Black and White eye

Monday 19 November 2001

OK, it may have been a few weeks ago now but deadlines have dictated that the Andy Gray verdict on Luis Boa Mortegate only reaches these pages a month or so after the event. But bearing in mind (virtual) universal vilification by the nation's press, it's worth relaying a transcript of Mr Gray's thoughts on Boa's sending off. He may have had the benefit of a considered look at the incident twenty four hours on but it was a welcome antidote to the knee-jerk brigade (bar the Standard it must be said) who mistakenly felt Luis had butted the theatrical Mr Wilnis and then dived to his fate thereafter .

"He was a touch unlucky for me. The referee can see all this, there's a little spat going on there. All I can say is as his hands come up there, that's when he catches Wilnis and that's when he goes down but if someone strikes a player I thought the rules were you go off? Now I don't think Mr Riley, the referee, got that one exactly right. But watch this (as Luis bares down on the Town defence pre-sending off). Boa Morte makes a great run, I think he could have gone down there (an initial Wilnis challenge) but if you're asking me did that deserve a booking and then sending off I would have to say 'No' - there's contact there. The leg makes contact. The body makes contact. It might not be a penalty and he might exaggerate but I don't think that's a dive. That's the difference for me. I felt a little bit sorry for Fulham"

It was Paolo Di Canio's turn to be the pantomime villain after the fine win in E13. The News of the World caught the Italian making an 'obscene gesture' to the Fulham fans, one similar to Gareth Hunt's hand manoeuvre in the old Maxwell House coffee advert. He was also pictured by the People with his hands around Barry Hayles' neck - a conciliatory gesture in Italy apparently - and the following morning Paolo was so incensed he rang Sky Sports News to protest his 'innocence', but may have done himself more harm than good! "I tried to keep down his shoulder and maybe my hand slid down, maybe near his neck. But I never had intentions to strangle him. If you see the picture, I have a very relaxed face, which is unusual for me in a game. I just wanted to calm the situation and the referee said 'Thank you Paolo, for helping me in this case'."

In terms of reportage on our first away win, Rob Hughes in the Sunday Times summed it up nicely, saying: "when confidence flows through Fulham, when their players feel at home in their environment and at home with their skills, they are a convincing and soothing sight to see." Locals hardly generated a "Fortress Upton Park" atmosphere did they? But the Independent suggested that if Fulham did eventually end up sharing Upton Park "those brought up on West Ham's pass-and-move would enjoy watching them."

Back to the News of the World and Chairman Mo was featured in a typically flamboyant piece where he playfully spoke of his desire to see David Beckham in a Fulham shirt. What ambitious chairman wouldn't want to see 'Becks' in their side? And with such a high profile chairman, it's no surprise to see him nailing his colours to the mast in such a high circulation paper as the News of the World. But Shaun Custis in the Express described the piece as "the most blatant example in Premiership history of an illegal approach to a player....a dangerous precedent is being set by turning a blind eye to Al Fayed's mischief" Apparently authorities agreed Mo had been "a bit naughty" but frankly wasn't that all it was - just a bit of fun? To be honest, it would be disappointing if he didn't ruffle a few feathers along the way, it's all part of the fun of being in the top flight, and having such a high profile Chairman!!

Finally, The Eye recommends Rodney Marsh's excellent biography 'Priceless' for a stocking filler this Christmas. It's got some hilarious Fulham memories, from his early days as a Craven Cottage trainee through Vic Buckingham's ill-fated managerial spell (Marsh was as baffled anyone as to why he was sold to QPR) to the showbiz of his mid-1970s union with George Best in these parts. It's entertaining stuff.