They just don’t get it!

Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 0

Lawrence Gray-Hodson

Lawrence Gray-Hodson

Threeandin is proud to welcome a man who made his name in the upper reaches of Division 2 in the 1970s and 80s as well as being a Scotland and England international, Lawrence Gray-Hodson.

He’ll write exclusively for us as the season progresses, dealing with all the issues the domestic game throws up. In his first column though he looks back to the World Cup.


When you’ve been around the game of football for as long as I have there’s very little that surprises you. Let me tell you, I’ve seen things in dressing rooms and around the back of nightclubs that wouldn’t make the back pages in a million years. It makes the idea of Gazza turning up with chicken and lager for a mentally disturbed murderer seem downright normal.

That’s why, after the World Cup final, I had to laugh at the people who jumped on their ivory towers and looked for the immoral high ground when it came to pundits reactions to the game. There was a lot of focus on how rough the Dutch were. I watched the game with Rodney Marsh and Stan Bowles and, over a few jars of sangria in Marbella, we chuckled away to ourselves about how times have changed. You think Holland played dirty? You were never on the end of a Johnny Giles reducer or a Peter Storey fisting.

Compared to the games we played in the men in orange were like precious ballerinas handing out flowers and lemon cakes to the Spanish. This new breed of fan who thinks he’s so clever because he has a blog audience of a few dozen and some backslapping followers on Twitter just doesn’t understand the game of football at all. Sure, they can talk about diamonds this and pyramids that, deep lying midfielders and false 9s but you talk to any ex-pro and they’ll tell you none of those things matter at all.

The reality of the game is out there on the pitch, the 22 men doing battle with each other. You don’t see any of them out there with text books, do you? Of course not. Books are for libraries and the decent class of waiting room that doesn’t lumber you with months old issues of Time or Reader’s Digest.

That’s why when they accuse British pundits, who everybody knows are the best pundits in the world because we invented the game and have been talking about it longer than anyone, of double-standards it makes me want to choke them on my own vomit. I lost count of how many times I heard them say great men like Alan Hansen and Andy Townsend were hypocrites for criticising the Dutch’s foul play while saying nothing about teams who play like that in the English league.

Are they stupid or what? They simply don’t get it. If they can’t see there’s a difference between foreign brutality and British brutality then they need to open their eyes. Sure, some foreigners think they can kick opponents as hard as we can, maybe that’s true, but they do it differently. They’re sly, underhand, devious and full of trickery. I remember playing an away game in Italy back in the 70s and the minute the ref’s back was turned they would literally gouge your eyes out. Poor Wilf Mortenson ended up playing the second half with an eye-patch on just so no bits of mud would get into the socket.

Not us though. We wouldn’t stoop to their level and if we had to go in two footed on somebody we made sure it was in full view of the officials. That’s the difference. That’s what sets the English game apart and that’s why it curdles my loins when people accuse the likes of Ryan Shawcross and Martin Taylor of being monsters. There was nothing devious about what they did, there was nothing nasty and foreign, it was good, old fashioned, honest British brutality, in the best traditions of the game.

Did they get red cards? Of course. They took their punishment like men, unlike the sneaky, whinging immigrant de Jong or van Bommel who wouldn’t have lasted two minutes on the field with Chopper Harris or Trevor Cherry. As for their so-called victims, well they show their mettle by running off scared to places like Ukraine, which in my day didn’t even exist!

So when Hansen and Co criticise the Dutch for what they did, it’s not hypocrisy. It’s bravery. They’re trying to maintain the standards of the game in these fair isles. Everything else has been homogenised by the EEC, or the EU as they like to be called now, don’t let our football go the same way.

I pray that the bosses at the BBC and ITV, who know more about the game than the plebs who watch it week in, week out, don’t succumb to the populist notion that these men are bad for the game. Nobody wants to see a player get his leg broken – except for Billy Bremner, he loved that – but serious injury is part of the game, always has been, always will be. Perhaps it will take going through a season without the spectacle of a man trying to hold his leg together to make these idiots realise what they’re missing.

Let’s hope that never happens.

Lawrence will be happy to answer any questions regarding the article, or anything else, in the comments section!

No Comments »

  1. Mark (Calgary) July 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm -

    I’d just like to add something, at least in your day when a lad went in two footed at least he was capable of doing it with finesse and without crippling the opponent.

    Perhaps that’s what we’re really missing. I’ve had plenty of dead legs and stud tattoo’s when I played, but I never had anyone come in to literally try and amputate one of my limbs….

  2. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm -

    Point duly noted, Mark (Calgary).

  3. Mark (Calgary) July 22, 2010 at 5:09 am -

    I think Lawrence’s article should be taken with a pinch of salt and a dose of “next”. I get what he’s trying to say and for a first article on this site it’s done exactly what he intended, gotten noticed.

    The article itself is somewhat cynical, akin if you like to the playing style of his era, and picks out two highly controversial tackles in recent years with which to introduce himself to his public.

    He, and his editors know well that this sort of content will cause debate and outrage and all sorts of emotions that will in turn give them plenty of hits with his follow up articles. I for one will be reading what he has to say because, like my football, I like what I read to have a bit of meat in it.

    Having said that, I don’t want to see the meat go all the way down to the bone either, and to even slightly hint at condoning such behavior as that of Taylor & Shawcross’ is a sorry a$$ way to go about your business.

    I love irony and a bit of sarcasm, but you have a duty to ensure people who read your content are well able for it.

    Also, I doubt had a tackle like Taylors happened to anyone, without exception, from your playing days would they have ever been able to play again, never mind walk properly. It’s thanks to modern medicine that Eduardo can return to the fray. David Busst may well have had a bit more of a future had he played in this era….

  4. Mark July 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm -

    James, you think it wasn’t obvious? If the description of him as an English and Scottish international wasn’t enough then by the end of the second paragraph it was crystal clear. It was very funny. As were the comments.

  5. James Fernie July 21, 2010 at 8:46 am -

    The problem here is that ex-footballers (of the bygone, less skilful era)are seldom great writers. Many though, do write. If they keep it simple they can be reasonably good at it. When they try to be funny or ironic it often doesn’t come across.

    Lawrence has made the classic mistake of not being either funny or ironic enough so that it’s obvious to the reader. Subtlety and nuance are seldom appreciated by a football blog’s readership

    What was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek slant at foreigners (the premise at least has merit) has simply failed to come across as intended.

    The perhaps unforeseen consequence, is that many of the comments are from those who took it seriously, which reveals an altogether different indictment of the public’s gullibility.

    Verdict: must try harder.

  6. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 at 11:16 pm -

    Supercod, I played for Rovers, United, City and Town.

    Mike, punching is a different thing altogether but Davis’s was quite something. The word at the time was that he had some lessons from Niall Quinn who is certainly not British and therefore a foreigner. It all adds up.

  7. Mike of the North Bank July 20, 2010 at 10:22 pm -

    Lawrence, I’m disappointed. Surely what you’re saying denigrates our own Paul Davis for his beautiful hook on that arsehole Glenn Cockhead. Would your advice to him have been to wait until the ref was looking? At least that way he may only have got a two match ban, eh?

    Looking forward to the next article when you finished your pint of Watney’s (don’t believe you’d touch Pimms).

  8. Supercod July 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm -

    Who, precisely, did you play for Lawrence..?

  9. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 at 9:04 pm -

    Thanks to you all of you for your comments! I spoke about this earlier on this evening with Tony Grealish, I’m sure you remember him, not many beards like that these days.

    We both agreed that I was absolutely right and the sooner we put a cap on foreign cloggers the better. The good ones can still stay though, the difficulty is how to do weed out the good ones. Grealish reckons a keepy-ups exam. He’s so funny.

    Now, I must away for a glass of Pimms and to dip to quill in some ink ahead of my next article.

  10. Dom July 20, 2010 at 7:25 pm -


    Tbh didn’t realise it was sarcasm until “edmundo”. Then Remembered arseblog linked me to it!

    Funny the reaction it’s getting!

  11. Justin Fashanu July 20, 2010 at 7:20 pm -

    It always amuses me how people can’t see the clues. Anyway, hope the spleen’s better and that you’ve developed a better grip on the soap.

  12. Jack Banner July 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm -

    I’m confused.

  13. fredster July 20, 2010 at 6:34 pm -

    This is an ironic article, right?

    If, by some miracle, it isn’t; why do we have to choose? Can we not oppose to both “foreign cheatery” (of course, carefully looking past the likes of the diving Rooney and Gerrard) and “English brutality”?

  14. Amir Adhamy July 20, 2010 at 6:27 pm -

    Heh. It took him misspelling my name and calling my former number 9 Edmundo. And then I reread it. Very well done.

  15. Christian July 20, 2010 at 6:24 pm -

    Even though I guess you make some decent points it’s hard to know if you are being serious or not. You seem to forget that the “foreign brutality” is now very much a part of the English game, also by British players. There are very few “honest bullies” these days. There are the dirty cheats and the ones who cheat without being dirty (Gerrard and Rooney come to mind). The only British left in British football these days is being average at best.

  16. harriboo July 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm -

    a classic xenophobe’s cheap trick for publicity…..i regret the fact that i opened this page

  17. Claudio Quintino Crow July 20, 2010 at 6:13 pm -

    Football has changed – globally and domestically, in England and elswhere.

    There is certainly less room now for Storey-esque thuggery – be it in the EPL or on a dimly lit, muddy South American pitch in a Libertadores Cup match.

    Which made me think: it is one thing to be a Gooner and read your article thinking about Ramsey; but it is a totally different thing to read it as the same Gooner and remember Storey, Copping and Graham’s Back Four. Being myself a Brazilian, what first attracted me to English football was the sheer phisicality of it – now it is about to be terminated by ‘Modern Times’.

    Football has changed indeed. For good, I guess.

  18. Perez Shilton July 20, 2010 at 6:07 pm -

    Nothing like playing on a rainy night in Blackburn and booting out someone’s tonsils or biting their nose off.
    I myself once had my pubes yanked through my skull, and to this day people still assume that it’s just a perm.

  19. Media Hypocrites July 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm -

    Curious to how the media would react if Vermaelen shortened Adam Johnson’s career great prospect but hey.

  20. drona July 20, 2010 at 5:55 pm -

    You really do not have a bad bone in your body. You seem to like it up your face.


  21. Lee (The Jackhammer) Harris July 20, 2010 at 5:53 pm -

    I’m with you Lawrie , time… and time again this kind of analysis is brought up and rejurgerated and kicked about… time and time again…. time and time again….

  22. Twenty20Gunner July 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm -

    Lawrence, are you asking me to choose the lesser of 2 evils? I don’t believe for a minute “foreign” players will purposefully try and go in hard when the ref isn’t looking, and nor do I believe “English” players go in hard when the ref is looking. I for one love to see midfield battles, hard clinical tackling, and players with fire and passion for the game, and miss the likes of Viera vs Keane, Dixon, Adams and Keown. Admittedly there does seem to be a propensity for “foreign” players to “cheat” by diving, over-reacting, and avoiding the more physical aspects of the game, but advocating a gung-ho two footed approach to tackling is not acceptable, at home or abroad.

  23. James Jay July 20, 2010 at 5:44 pm -

    Excellent piece of satire … a career involving being an English and Scotland international too! You could work for Talksport …

  24. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 at 5:42 pm -

    Michael, if you ever had ruptured your spleen the way I did you’d have been too traumatised to go onto the pitch, or a dockside nightclub, ever again. Thankfully I’m made of stern stuff.

  25. leemacintosh July 20, 2010 at 5:40 pm -

    er, yes, hilarious; it was supposed to be funny I assume…

  26. Michael July 20, 2010 at 5:39 pm -

    Thanks for the insight Lawrence, but you have to admit…a ruptured spleen is like a hangnail compared to a broken leg in football. I doubt you had to be mentally worried that when you go in for that 50/50 ball that something might happen.

    Regardless, I know it is a physical game and that is what I love about the EPL…but at some point you need to find ways to get dirty players out of the game if they continue to cause harm on the pitch.

  27. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 at 5:39 pm -

    Scario, Laurie was in pain because Ashley Grimes put out his half time cigarette in his ear. I was just trying to help.

    I should note I have to go do an after dinner speech in benefit of the PFA tonight. All proceeds go to those unfortunate players whose careers have been ended by injury.

    Thanks to all of you for your comments so far, I’ll be sure to check in later!

  28. Scario July 20, 2010 at 5:39 pm -

    Lawrence, I seem to remember seeing you poke Laurie Cunningham in the ear at the Hawthorns back in 1980-that wasn’t terribly British was it? Great article though…

  29. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm -

    Danny, thanks for your comment. Please name me sixteen pundits who are better than British pundits. I bet you can’t. Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt but the grass is not as greenish on the other channel.

  30. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm -

    Michael, I didn’t want to address this in the article but I was hoping somebody would ask. In 1981 Justin Fashanu took me from behind and ruptured my spleen, putting me out of the game for months. I had to accept it as part and parcel of the rough and tumble of football and it improved me as a player and a person, I can tell you.

    I’m sure you’re much younger than I so I don’t think it would be fair for you to perpetrate violence on an older man!

    Ody, thanks for your comment and you’re spot on like a leopard. It was Francis Jeffers, I believe, and he’s from Liverpool.

  31. Danny O'Dwyer July 20, 2010 at 5:34 pm -

    I agree that modern bloggers can often read to much into a game that is a quickfire battle for 90 minutes, but to praise English pundits as the best in the world is a laughable notion. I’m thankful that the Dutch didn’t play as disgustingly as English league players have done in the past. The modern footballer is far more skillful and athletic than footballers past (including Mr.Hanson and your fine self) to have to resort to sh*t kicking to play the game.

    Your philosophy on toughness is impossible to be true without horrific injuries to players. No matter the press-backlash (or not) Taylor and Shawcross should be ashamed of their actions. I’m unsure what you mean by “Honest Brutality”, but writing skill aside I doubt it has anything positive to bring to the modern game.

  32. Ody July 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm -

    Finally someone has the sense to stand up and say it’s ok to dish it out but not to take it. Everyone knows this is true. And those stupid Shawcross-haters should remember he’d only broken one other guy’s leg before Ramsey (who’s also virtually foreign)

  33. feenster July 20, 2010 at 5:32 pm -

    lol…some people just dont get sarcasm

  34. Michael July 20, 2010 at 5:31 pm -

    I don’t understand how breaking someones leg is good, old fashioned, honest British brutality, in the best traditions of the game. Let’s see this happen to Rooney or Gerrard by a foreign player and then we will see how the English pundits will be calling for some change.

    Lawrence would you still think this way if you were one of the players on the receiving end of a broken leg? All the physical and mental rehabilitation that is required? I will be glad to come across the pond and do a 2 footed studs up tackle to your leg and see how you like it. Just let me know when is good for you.

  35. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 at 5:30 pm -

    Twenty20Gunner, thanks for your comment too. Please don’t think I’m advocating the breaking of someone’s leg but to ignore the methodology behind it would be absolutely wrong. And who’s the real man, the fellow who does it where it can be seen and he can be held responsible or the sneaky guy who does it from behind?

  36. Ming July 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm -

    Oustanding…took me until the 4th paragraph to realise it was a pisstake!

  37. francis July 20, 2010 at 5:29 pm -

    I would sincerely love to believe lawrence is been sarcastic or else ……*shudder*. Even at that, he should write it somewhere cos imbeciles like shawcross or taylor may come across the article and feel vindicated.

  38. Perez Shilton July 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm -

    I agree with the above commenter.
    Sometimes I read articles that are blatantly ironic, satirical and over the top for effect and blindly assume that they are being serious and leave a comment complaining only to find out it was all a joke and that I now look like a proper eejit. But I’m fairly sure this isn’t one of those times…

  39. Lawrence Gray-Hodson July 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm -

    Hi Admir, thanks for your comment. You have to understand that unless we ensure people realise the difference between the two types of brutality, foreign and British, that football is in real danger of losing its soul.

    Of course I feel sorry for players like Edmundo and Ramsey but if you go into football as a career and expect to get through without the odd bump and bruise I’m afraid you’re deluding yourself. And neither of them are unemployed postmen, are they now?!

  40. Twenty20Gunner July 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm -

    This guy can’t be serious? Is he honestly advocating leg-breaking tackles as long as they’re “in full view of the officials”. Yes, serious injury can be a part of the game, but part and parcel of its professionalisation and rule changes over the years was to prevent two footed tackles, and horrendous challenges like Taylor’s and Shawcross’. The spirit of the article and Lawrence’s view are certainly not “in the best traditions of the game”. Appalling

  41. Amir Adhamy July 20, 2010 at 5:17 pm -

    Unbelievable article. Are you serious? Taylor has ruined the career of a fine striker. Shawcross mauled one of the finest young players in the world. And it isn’t just their actions on the pitch, but commentary like yours which articulates leg breaking as ‘good old fashioned British brutality’, which is in ‘the finest traditions of the sport’ which is just as responsible for these injuries. Disgraceful article and opinions.

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