Mad About The Ball Boy
As exercises in deflection go, it was Lord Ferg-esque in its genius. With the clock ticking down and the jig almost certainly up fo Chelsea Eden Hazard it upon a splendid wheeze to divert attention away from his side's limp Milk Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Swansea. By hoofing an uncooperative ballboy in the ribs and getting sent off, the Belgian ensured all talk after the match would be about that particular incident rather than the listless Big Cup champions being humbled by Swansea, who had just qualified for their first major final in ... ah, what's the use: LOOK! EDEN HAZARD KICKED A BALL BOY!
It was one of those incidents that we're supposed to pretend we don't like to see in the game, when in fact it is one of those incidents everyone secretly loves to see in the game: an uncooperative ballboy getting hoofed in the ribs by a player who needed the ball in a hurry. He wasn't hurt, kind of deserved it and the player got sent off to think about what he'd done and after the match they apologised to each other and both shook hands.
Those who were either entertained and amused, or outraged and ready to burst with pomposity at the horror of it all, got their money's worth. Hats off, then, to the inevitable bozo who felt compelled to report the matter to the police; we can only hope the officers consequently assigned to investigate it were diverted from their duties while en route to stop a burglary in progress at the hand-wringer in question's house [FIVER STOP PRESS ED – Swansea have confirmed the ballboy, Charlie Morgan, will not be pursuing the incident with the police].
It got better. It turns out the hero of the story, Morgan, was in fact 17 years old (Eden Hazard is 22 and smaller than him) and actually a reluctant former ballboy who had been lured out of retirement for one last job, possibly because the match kicked off after the usual ballboy's bedtime. "The king of all ballboys is back making his final appearance #needed #for #timewasting" he had tweeted prior to the game. And in a story with parallels to Unforgiven and many other movies, he shipped one in the ribs while taking care of business like William Munny, but lived to tell the tale. Of course only time will tell whether or not he will move to San Francisco and set up a prosperous dry goods business, but if he chooses to do so, the Fiver wishes him well.
After a magnificently entertaining night and day of nonsense in which young master Morgan earned his bunk in next year's Celebrity Big Brother house, Glenn Hoddle labelled an impulsive teenager "bent", the internet threatened to melt like Major Toht's face in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the normally sane Pat Nevin went on the national news (the national news! ) to demand an end to ballboys, and the FA has now announced it will review the incident before deciding how long the obviously contrite Hazard should spend on the naughty step. The only way this could have been more entertaining is if it had been Luis Suarez administering the hoofing.
They also posted two letters to their column:
"If only it was Fernando Torres who chased the at ball against Swansea: he would have ended up hitting the advertisement boarding instead of young Mr Morgan" – James Lavelle.
"With regards to the apparent time wasting in last night's Swansea game: what we should all remember is that Charlie Morgan is not that type of ballboy" – Simon Lea.
And elsewhere, a list of what those in the football world are saying (latent anger at ballboys is, apparently, no longer latent)-