Belfast Telegraph

A sorry spat for all as defiant Jonny Evans pleads not guilty

By Steven Beacom

The Football Association are ready to throw the book at Northern Ireland's Manchester United defender Jonny Evans and Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse after charging both with spitting.

Following Wednesday night's confrontation between the pair during United's 1-0 win at Newcastle in the Premier League, the two players released statements yesterday dealing with the issue in very different ways.

The Newcastle ace, 29, was full of regret about the first-half incident, in which Evans appeared to spit towards him before Cisse retaliated.

Cisse apologised to his team-mates, Evans and football fans as a whole for his disgusting actions and later accepted the FA charge.

Being found guilty of a spitting offence carries with it a SIX game suspension. Cisse is also in line for an extra one-game ban having already been sent off this season.

He and his club admit his behaviour was unacceptable.

In contrast, 27-year-old Evans was defiant declaring that he was 'shocked' by the media coverage of the controversy, adding that he did not spit at Cisse and would never behave in such an appalling manner.

Clearly, having charged both men, the FA do not agree with Evans, who has until tonight at 6.00pm to respond.

Confirming that referee Anthony Taylor did not see the spitting, the FA said last night: "The charges are in relation to an alleged breach of FA Rule E1(a) in that in or around the 38th minute of the game the two players spat at each other.

"The incidents were not seen by the match officials but caught on video."

In Premier League matches, if an incident has not been seen by the match officials, a three-man panel of former elite referees is asked by the FA to review the footage independently of each other.

It is then up to them to advise what, if any action, they believe the match referee should have taken had it been witnessed at the time.

For an FA charge to follow, all three panel members must agree it is a red card offence. On this occasion the decision by the panel was unanimous in respect of both players.

Last season, Hull's George Boyd was retrospectively banned for three games having been found guilty of spitting at Man City's Joe Hart.

Now, though, the FA act in accordance with new Fifa guidelines which state a six match ban is the punishment for spitting.

If found guilty Evans will miss massive games in United's quest to secure a Champions League place and FA Cup glory this season.

United's next six scheduled games are against Arsenal in the Cup on Monday followed by league games with Spurs, Aston Villa, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

The season would almost be over by the time Evans returned and with defenders playing for their futures at United under Louis van Gaal, the timing of this episode could not be worse for the Ulsterman.

Evans is a popular figure at Old Trafford and anyone who has worked with him will say that spitting at an opponent is just not him. I would tend to agree, but TV replays show him spitting in Cisse's direction and it does not look good.

While Cisse has admitted his guilt, Evans is keen to fight the charge and has Van Gaal's support.

Evans said: "It is not in my character or my nature to spit at anybody nor is it something I have ever done or would ever do."

Last night Jonny's wife Helen was in the awkward position of reporting on the story during MUTV's Thursday Focus programme. On the show, Northern Ireland great Norman Whiteside backed Evans stating that his countryman had not deliberately spat at Cisse. Helen added that it was not in her husband's nature. Now it's over to the FA.

What Evans said: ”Having woken up this morning I am shocked to have seen the media coverage from last night’s match. I would like to make it clear that I did not spit at Papiss Cisse.

“I was totally unaware of any spitting incident and had assumed that the issue at the time was with the challenge and his attempted retaliation to the tackle from the floor. During the game Papiss Cisse and I spoke about the incident and it is clear by my reaction in the television footage that I was totally surprised by any suggestion of spitting.

 “It is not in my character or in my nature to spit at anybody nor is it something I have ever done or would ever do. It is certainly not something that I did last night.”

What Cisse said: “I have apologies to make to a lot of people today. Firstly to my team-mates and to our supporters, secondly to Jonny Evans, and thirdly to every football fan who saw the incident between myself and Jonny. I reacted to something I found very unpleasant. Sometimes it is hard not to react, particularly in the heat of the moment. I have always tried hard to be a positive role model, especially for our young fans, and yesterday I let you down.

 “I hope children out there playing football for their clubs and schools this weekend will know better than to retaliate when they are angry. Perhaps when they see the problem it now causes me and my team they will be able to learn from my mistake, not copy it.”

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