Why is Daniel James getting an unfair reputation as a diver?
Background Image Via: David Dixon/Geograph. CC BY-SA 2.0.
Football is subjective. That's why we love it. Heated debates down your local boozer are part and parcel of our beautiful game. Even with VAR now in common practice, differing opinions still leads to strong discussions as we look to defend our heroes and chastise our enemies in equal measure.
Over the last fortnight, Daniel James' name has been in the headlines for two reasons. Firstly, he has scored two sublime goals in two Old Trafford appearances. He's rapidly becoming a cult hero at Manchester United. Alongside that, though, the Wales international has been booked twice. On both occasions, he has been accused of diving...
As you'd expect, the Red Devils' fiercest enemies have been quick to label the 21-year-old James as someone who should be sharing a swimming pool with Tom Daley rather than a football field with Paul Pogba et al. However, I'd wager that the majority of these fans using James' 'simulation' as a stick to beat United around the head with probably haven't seen the two incidents in which yellow cards were brandished.
The first (see below) came against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux. James had touched the ball past Joao Moutinho, before the pair crossed paths, with the latter clipping James' heel. There was clear contact there, yet the referee deemed this enough to warrant a card. At this point, I'd like to question why VAR wasn't used to overturn this decision? Or even implement some sort of system where the booking can be overturned after the game. At the end of the day, unfair bookings can mount up, thus eventually leading to a suspension...
The second incident (see video below) came against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford. The referee on that occasion was Paul Tierney, and it's fair to say he had a shocking afternoon - including the failure to award a penalty for a blatant foul on Anthony Martial. Again, James was shown a yellow card for an apparent 'dive'. Again, there was blatant contact, with James McArthur clearly catching the Welshman on the knee.
Mr. Tierney probably had a watchful eye on James as to what unfolded the week before and I'd suggest that instinct took over, booking him as the 21-year-old now has 'previous' for simulation - despite the fact that both cards were unjust.
What's unfair is that James is a young man trying to make his name in a sport he clearly loves so dearly. Now, his good name has been tarnished and why? Because he's just too quick? Where's the genuineness in that?
Now I'm not denying there have been one or two occasions where James probably could have stayed on his feet and tried to create a goal-scoring opportunity, but a player simply shouldn't be punished because minimal contact at high speed is deemed as play-acting. It's not rocket science, collision at fast-pace is far more damaging despite the fact that these were the minutest of touches between the players.
The worst part about it is that this label will now stick with James. I guess that's the work of this social media age we're all currently living in, and I'll suspect that United's £15million man will pick up a fair few bookings for 'dives' that aren't actually dives over the next few seasons, but hey, wheres the fun in correctness and factuality, eh?