James Shield’s Sheffield United column: Cheats can’t be allowed to prosper in promotion race

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CHEAT: vb 1. to deceive or practise deceit, esp for one’s own gain; trick or swindle (someone) 2. (intr) to obtain unfair advantage by trickery, as in a game of cards.

Fortunately, so far this season, we have yet to witness an obvious case of a match involving Sheffield United being won or lost due to someone taking a dive, double-dealing or chicanery.

But, such is the prevalence of folk now performing a triple salko and pike whenever they brush an opponent’s leg or come within an inch of a flailing limb, it must only be a matter of time.

Those plying their trade in League One, presumably, possess a little more backbone than their top-flight counterparts. What they are not, unfortunately, is immune to this growing cancer within the English game.

Footballers, by their very nature and demands of the job, are selfish individuals.

So perhaps we should not be surprised that many of them now unashamedly take a tumble whenever the opportunity arises.

Unfortunately, too many folk are willing to turn a blind eye to their pathetic, embarrassing antics.

As illustrated by the euphemism we’ve invented. I say euphemism because the dictionary definition of ‘simulation’ doesn’t describe what happens when someone cons a referee, fellow professional or members of the paying public by throwing themselves to the turf.

Unlike the one for ‘cheat’ above.

Despite what we are now brainwashed to believe, the fact there is contact isn’t enough to constitute a free-kick or penalty because, last time I looked, football was still a contact sport where tackles are permitted.

So if the contact isn’t enough to knock a player over and they fall down, then they’ve cheated. Pure and simple.

Another myth frequently peddled by apologists for these con-artists is that the amount of money at stake in football these days makes their actions understandable.

Tosh. Total clap-trap.

Rugby Union’s ‘Bloodgate’ scandal demonstrates football is not alone in being plagued by charlatans.

But Ian Poulter’s decision to penalise himself during golf’s 2010 Dubai World Championship cost him victory and £350,000.

Jonny Marray also showed great sportsmanship en route to Wimbledon’s doubles title last summer when he owned-up to touching the net.

So if football, where managers frequently suffer from bouts of selective vision, can’t clean itself up then it’s followers must seize the mantle.

Let players know that, whether they play for the ‘right’ team or not, cheating isn’t acceptable. Even if, by doing so, they secure promotion, three points or a cup.

Football, quite rightly, is big on respect for officials. It must hold the professional as a whole in the same regard.

Because, what a shame it would be, if tomorrow’s potentially classic encounter between United and AFC Bournemouth at Goldsands Stadium was settled by skulduggery rather than sporting brilliance.

Well, some of us would think so at least.

*Twitter: JamesShield1