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I think that from the moment the Stoke City ground staff started painting the pitch markings blue before the game on Saturday, we all suspected that we were unlikely to be talking about the beauty of football this weekend. And, despite a winning goal of genuine class from a young player of real quality, those suspicions have been confirmed with equal measures of ignominy and disgust.
But it wasn't the challenge from Robert Huth for which he received a controversial red card that left the bitter taste in the mouth. It wasn't even referee Martin Atkinson for making the decision to send the German off. No, it was Stoke's manager Tony Pulis who must surely take the brunt of the shame for what was an utterly reprehensible and unjust character assassination of David Meyler in which he openly called into question the player's professional and sporting integrity.
My original thoughts on the Robert Huth challenge was that he was unlucky to receive his marching orders. That opinion hasn't changed. I can understand Atkinson's reasoning, especially in the current post-Kompany climate, but I don't think many would have complained had the colour of the card brandished been yellow and not red.
I fully accept that Huth tried to pull out of the challenge, however that he had that intent yet was still unable to prevent himself from aggressively sliding through Meyler's ground merely serves to highlight the fact that he was not in control of the challenge and underlines its recklessness. Nonetheless, I can sympathise with the Stoke perspective on that one and hope the decision is reversed on appeal.
But that is where Tony Pulis' post-match rant deviated from a path of reasonable and fair reflection and descended into petulant mud-slinging, trial by conjecture, and a display of the kind of persecution complex of which even your average Liverpool fan would be ashamed. According to the Stoke manager, Huth's red card was all David Meyler's fault.
Nonsense. the player was sent off because in the week following referees issuing clubs with a message highlighting their criteria for reckless challenges, Huth decided to commit to a challenge he could not possibly control in poor conditions and right under the nose of a referee with a reputation for taking a very dim view on such tackles. David Meyler had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Lets make no mistake about it – Pulis' extraordinary comments were little more than the ramblings of an under pressure sore-loser desperate to deflect attention away from his own team's stuttering form and poor performance. "There are a lot of players going down now from challenges who are not injured, who are not really hurt", bemoaned Pulis, "but going down because they think they can affect the referee's decision. What the lad has done today, for me personally, is unacceptable"
Is this what it has come to? Stand your ground and get snapped in half by a giant rampaging centre-half or avoid serious injury and risk being ignorantly branded a cheat on national television by a bitter middle-aged man in a baseball cap?
Not that Meyler did manage to avoid it of course. Yes, to Huth's credit he had his studs facing down, but since when were studs the only part of the footballer's apparel or anatomy capable of causing harm to an opponent? Television replays clearly showed impact between Huth's raised knee and Meyler's ankle. Pulis himself provided proof of contact with the photograph he amusingly emailed to Match of the Day to try and highlight the case for Huth's innocence, and the direction of Meyler's leg can be clearly seen to change in footage of the challenge. It is also difficult to envisage Huth himself making a point of checking on Meyler somewhat apologetically like he did if he knew there was no contact between them. There was contact between the players. There is no two ways about it.
When you factor in David Meyler's injury record in the leg that took the impact, it is not unreasonable at all to suggest that staying down, assessing how it felt, and allowing the physio on to double-check was the prudent course of action. Not that he could have done much more in the two seconds it took Martin Atkinson to go to his back pocket, of course.
Obviously, the fact Meyler ("or whatever his name is" - you stay classy, Tony) was able to play on shows he was thankfully not seriously injured. But that doesn't mean he didn't get legitimately hurt. Whether or not there was sufficient impact, be it from the challenge itself or the resulting awkward fall, to cause him enough momentary distress to justify staying down and receiving treatment seems to be the prevalent question. But only one man can answer that and that man isn't Tony Pulis. The fact he feels he is in a position to comment conclusively on the matter is an incredible display of delusion.
It has been pointed out to me over the weekend that this is merely the latest in a long line of Pulis rants regarding 'play-acting' and imaginary card waving and it is a genuine bugbear to him. I think we'd all like to see that aspect of the game cleaned up, but crassly presuming the guilt of players when there is more than enough reasonable doubt to give them the benefit of and publicly dragging their name through the mud is not the way to go about it.
And especially not when the player in question – during the very same game – didn't even go to ground when the target of a very nasty Ricardo Fuller tackle. Strangely, given his status as the self-proclaimed white knight in the fight against needless footballing theatrics, that incident was omitted entirely from Pulis' post-match comments. Just like he kept on forgetting about his crusade for refereeing accountability last season around the same time Stoke started to benefit from their errors. Funny that.
But then again, this is just the world according to Tony Pulis. A world in which Robert Huth is the gallant hero for trying to pull out of a tackle he should never have committed to in the first place given the conditions and David Meyler, a player who has battled back from two career threatening injuries already in his short career, is the dastardly and conniving villain for daring to escape another one. I hope no one is stupid enough to genuinely believe the Stoke manager's silly little face-saving and shamelessly self-serving fairy tales.