If goalkeeper Aaron McCarey had lashed out at one of his own team-mates while playing for the Kazakhstan national team, in a UEFA-organised tournament, he may just have got away with it.
Instead, Irish League referee Andrew Davey, after receiving advice from his linesman, quite rightly sent him off for violent conduct after his attack on defenceless Bobby Burns last Saturday at The Oval.
But just a few days prior to the east Belfast incident, I was in the Czech Republic as part of the coaching set-up with the Northern Ireland Under-19s.
We were involved in a three-match tournament against Denmark, the Czechs and Kazakhstan.
The game against the Kazakhs was our last one of the tournament, which we won 2-1.
But the real drama unfolded at half-time just as both teams were making their way to the dressing rooms with the game 0-0.
We could see that one of their big defenders was in a heated discussion with his striker.
Then all of a sudden, the defender lunged forward with a headbutt.
You could hear the crack. This was a vicious assault, right in front of the referee.
Their coach ran over to try and defuse the situation while we, wanting to stay out of an internal dispute, were asking the referee what he was going to do about it.
The ref simply just shrugged us off and continued walking to his dressing room.
When we raised the point that it was violent conduct and therefore merited a red card, his response, which I’m still shocked at, was that it was an incident involving the same team and therefore didn’t need him to intervene. He just let it go.
Now, there was a UEFA delegate there, so it will be interesting to see if he records the incident in his report to European football’s governing body and if there are any repercussions.
The striker took the assault well to be fair, but we honestly thought the Kazakhstan manager would at least substitute the offending player, in a similar way to during pre-season when a player makes a really bad tackle and rather than send him off the manager quickly replaces him.
Instead, it was the striker who was substituted at the break while the Kazakhstan defender took to the pitch for the second half and played throughout without a care in the world. No accountability for his actions.
McCarey wasn’t so fortunate and ref Davey deserves to be commended for his quick and decisive action in showing a straight red card.
It was totally unacceptable. I’ve been in situations where team-mates have frustrated the life out of me, both at club and international level, but you may have a few choice words on the pitch or as in most cases keep it for the dressing room away from the glare of the fans and watching audience on TV or online.
McCarey obviously blamed Burns for giving the ball away on the halfway line which led to the Coleraine equaliser, but there were plenty of Glens players who could have intervened but failed to do so.
I would also question McCarey’s positioning and technique in trying to save Cathair Friel’s shot. Maybe he needs to look at himself and his own contribution before blaming others.
There, of course, have been suggestions since the incident that there must have been bad blood between McCarey and Burns. I would have no hesitation in saying that is a load of nonsense.
I’m fortunate to know Bobby well, been in squads with him, and he is the nicest and quietest lad you could wish to meet. Bobby will be totally embarrassed he has been caught up in this mess.
I’m pleased to hear McCarey is full of contrition and apologised in the dressing room straight away, but that doesn’t surprise me when you look at his reaction after he left the pitch last week. You could tell he was saying to himself: “What have I just done!?”
While the club, I believe, have disciplined him and the Irish FA may add to his three-game ban for violent conduct after charging him with ‘bringing the game into disrepute’, his biggest battle will likely come in trying to win over the Glentoran fans again.
He brought shame on the club, unwanted attention and not forgetting his actions have hurt not just Burns but the team, as they will be without his services for a big stretch of games.
It’s important McCarey was held to account for his actions, unlike the defender from Kazakhstan who got away scot-free.
If I was Steven Gerrard, I wouldn’t touch the Newcastle United job with a bargepole.
Not at this moment.
In three managers’ time, yes, it may be a much more attractive proposition, when the deadwood has been cast aside, new players have been introduced, the training ground greatly improved, the Academy revamped and the attitude at the club dramatically changed.
The new owners throwing money at their new toy will not change things overnight.
It’s going to be a painful process with players, who aren’t good enough, still under contract and, with their big wages, difficult to move on.
Just look at how tough it has been for Michael O’Neill in recent years at Stoke. Multiply that by four or five at Newcastle and you get some sort of realisation of life at St James’ Park.
Looking at the current squad, there are only two players I would keep — defender Jamaal Lascelles and striker Allan Saint-Maximin.
The rest I would try and move on for not being good enough and I include Northern Ireland left-back Jamal Lewis in that list.
The new owners are obviously looking for success as quickly as possible, a return for their huge spend on the club, but they have two immediate problems.
With Financial Fair Play, I understand they can probably spend £190m to stay within the rules in building a new team. That is nowhere near enough if you want to have a team capable of challenging for the title.
Then, as I alluded to in this column just a few weeks ago, it’s going to be very difficult to attract the top players to the north east of England when they have the choice of Manchester, London, Paris, Madrid and Munich.
I think they need a manager to come in, steady the ship, bring in a few new faces in the January transfer window and ensure survival.
Then in the summer employ a big name with bags of experience, but I honestly think it’s not a right fit for Gerrard even next year and he should wait until a few more managers have been and gone, if he does want the job.
His ultimate aim has to be the Liverpool job, but in all honesty Rangers can help Gerrard get the Anfield position while being Newcastle manager can lose it for him.
Gerrard is not in a position where he needs the money so he can afford to wait for things to settle down and the club to get its act together if he really wants the Newcastle gig. But I also think he has so much more he wants to achieve at Rangers first with domestic domination.
The way I see it, there needs to be a rebirth of Newcastle United Football Club. That’s how bad it’s got.
So, I really don’t envy the next few managers of Newcastle and in my view, Gerrard would be mad to go anywhere near it.
The return of Jonny Evans for Leicester City is not necessarily good news for Northern Ireland.
I noted the caution in Brendan Rodgers’ comments last week when he said Jonny’s foot injury would have to be carefully managed throughout the season and there would be times he would have to rest up and sit out games.
I would say, with Northern Ireland’s World Cup qualifying games next month against Lithuania and Italy basically being dead-rubbers now qualification is out the window, Brendan may have a quiet word with Ian Baraclough and suggest it would be better to leave Jonny out.
Allow him the 10 days or so of the international window for recovery.
I’m sure Jonny is extremely keen, having missed so many international games this season already, to get back and work towards the target of 100 Northern Ireland caps.
But he has to put his body first and Leicester would argue their Premier League matches are much more important than international games where achieving third place is the only goal.
It will be tough for Jonny as I know how much it means to him to play for his country. I also know from experience the pressure clubs can put on you to pull out of internationals.
For the good of Jonny’s career, his ongoing international absence might be better in the long run.