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BARRY LANDY

Features, articles and opinions on football’s biggest stories | www.downinthebox.com

A new week, a new shameful episode in football’s long running race row series Another week, another unsavoury incident. For John Terry, the alleged turned guilty party, now read Lee Croft, the alleged at least. A League One skirmish will, realistically, never engender the interest that a high profile case such as the one that has embroiled and embattled the Chelsea captain would, but on Saturday, with international fixtures skewing the regular schedule, the Football League’s bottom two tiers took centre stage. Subsequently, so did Croft’s encounter with a young, black Sheffield United ball boy. Trailing by a solitary goal, Oldham winger Croft, in his second loan spell at Boundary Park, became irritated at what he perceived as timewasting by the ball boy and took it upon himself to hurdle the pitch hoardings and retrieve the football. Seemingly affronted by suggestions of lethargy or simply continuing the gamesmanship, the young ball boy stood up to Croft and blocked his path to the ball. A brief exchange of words, although in the main the product of Croft, ensued. Racist allegations have been made towards the winger, an accusation vehemently denied by both the player and his manager Paul Dickov in the game’s immediate aftermath. “I have had a go at him and that didn’t go down too well with the fans. Their fans told me to apologise so at the end of the match I ran over to him but he pushed my hand away, he didn’t want to know,” Croft said to the assembled press at the game’s end.

The player was unrepentant and no less than thoroughly forthcoming in stating his innocence. “I have done nothing wrong and there was no foul or abusive language. It is all finished,” he continued. What might have angered the section of Sheffield United fans more than anything, was that they saw a 27-year-old player bully a child, reported by some outlets to be 14 years old. The makeup of the outburst would have been neither here nor there.

Lee Croft of Oldham is the latest player in the sport’s race row series of recent months

Terry of course, as I alluded to in last week’s column, whilst found guilty of racial abuse, was exonerated of the label of “racist”. That being the verdict of the FA endorsed independent regulatory commission. There was no nod from Dickov, to the fact that the player should have displayed restraint, his actions solely responsible for what now is a police investigation. The level of provocation, on behalf of the ball boy, was no more fractious than seen in any other game throughout the leagues.

What did transpire, in whatever form, at Bramall Lane prompted at least one supporter to report the alleged incident to the South Yorkshire Police. Them again. Both they and the FA are investigating.

Players need to invoke restraint and responsibility and awareness of what is going on around them. Excuse the frivolous suggestion, but certain themes are ‘in vogue’ in football of late.

Paul Dickov, unsurprisingly, backed his player. “For him to be accused of racism is ridiculous. In no way, shape or form is Lee a racist.” Dickov was just as categorical as the FA were in rejecting claims John Terry was a racist.

Amidst black days aplenty for the FA and their proactivity in dealing with racism within football in question, the grey areas left unsatisfied by the judgements of the Terry saga continue to stalk and restrict football’s consistency of message. www.cu-fc.com

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Carlisle United 2012/13