Alan Biggs: Beni regrets not going for a pint

editorial image

Players from six countries, other than the home nations, were involved in Sheffield Wednesday’s upsetting of the Championship form table at Hull City last weekend. The evidence of a prodigious team effort suggests they all muck in pretty well together.

It’s stating the obvious maybe and certainly true that the proliferation of foreign players in our game makes unity a must. But it’s not always the case and one of the most spectacular examples of that can be traced back... to Hillsborough.

I refer to the era of Paolo Di Canio and Benito Carbone, fondly recalled by most Owls fans because these were the club’s last days in the Premiership and these were the last great individual players.

But the headlines of the time were as much about trouble and strife.

“I signed one Italian too many,” confided David Pleat in a subsequent private moment borne of sympathy for a split-camp problem that he effectively dropped in the lap of current Sheffield United boss Danny Wilson via the interim management of Ron Atkinson.

So it’s refreshing to read of Carbone’s regret that he, for one, could have done more to make that gifted but unbalanced side of the late 1990s successful.

“There were problems in the dressing room,” he told the Daily Mail.

“It became two Italians on one side and the English players on the other.”

That will have been no secret to those who followed the Owls at the time but I think it’s the first time either of those Italians have taken responsibility for their part in the stand-off.

“It was partly my fault,” Carbone admitted. “I should have tried harder to mix with the others. The problem was they would invite me for a pint, but I didn’t drink. I have always been teetotal, so I never joined them.

“That’s where I was wrong. I was only 24, I’m 40 now, older and wiser, and if I could rewind, I would go with them, order a coke and laugh at any stick about being a lightweight.

“That way, we would have got on. It’s the English mentality to go for a pint, and I should have realised.”

So it seems one small detail, far away from the pitch, can have a profound effect in football where relationships count for so much.

Of course, the drinking culture that has existed among British players is nothing to be proud of and the game is now distancing itself from such excesses. But there is nothing wrong with a social pint or any other activity that brings players together and it seems the current diverse group at Hillsborough has the right sort of spirit.

At the KC Stadium they included, in no particular order, a West African from French Benin (Reda Johnson), a Portugeuse (Jose Semedo), a Spaniard (Miguel Llera), a Jamaican (Jermaine Johnson), a Frenchman (Jeremy Helan) and a man from Mali (Mamady Sidibe).

Waddle looks to rebuild at Club

Players who get farmed out to non-league football rarely get much of a mention. The clue is in the name as to why Jack Waddle is an exception; the son of an exceptional player.

What a huge burden of expectation for young shoulders to carry. How many sons of greats have ever made it in a big way?

It must be swings and roundabouts having someone like Chris Waddle for a father. Jack will not have been short of influence when it came to earning a contract with Chesterfield, but he and others like him have to cope with unfair pressures.

So best wishes to Jack in his efforts to re-establish himself during a spell with Sheffield FC. As for the Chesterfield axe making mincemeat of his career, surely his dad has told him how he once worked in a sausage factory...

Kompany let off creates confusion

Easy to understand why there’s much rejoicing over the FA overturning Vincent Kompany’s red card after the Manchester City skipper was sent off for an apparently clean ball-winning challenge on Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere.

But the verdict has created total confusion among match officials - and players - because it contradicted everything referees are told about punishing “dangerous” challenges. Kompany had both feet off the ground, entitling Mike Dean to send him off under the prescribed criteria.

And to highlight the inconsistency, it’s generally agreed that Hull’s Abdoulaye Faye should have been sent off for his lunge on Sheffield Wednesday’s Jermaine Johnson last weekend. He wasn’t even booked. Pick the bones out of that!

Blades still look good despite loss

This column was referring to the club as a whole rather than just the team when it ventured last week that Sheffield United had laid their best base for progress in years.

I stick to that view... but considering it coincided with that shocker of a home defeat to Yeovil maybe I had better keep schtum for a while! A Sunday night regular in my local delivered this verdict: “We were lucky to get nil.”

President Geoff keeps Tykes calm

Two 150th anniversaries collided last week - well, thankfully not literally considering one was celebrated by Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the other by the London Underground.

Appropriate timing in a way, though, because many can recall a well-chronicled period when the only light at the end of the tunnel for Yorkshire cricket seemed to be the express train thundering towards it.

I refer to those dark days of near self-destruction that totally eclipsed the reason for the club’s existence.

You may recall that a certain Geoffrey Boycott was the divisive figure in the civil war that followed the break up of a great side in which he figured alongside Brian Close, Fred Trueman and Ray Illingworth.

So it’s good to see Boycott presiding in relative peace over a resurgent outfit that won promotion back to Division One last season in his first summer as club president. More of the same please.