Belfast Telegraph

Paul Sholes: Replays clear Manchester United man but FA will act

By Paul Scholes

I have watched the footage of Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse's spitting incident and I come to the same conclusion that was my instinct the first time I saw the replay - I don't think Jonny ever intended to spit at Cisse.

Jonny is an old team-mate of mine and a bloke I like, but let's put that to one side for a moment. I read his statement yesterday that he did not spit at Cisse and I believe him.

I could tell you that Jonny is just not the sort of lad to spit on an opponent - although that is what I think - but a clear-headed analysis of the situation proves my point better than any character testimony I might offer.

If you study the footage again you will see that, after Cisse kicks out and Evans responds, it is the United defender who gets up first.

As he does so he is watching Cisse, probably because he suspects that his opponent is still angry and might go for him one more time.

You get that impression because both Jonny's hands momentarily come up as if he is preparing to push Cisse away again, or at least defend himself.

As Jonny gets up and takes a step backwards, he spits. At the time his eyes are fixed on Cisse, for the reasons mentioned above, and that is what makes it look bad, but my instinct is that Jonny is spitting to the floor.

It is a reflex. Footballers, athletes in all sorts of sports, have a tendency to spit in the periods of respite after action. You can do it without even thinking. I know that I did as a player.

On this occasion, I believe it was a reflex action from Jonny. Not one aimed at Cisse.

Spitting at an opponent is regarded in English football as the lowest of the low. OK, I have heard the argument that a player would much rather be spat on than have his leg broken and miss nine months of football.

Either way, it's not much of a choice is it?

I always thought that comparison was a bit of a daft argument contrived to make those who condemned spitting look petty. Why would anyone even seek to rank the worst offences on a pitch?

Let's get it straight, spitting at an opponent is horrible. It's a deeply provocative act that is as unacceptable in the game as it would be on the street.

I never experienced it in English football, I'm glad to say, and it never occurred to me to spit at an opponent.

It just was not a part of my instinctive psychological reactions. I have never seen Jonny do it before.

Clearly, what Cisse thought had happened provoked a response in him.

I can understand that he was upset but his reaction was horrible.

He got right in close to Jonny and spat into his neck. I would expect him to be banned for that.

The Football Association will find it difficult not to punish Jonny too, I would imagine.

Nevertheless, I think he spat at the ground rather than his opponent.

Right job, but the wrong time

It is no secret that Oldham Athletic were interested in appointing me as Lee Johnson’s successor at the club, and it was an offer that really tempted me.

Even as I watched them against Port Vale on Tuesday, having made my decision not to take the job, there was part of me that wished I was in the dug-out.

I will be a manager one day. I have come to see that over the last eight months, although I know that I first said that I did not see my future in coaching.

And one day I believe that I will manage Oldham, the club that my dad supports and who are very close to my heart.

Managing a club like Oldham has to be an all-absorbing, seven days a week commitment if you are to make a success of it.

One day I will be ready to do that.

This was the right job, just at the wrong time.

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