|07 May||3:00 PM||P||Stoke City (A)||1||3||Lost|
On 27 February 2010, I added "One Aaron Ramsey" to my Facebook signature, and vowed not to remove it until he scored a goal for the Arsenal first team. Happily that day arrived last Sunday, in a game of great expectation, and one can only hope that it marks the resumption of a very promising career which has been blighted for too long by the thuggery of a Neanderthal.
Originally this article began with a diatribe on all the elements of football which I hate, from teams and rivalries through to cheating and financial approaches, all as an introduction to the main theme. Hate is a strong word, and in the end, I decided that mostly I "strongly dislike" all of the above, as opposed to hating them. Somehow, however, thinking about the upcoming game against Stoke makes my blood boil in a way no other fixture has quite achieved, and that all stems from the genuine hatred fostered by the events of last February.
In the last fortnight, cheating has been under severe scrutiny, and there has even been, whisper it, the odd word of negative press about Barcelona's recent antics, despite them merely being a repetition of those so obvious to Gooners earlier in the year. Don't get me wrong, I think that that kind of behaviour is deplorable, and we should be trying to scratch it out of the game. (Incidentally, kudos to Kevin Friend for dismissing Gardner for a blatant dive last weekend.) However, for me this deception pales in significance beside the behaviour of certain "professional" individuals. I'm talking here, of course, about a certain footballer in the pay of Stoke City FC.
I think it's important to say that I in no way think that Shawcross intended to break Ramsey's leg - his tearful reaction shows that - but that said, he did intend to go in hard, showing complete disregard of the consequences to a fellow professional, and this attitude is unacceptable. I read an article recently criticising Ramsey for not having his photograph taken shaking hands with Shawcross in the aftermath of the incident. Words can't even describe how ludicrous I found the article, but all I can say is that the author is unlikely to have experienced the pain of an injury of that nature, or indeed the arduous nature of a recovery, for a person who lives and breathes the beautiful game.
Perhaps the situation would have been different if Shawcross had come out and admitted that he had made a terrible mistake, and would learn from it, but instead, he came out with "I...will be the same as ever when I next play." It's not exactly the first time Shawcross had seriously injured a player (he broke Jeffers' ankle in 2007, for example, and Adebayor was very lucky to escape a similar injury in 2009) and he has shown absolutely no repentance. I repeat, it doesn't matter if he intended to injure the player. The manner in which he approaches the challenge shows his lack of consideration for their wellbeing, and as long as players of his ilk continue to play in such a fashion, and their right to do so is moronically defended, we will continue to see horrific injuries.
Somehow a number of people hold the view that Shawcross was also a victim, perpetuated by one Tony Pulis. The media seem to have forgotten the real casualty here. Is it the one who had a clean bill of health or the one with the broken leg? Is it the one with a 3 game suspension, or almost a year of sitting on the side-line? Is it the one with the England call-up or the established international deprived of playing for his country? Aaron Ramsey has shown remarkable mental and physical resilience to have traversed the road of recovery back to the Arsenal first team, no thanks to Shawcross.
In many ways, this is the perfect game for Aaron, to come full circle and put it to bed. The unity so evident within the dressing room suggests that the boys will all be up for this game, and I have never wanted a player to put in a virtuoso performance more than I want Ramsey to run rings around Shawcross tomorrow. The welcome Aaron received from the away fans at Old Trafford when he made his first appearance was terrific to experience, and I hope that those travelling on Sunday will make sure to give both Ramsey and Shawcross the receptions they so deserve.
There are many things to despise about Stoke - their manager, their mentality, and their exploitation of the throw-in, a mechanism which was designed purely as a way to restart the game - and we are entitled to our opinions on them. Don't let the media tell you what to think. But most of all, we are fully entitled to despise the approach of Shawcross and his peers, sent out to play football as if it is a battleground, incited by their manager to physically assault the opposition. It is unacceptable in the modern day, and if it is left to us fans to condemn it, then let us condemn it wholeheartedly.
Personally, I hope that we never stop booing Shawcross each and every time he faces up against our players. Players of his disposition are the very worst, and their attitudes should be eradicated from the game.
Never forget, never forgive. Some people just don't deserve it.
You can follow me on Twitter @nellypop13 for more Arsenal banter.
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