Flint's Off on One

There’s a scene at the start of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where Kevin Costner dares a prison guard to cut off his hand, and says in his broad American accent: “This is English courage.” Hmm, convincing that Kevin. I actually love the film though, and this part demonstrates an obsession with a body part that is quite frankly bloody annoying. If we could never have to rely on hands life would be a lot simpler, but I realise grudgingly they have some use. A crusade on body parts may seem a little odd, especially on a football site, but bear with me. Now if you’re sitting comfortably, we’ll go on a little detour…

There is little funnier than watching a very angry man get even angrier. I should know; I see the smirks from my friends and family all too often. Sometimes I do wish they would just accept that I am always right, but I digress. Give a preacher a soapbox, and people have no choice but to listen; give a living, breathing volcano a stage, and you need not worry about entertainment. It is impossible to not cry with laughter when watching meltdowns of the calibre of Kevin Keegan’s “I’d love it” rant or Rafa Benitez educating us all with some ‘facts’.

It is a pointless exercise listing all the characters that have lost their rag as we’d be here till Sunderland become a decent side again. Yes, they were ok once – Phillips and Quinn anyone? Red herring number two, and we’re less than two whole paragraphs in… You should know by now I’m not an apologetic type though, so tough.

One name who has come to light in this vein though is Neil Warnock. Let’s set the scene; his Cardiff side had a mammoth promotion clash against Jorge Mendes FC (aka Wolverhampton Wanderers) which finished with a bang. Ruben Neves gave Wolves the lead before Cardiff were awarded an injury-time penalty, which was saved by John Ruddy. Seconds later, Cardiff were given another penalty, but Junior Hoilett smashed that one against the bar.

In fact, if we are going to paint the full picture, we ought to go further back. Wolves have a strong Portuguese influence from their playing squad to their contacts through Cristiano’s agent Senhor Mendes. Their manager, Nuno Espírito Santo, arrived on the back of a disappointing spell in charge of Porto, and is on the verge of winning one of the toughest leagues to navigate in his debut season in England (albeit with a not insignificant helping hand from Mendes’ transfer dealings).

So what do you think his reaction was after the final whistle? No fucking shit he celebrated. I challenge anyone in the same environment to restrain themselves – it’s like asking players to not celebrate a goal until it has been confirmed by woefully inept and slow technology. Ahem.

After his brief outburst of emotion at having all but all but secured promotion, he walked over to Warnock to shake hands. By now you will have all seen the clip of the gruff Yorkshireman telling Santo to fuck off; you stay classy Neil. In true Yorkshire fashion though, he brazenly tried to turn the accusation of lacking class onto his opposite number. “He has got to learn that in British football you have manners and a bit of class when you’ve won a game.” Oh stop it, I can’t take any more – class? Neil Warnock? Get the man on a stage.

So the ritual handshake was not performed instantly after the final whistle – big fucking deal. Santo is a human and instinctively celebrated the most intense moments, but still moved to shake Warnock’s hand moments later anyway. Would YOU honestly choose to present yourself to Warnock having just beaten him in such fashion? Imagine the bile swelling up in that squashed Aunt Mildred-esque saggy face.

Let’s be fair to Warnock for a moment. No, I don’t especially want to either, but I am an honest professional. He was seething at missing such a golden opportunity to edge closer to the Premier League. If he’s being completely open, he was looking for any reason to lash out at anyone – who better than your direct opposite number? But for the love of god, I cannot understand why a handshake in itself is placed on such a high pedestal.

Respect is crucial in maintaining the integrity of the game. This is a fairly obvious fact. Respect though is shown in dealing with each situation as it comes, not in trotting out a repetitive act of obedience. I would argue that if anything, Santo did show more respect by not approaching Warnock instantly after the whistle. It was a matter of seconds between the game ending and Santo holding out his hand; time for both to allow the first few waves of emotional charge to dissipate and complete the formalities. The patronising manner in which the 69-year-old scolded the upstart foreigner for not understanding the British game was the height of arrogance and rudeness; the utter antithesis of respect, you might say.

Hands. Perhaps they are blameless in all this after all; it’s not them that make Neil Warnock turn into Colin Wanker. The pomp and circumstance surrounding them is maddening in my humble opinion though. The pre-match lineups scrutinised for signs of feuds are another arena of making an elephant out of a mouse. In the long run, it should of course be the people owning hands that need to change. Alternatively we could just be done with it and slice the damn things off, then nobody can be offended. Somehow, you can imagine Warnock would still manage.