IT was bound to happen to somewhere this weekend. It probably happened in several places. But as I happened to be at Doncaster’s game against QPR, I’ll concentrate on how it happened there.
Deep into the second half, with Doncaster deservedly leading 2-0, they won a corner. The ball was swung over towards the penalty spot, where Rangers substitute Alessandro Pellicori pretty much punched the ball away. Referee Tony Bates didn’t see it, no penalty was awarded, and the ball was cleared.
Can you guess the chant that immediately went up from the disgruntled home fans? To the tune of Tom Hark, they belted out: “Thierry Henry, Thierry Henry.” Award yourself a dubious 2-1 aggregate victory if you guessed correctly.
“Somebody asked me on the Friday about the Henry incident, and I said that sort of thing happens all the time, all over the world,” said Doncaster manager Sean O’Driscoll afterwards.
“But because of the magnitude of the game, that particular incident was blown up. Is it right? Is it wrong? Thankfully, what happened during our game didn’t influence the outcome.
“People make mistakes. But I agree with all the comments that have been made. We’re in the 21st century, and surely we can get quick replays. Why we don’t do it, I’ll never know.”
While France’s World Cup play-off against the Republic of Ireland was filmed by a phalanx of TV cameras all over the Stade de France, the game at Doncaster yesterday had just two, both on the halfway line.
Well, OK, there was a third camera on the TV gantry at the Keepmoat Stadium, but that was pointed at a Sky Sports reporter, who had the job of shouting “Unbelievable, Jeff” whenever Jeff Stelling boomed: “There’s been a goal at Doncaster – which way’s it gone?”
(In fairness to Stelling, he doesn’t do this anywhere near as much as Ed Chamberlin or Ian Payne, who say it so often during the midweek Gillette Soccer Specials that I’m beginning to wonder if they’re being sponsored.)
But even though there are far fewer cameras at Championship and lower-league matches than there are at Premier League and international games, it’s still not terribly difficult to link them up to a monitor and spool back to review an incident.
Of course, if you’ve only got one or two cameras at a game, you’re less likely to catch every incorrect decision than if you had 20. But you will still catch some. In my view, Pellicori’s handball would have been punished had video technology been available.
In the wake of Henry’s handball in Paris, Friday was designated as National Ask A Football Personality About Video Technology Day. You’ll be glad to know I got fully involved in this event (asking Mark Hughes about it at a Manchester City press conference), which was more than I did for Children In Need.
And on that note, I can confirm that while National Ask A Football Personality About Video Technology Day raised no money whatsoever for good causes, nor did it force the general public to watch newsreaders in fishnet stockings doing the Time Warp.
The video technology debate was still raging on Radio Five Live at lunchtime as I made my way over the Woodhead Pass en route to the Keepmoat. Mike Ingham did a spectacular job of out-ranting Alan Green by stating that FIFA should burn the Fair Play flag which is displayed at international matches.
This was an impressive blast from the normally-measured Ingham, particularly given that Green had just asked why Richard Dunne hadn’t punched Henry in the face when the Frenchman sat beside him on the pitch at full-time on Wednesday. (Because he would have been given a lengthy suspension, Alan.)
Both Ingham and Green, though, were beaten by the person who texted in to Mark Pougatch suggesting that Henry’s punishment for the handball should be to play an entire season in Ireland. I would say that the texter was taking the piss, but Pougatch read it out with such seriousness that I honestly can’t be sure.
By that logic, Pellicori should now be forced to play an entire season in Doncaster. If that rule ever comes in, expect a flurry of handballs from teams playing Champions League away matches in Madrid, Barcelona and Milan.