Belfast Telegraph

Let's shake and make up to end the blame game : Billy Weir has his say on Roy Carroll

By Billy Weir

I don't know Roy Carroll personally and, for all we know, he may have an aversion to anything to do with shakes; breaking into a cold sweat when he passes a bottle of Crusha, weeping uncontrollably when he hears a few bars of This Ole House, or perhaps he was the victim of a freak Hoover-related incident with some carpet freshener as a child.

Maybe someone nicked his wee blue bag of salt out of his Salt 'N' Shake last Saturday morning, but that's nothing to the bad taste that his decision to amble past Cliftonville's players in the pre-match preamble that is the 'Fair Play' handshake has left.

Not everyone, of course. This is Northern Ireland after all, where we reserve the right to be offended at the drop of a hat, and where one man's handiwork has led to thumbs up or other more rude digit work.

I am sure he has his reasons, but he has adopted the Rod Stewart defence of not wanting to talk about it. The assumption is that it was in response to Cliftonville's protest against the playing of the National Anthem at last season's Irish Cup Final.

Personally, I wouldn't have an anthem or forced handshake anywhere near the game, the first is political and the second is political correctness gone mad.

The only place for a handshake at a football match is after the game when the dust has settled, not a staged one before the teams knock several shades of you know what out of each other.

There was a big song and dance made ahead of the game that Linfield fans could travel by plane, train or automobile to Solitude for the first time in many a year after the relaxing of travel restrictions that used to see their supporters bussed into games.

Judging by the empty spaces in the away end, there were a fair few who couldn't get the motor out of the drive, but again this has been rumoured to be a protest at the Reds' protest at Windsor.

Cliftonville have also made their feelings well known about what they see as harsh treatment from the authorities over not just the anthem row but punishment for striker Rory Donnelly and the ban he has picked up, further stirring up the nest of buzzing things that didn't really need another stick prodded into it.

Let's be honest here, there is no love lost between the two sets of fans, we all know why, let's not be obtuse, but Carroll's actions certainly turned the temperature up a notch as the Reds' players made their feelings about his snub pretty clear throughout.

This is not some impressionable kid we're talking about, this is a 40-year-old Northern Ireland international who has played at the highest level of the game, and if he chooses not to shake hands, for whatever reason, then that is up to him, end of story.

He knew what he wanted to do and why, his team-mates and manager didn't, but it was the hors d'ouevre to a meaty main course of blood, guts, downright ridiculous behaviour, petty scuffling, finger-pointing, name-calling and, obviously, it was the fault of the referee.

There was an argument that Garry Breen and Ryan Catney could both have seen red for, before Jamie Mulgrew (he and Catney are two of my favourite players in the league, incidentally) did, and there were further outbreaks of handbags that did nothing for the image of the game.

These, of course, are 'feisty' and expected in the 'blood and thunder' of a derby game, but that's hogwash.

A reckless tackle, play-acting and pushing and shoving aren't feisty, they're as welcome in the game as anthems or a daft handshake.

Referee Arnold Hunter was wearing a black shirt, but he should have had a light blue helmet on as the UN would have struggled to keep order at Solitude.

And the only united front on Saturday was the two managers having a go at him for Mulgrew's red card.

"It looked very harsh. But when you get the officials we got today, sometimes you're never surprised by the decisions on the pitch," said Blues boss David Healy.

And then a surprise supporting voice from the red corner in opposite number Barry Gray.

"If it had been one of my players sent off for that, I'd have reacted just like David and gone buck mad too," he said, admitting on the Beeb's Irish League Show that he wouldn't have had too many arguments had Catney been shown red too.

That is where the unity ends, the subject of Carroll saw the respective camps scuttle back behind the barricades.

"One thing I'd like to say is that other managers, coaches, chairmen or whoever else outside with their opinions probably need to concentrate on their own football clubs," Healy said when breaking his silence on the matter in this paper yesterday.

"I will back Roy one million percent for the rest of the season."

But from Gray, a very different viewpoint.

"What everyone needs to do is ask Roy for his explanation," he said.

"If he was in my team, I would have a massive issue with it. Only he can tell why he decided to do that. He wants to be in the limelight. There were a lot of instances like that on Saturday where he got that."

However, that's nothing to the social media 'he said, she said' slanging matches that continue unabated and, whilst it's better firing insults and hurling abuse than firing bullets and hurling stones and bottles, is it what we really want?

Ignore an anthem, walk past an outstretched hand, or better still get rid of them both, stop the finger-pointing and name-calling, end the blame game and shake and make up before something really daft tips us over the edge.

Belfast Telegraph

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