Football’s Lamest Excuses

If there’s one kind of person out there with a fragile ego, it’s a professional football player. What with the intense pressure on the pitch and severe public scrutiny off it, it can be very easy for players’ pride to be bruised following a poor performance.

Football’s Lamest Excuses

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September 9th, 2011

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Luckily for footballers heading into management there is help at hand, UEFA coaching badges now come pre-packaged with a crash course in public relations – as exercised by some very protective managers past and present. With England coach, Fabio Capello’s statement this week that his players’ performance against Wales suffered from a fear of failure in front of their Wembley crowd, let’s take a look at four more incidents whose explanations effectively served to deflect any sense of blame from being properly meted out.

Alex Ferguson: Grouchy in Grey
Fifteen years on and this memory will haunt Manchester United fans everywhere: the 3-1 defeat at Southampton in 1996, and particularly manager Alex Ferguson’s Big Book of Bluffs.

Trailing 3-0 at half-time, Fergie ordered his players to change strips. The reason? The Red Devils were having trouble actually spotting each other on the pitch, in their drab grey duds. That’s not to say that their fortunes changed much after the interval; their only goal of the game coming as scant consolation in the second half. In five games wearing that grey kit, United took a single point. It wasn’t enough to stop them taking the title that year, though.

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The Ukrainian Frog Chorus
Even the manager won’t have fallen for this one, despite his team’s protests: the Ukraine’s 4-0 rout by Spain at the 2006 World Cup was caused by…frogs.

Defender Vladislav Vashchuk drew the short straw in explaining to the press that the frogs outside the team hotel meant that they “hardly got a wink” and so sleepwalked their way through their first group game. He himself received his frog-marching orders during the match – sent off for a foul which didn’t actually make any contact. Perhaps the referee was also a little sleep-deprived?

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If The Shoe Fits…
Following their dour goalless draw against Denmark in Euro 2004, Italy players were willing to jump on anything they could to avoid criticism – except each other’s feet, apparently.

First, the boots: playmaker Francesco Totti needed a change of boots after complaining that his current pair felt like “running on boiling sand”. Later his team-mate and fellow doctor of Excusology, Christian Panucci, claimed that the thread used to make the socks was “too tough”. “I had blisters on my feet,” he moaned, as he was rushed to the foot hospital.

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Calamity James: Tomb Raider
Goalkeeper David James acquired the nickname ‘Calamity’ fairly early on in his career, but after a particularly bad patch of results for Liverpool, he decided it was time to come clean as to his run of form: a video game addiction.

Yes, having displayed a trio of poor showings both domestically and abroad, young David had decided along the way that his time was better spent battling the bad guys on Tomb Raider and Tekken II than training as a professional goalkeeper. Maybe if he’d had a go on some football-related games it’d be a different story?

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