Last on MOTD: The stonewall penalty

DEPENDING on your points of reference in life, “stonewall” can mean one of three things: 1) A wall made of stone, often dry and found on long country walks; 2) A lesbian/gay/bisexual rights campaign group; 3) an obvious penalty in a football match.

If your life is particularly varied and fulfilling, it may even mean all three.

Now I don’t normally go in for pinching eight-year-old ideas from Guardian Unlimited, but I have to be honest and admit that the questioning of the phrase “stonewall penalty” has been done before. To prove it, here’s the link. (Scroll down to the fifth question, avoiding the second if you’re a bit squeamish.)

But it’s always entertaining, nonetheless, to think that a penalty could be made into a stonewall. Perhaps, if awarded, it could be finished in “stile”. I’m babbling now.

Last night’s final match: Blackburn 1 Tottenham 1
Commentator: Tony Gubba

“It was a stonewall penalty,” said Mark Hughes after seeing Tottenham defender Gilberto block off David Bentley in the area 12 minutes from the end of a Premier League match with not very much at stake.

But where does this phrase come from? Back to 2000, and that article on Guardian Unlimited, for the answer.

“I believe that stonewalling was originally an Australian term used by politicians for delaying tactics,” wrote reader Ray Routledge all those years ago, before mildly-sarcastic blogging had even been invented.

“There was also an American Civil War general, Thomas Jackson, who was nicknamed Stonewall because during the Battle of Bull Run in 1861 he stood firm, ‘like a stone wall’.

“In a sporting context, I think it was first applied in cricket when a batsman would play constant defensive shots, blocking every delivery so as to minimise the risk of getting out.”

The stonewall penalty that wasn’t given was the main talking point of a match which had little else to offer, although Tony Gubba was very keen to compare Bentley to David Beckham. (They’re both English, and they share the same initials, but you could say the same about David Blunkett.)

Is Bentley the new Beckham? I can understand why the comparison is being made; they are both creative right-sided players capable of delivering dangerous crosses and free kicks. Bentley, I suspect, is destined for bigger things.

But he just doesn’t seem to be getting much luck with penalties at the moment. Not all stonewall penalties are as solid as each other.

On the subject of which, Mark Power had the last word in that Guardian Unlimited article. Well, him and the Chambers English Dictionary.

He wrote: “Chambers is right: “stonewall” is a verb, as in “to block obdurately, or Defensively”. I suspect what [it should be described as] is a stone-cold penalty, as in “dead obvious”, or “a no-brainer”.

Yes. When you think about it, it’s dead obvious. Or stonewall.


1. Derby: 11 (Gubba difference: +1)
2. Fulham: 7 (GD: +2)
3. Wigan: 7 (GD: +1)
4. Reading: 6 (GD: +1)
5. Birmingham: 6 (GD: 0)
6. Gubba: 5
7. West Ham: 5 (GD: 0)
8. Blackburn: 4 (GD: +2)
9. Bolton: 4 (GD: +1)
10=. Aston Villa: 3 (GD: 0)
10=. Chelsea: 3 (GD: 0)
10=. Sunderland: 3 (GD: 0)
13. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: +1)
14=. Millwall: 2 (GD: 0)
14=. Walsall: 2 (GD: 0)
14=. Middlesbrough: 2 (GD: 0)
17. Tottenham: 1 (GD: +1)
18=. Everton: 1 (GD: 0)
18=. Newcastle: 1 (GD: 0)
18=. Cardiff: 1 (GD: 0)
18=. Wolves: 1 (GD: 0)
18=. Bury: 1 (GD: 0)
18=. Workington: 1 (GD: 0)
18=. Huddersfield: 1 (GD: 0)
18=. Grimsby: 1 (GD: 0)

(NB. Where teams are level, positions are decided by Gubba Difference; the number of times a team is on Match of the Day last with Tony Gubba commentating.)


One Response to Last on MOTD: The stonewall penalty

  1. Bryan says:

    stonewall penalty was first used by Lee Dixon on MOTD, a man who speaks first and thinks not at all. It has since been adopted by other non-thinkers.

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