after Chelsea’s abysmal display against a PSG team down to 10 men for the great majority of the 120 minutes.
You might reflect that a still greater recent embarrassment, the 2-4 FA Cup defeat at Stamford Bridge by modest Bradford City, was a still greater fiasco, and an indication that for all his past triumphs, all his magisterial pronouncements, Mourninho seems to be losing his way.
To reply to criticisms by Jamie Carragher and Graham Souness that while he had been no footballer but a successful manager, while they had been fine footballers but not managers (quite inaccurate in the case of Souness), was no kind of defence at all.
And the abysmal mobbing of the referee in the all too successful attempt to get Ibrahomvic sent off was a repugnant affair. All credit to PSG for resisting so well for so long.
QPR’s Tony Fernandes found Tim Sherwood too expensive – and look what he’s done at Villa. So he over promoted his coach Chris Ramsey who made an appalling dog’s dinner of the defeat at Palace. What could now be costlier than relegation?