Ask most Chelsea fans who picked up more red cards Dennis Wise or Frank le Boeuf when playing for the Blues and most would go with the Englishman over the Frenchman, but they would be wrong.
A similar question could be asked in relation to who has been booked more times for diving in this season, PFA Player of the year Welshman Gareth Bale or Liverpool’s Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez. The answer is incredibly Gareth Bale. Bales has been booked on six occasions in the last 15 months, the last midweek in Spurs Europa Cup clash with Inter Milan, to Suarez’s two, the last in September 2012 against Sunderland.
Brendan Rodgers Liverpool’s manager raised the issue in the lead up to his side meeting Bale’s Tottenham Hotspur. He rightly or wrongly questioned whether the British press targeted foreign players and highlighted when they dived as opposed to home grown talent. The underlying message was the media can have an untold influence on perceptions.
This is not just a British trait, other players in leagues around the world have been labelled as ‘hard men’ when their record by comparison is far better than that of a player at another club; Perth Glory’s Jacob Burns has been one to suffer in such a way in the Hyundai A League, his reputation is far worse than his record for foul play. The same is true of some players being built up to be better than they actually are.
Interestingly, Dennis Wise probably suffered a little as at that time foreign players were just starting to come into the Premier League, so like with the Hyundai A League, they were immediately assumed to be more cultured footballers. Le Boeuf probably was technically a better player than Wise, but he was prone to a red mist descending over him and some pretty crude challenges.
What was good to hear with Suarez’ was how Rodgers came down hard on his when he admitted diving against Stoke City in an interview with Argentine television. Since then the player’s behaviour on the park has improved dramatically. How long will it take though for him to shrug off his reputation?
Some players will tell you, you will simply never change opinions, despite the facts.