clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Suarez Saga Rumbles On

As a Liverpool fan, you know, like Hamlet, that ''the time is out of joint,'' when you find yourself grateful to Gary Neville and disillusioned still further by the club's crisis management.

Alex Livesey

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions."

Claudius, Hamlet

Oh, but it's a dour existence, being a Liverpool fan these days. Despite the efforts of your resident scriveners to lighten the post-mastication mood yesterday, with talk of testimonials, current stars and legends, this morning it is incumbent on me to report the latest news from the front. We shall hear from personages as diverse as Margaret Aspinall, Gary Neville, Gus Poyet and everyone's favourite bumblers, the FA, as the latest chapter in this unsavoury tale unfolds in all its unloveliness.

Yesterday evening the FA made a statement in the wake of Luis Suarez pleading guilty to a charge of violent conduct for biting Branislav Ivanovic. The statement was clear enough, but contained one potentially disturbing revelation about the attitude Suarez appears to be adopting to the ban.

"Luis Suarez has today accepted a charge of violent conduct," read the statement, "following an incident with Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic in Sunday's fixture at Anfield. Suarez, however, has denied the FA's claim that the standard punishment of three matches is "clearly insufficient" for this offence. The incident was not seen by the match officials and has therefore been retrospectively reviewed."

The upshot is that a three person Independent Regulatory Commission will now meet, via video conference, and decide the Uruguayan's punishment. This commission which will have the discretion to take Suarez's former misdemeanours into account, will include a former player and will operate under the FA's fast-track system.

Irrespective of the freedoms or powers of the panel, every single Liverpool fan will wonder why Suarez and those advising him have chosen to query the severity of the sentencing. Certainly, the world's media outlets will may hay while the sun shines and one can already hear adjectives like 'arrogant' and 'delusional' being attributed to the Liverpool striker.

There may, of course, be a very sound legal basis for this course of action but the impression made by the statement is overpoweringly negative and whether one supports Suarez or not, this quibbling with the correctness of any potential punishment is a mistake, as now is not the time for more incompetent public relations. Now, rather, is the time for public contrition and quiet acceptance, within reason of course.

Regarding public relations, the decision by Suarez and the club to award his fine to the Hillsborough Families Support Group, has caused controversy and created a somewhat awkward scenario for chairperson Margaret Aspinall, who has spoken about the gesture from Suarez in a way that is suitably dignified, decent and eminently practical.

"I would rather not be accepting the fine from Luis Suarez," said Aspinall, "because I would rather he had not bitten that player. We can't say we are grateful because we would rather him not have done that at all. It's an awful thing at any time, not just this particular week. It's nice to know he knows he has let himself, the club, the fans and the families down. We could refuse to accept it but it's going to have to go to someone -- and he wants to show respect and remorse to the families."

As I drove to work yesterday, former Manchester United player and MUTV mouthpiece, Pat Crerand, lambasted Suarez for using the disaster of Hillsborough as a kind of aid to personal rehabilitation. While this take is typically one-eyed and frankly disgusting, it does show the lengths some will go to in their attempts to vilify the Liverpool striker.

By contrast, Suarez has found some qualified support in the unlikely guise of former United captain and current Sky pundit, Gary Neville. Contradicting the ludicrously inflammatory guff from Crerand, which echoed that of Alex Ferguson last season, Neville adopted a far more reasoned tone. The former England right-back suggested that he had to view it as a former player, one who shared a dressing room with Eric Cantona.

"As I have had team-mates who have done wrong and as I have done wrong myself in the past," said Neville, "do I throw you overboard? I would think they have let their team-mates and their football club down and created pressure. But I would never, for one minute think, 'throw the man overboard.' The idea Suarez can never play for Liverpool again and the idea that he should be thrown out of the country, for me is nonsense and an overreaction."

Neville was also positive in his assessment of the actions of the club and player in the wake of the on-pitch incident, saying they had "dealt with it very well after the match in a difficult situation." He suggested that Suarez had done all he could to ameliorate the scenario and that now he must simply "take his punishment." Indeed. One hopes that message is received by player and club.

One man Suarez can always rely on for partisan support, is countryman Gustavo Poyet. The Brighton boss has railed against what he sees as 'hypocrisy' in the way Liverpool forward is treated in comparison to others.

"There are players who have done terrible things," he offered, "and apologised after two minutes and been portrayed as being a hero for apologising so quickly. Luis Suarez apologises and nobody believes the apology. It's sad. Are they living their lives by the same rules? I don't like that. There is plenty of hypocrisy in football now."

Poyet went so far as to suggest that were he managing his compatriot he would "take him somewhere else, to another country." This last point will resonate with Liverpool supporters who feared, even before the madness of his actions on Sunday, that Suarez might depart in the summer. The exacerbation of his 'bogey-man' image in the eyes of the morally outraged middle-classes of Little England, will not help foster an atmosphere which Suarez will find welcoming.

The whole unedifying shambles continues to build an unsightly web of scandal and unpleasantness around Liverpool Football Club. Those of us devoted to the club can only hope that this latest embarrassment will resolve itself quickly. What an unfettered joy it would be to simply talk about football for an entire season.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Liverpool Offside Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Liverpool FC news from Liverpool Offside