Tiote Red signals the death of common sense

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Blogs
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Maybe as a Toon fan I’m just biased but I saw no way that the Cheik Tiote challenge against Stevenage on Saturday should have earned a red card. Yes, in real time it looked two-footed and nasty and it is therefore understandable how Andre Mariner and his assistants may have come to the decision to dismiss the Ivorian. However Newcastle chose to appeal the decision and its subsequent 3-match ban. This puts the decision into the hands of the FA as to whether or not to rescind the card, thus allowing Tiote to play in the vital Tyne-Wear derby this coming weekend, as well as the following games against Spurs and Fulham should the decision be reversed. By referring the appeal to the FA’s committee, Newcastle hoped that by benefiting from the various different angles and slow motion replays available to them that they would see sense and rescind the card.

In my opinion, the challenge on first, real-time viewing looks rash but Tiote does clearly win the ball. The main argument by those in favour of the sending-off is that the tackle is two-footed and both feet leave the ground. My argument is that yes, both feet do leave the ground, but don’t most slide tackles involve both feet leaving the ground? Then comes the two-footed argument. Tiote is a few metres away from the ball when he starts his jump (slide). From a physics point-of-view, he needs to leap with both feet in front (like a long-jumper) in order to reach the ball. This is where the “two-footed” point of view comes from. However, as the photo below shows, when in the air, Tiote retracts his left leg and swings it underneath his body, as would be expected in a ‘normal’ slide tackle.

Tiote's left leg is clearly tucked underneath his body, dispelling the "two-footed" myth

The photo also shows Tiote’s right foot to be coming down, studs first onto the ball in a chopping motion. If the Stevenage player were in full control of the ball, this would be an issue. However, in the moments before the tackle, he lost immediate control of the ball, thus allowing Tiote the opportunity to make the tackle. As Tiote takes the ball completely, with the opposition player then falling over the Ivorian’s outstretched body, it is clear to me that the tackle was completely legal and undeserving of even a free-kick. In my opinion, the infamous ‘tackle’ by Nigel De Jong that broke Hatem Ben Arfa’s leg in September was more heavy handed and reckless than Tiote’s was on Saturday. Of course the laws are not set in stone and are open to debate so you may well disagree with me and side with the FA. For me though, the decision to send off Tiote is similar to many we see that involve the use of the elbow as leverage when jumping for the ball. There is and probably never will be a cast-iron definition that distinguishes leverage from violent conduct.

You can see the tackle in the video below, at 2:00 in.


As I said earlier, I can fully understand why the referee, without the benefit of replays and hindsight, sent Tiote off on Saturday. However, I feel that the FA should have been able to see that the challenge was a perfectly good one and whilst appearing to be reckless was certainly not deserving of a red card. The conspiracy theory that the FA is reluctant to go against its referee’s decisions in appeals – regardless of the appeal’s validity – continues to gather creedence.

“What’s the point in having these appeals because there’s no way in the world that was a red card,”

“We’ve got to change the system because that is not right.

“He didn’t touch the player, the lad’s even said he didn’t touch him, and I think everyone who’s looked at it has agreed it’s not a sending-off and it’s not a red card, so how has he still got a three-game ban.

“We’re going to lose arguably one of our best players of the season, if not the best player of our season, because of a mistake by a referee.”

Kevin Nolan, speaking to Skysports

Yet not only is common sense dying a quick death in football’s rule-making and administerial corridors, but also, it seems in Newcastle’s management. The issue of whether Tiote should have been dismissed could and should have never even taken place. Tiote, due to his nature of play and position as a defensive midfielder, has already shown this season that he is not adverse to picking up the odd booking or 8. Therefore, why Alan Pardew chose to introduce him at 2-0 down, with little over half an hour left in the game, was ill-advised. With almost the entirety of the team performing poorly, the introduction of a defensive midfielder was unlikely to inspire the team to a remarkable comeback. Taking the gamble, when you consider our next fixture is against hated-rivals Sunderland, made Pardew’s decision nigh on indescribable. As a result, we will now have to do without Tiote for the return leg of the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday. Based on Alan Smith’s performance at Stevenage, we need to start praying for a miracle.

  1. Deekay says:

    Good write up and I totally agree.

    I think the FA’s decision to stand by the ref’s decision is just trying to discourage players to ‘leave the ground’ or to make ‘two footed’ tackles. If they were to alter the decision made by the referee in this case, it may be add fuel to the fire over what warrants a red card nowadays. Having said that, for the FA to deem this a red card offence is just pure stupid and it seems that tackling is just another dying art in the game.

    Back to Newcastle’s immediate future, we will certainly miss Tiote over the next few games but will Pardew bring in Smith to replace Tiote in that defensive role or will he switch things a little bit and play both Barton and Nolan in the centre of the park with two pacy wingers and 2 up top? A season defining 2-3 weeks are coming up, I believe

    • fergie says:

      Agreed. If we can pick up some meaningful points (6 or 7) in the next 3 weeks, we should be safe. If not, we’ll be sucked back into the relegation scrap.

      Personally, I would play Shola and Carroll up front if they’re fit. Then Jonas, Nolan, Barton on the right and anyone but Smith in the middle. If Shola isn’t fit then I’d play Nolan behind Carroll and pack the midfield. Although Best could be an option…

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