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Ask Steve Claridge

Steve Claridge
Claridge is the BBC's new Football League expert

There is plenty to talk about after a troubled week on and off the pitch in the Football League and Carling Cup.

We had some sorry scenes involving fans at Upton Park, followed by some stupid behaviour by players at the weekend.

Thanks to everybody who has been in touch with questions about the above incidents and plenty more besides. I have answered some more of your questions below.

If you have a question, use the form on the top right of the page.


Hi Steve, having seen the problems during the Nottingham Forest v Derby game at the weekend, I suggest that a lot of incitement could be stopped simply by making sure the players do not go running towards either their supporters or the opposition supporters when they score. Referees must remind the players that leaving the pitch without permission is a cautionable office, and the managers should enforce it too. If it continues then the club could be docked the three points for not controlling their players. What do you think?
John Lawrence, England

Well, for a start, it's alright to run towards your own fans. Where are you going to run otherwise when you celebrate? In a circle?

Highlights - Nottingham Forest 3-2 Derby

Highlights - Nottingham Forest 3-2 Derby

But the situation with Nathan Tyson waving the corner flag at the Derby fans is different. We've seen it many times before - footballers who don't quite get it. There is nothing wrong with having a bit of banter with the fans but there is a point where you have to realise you are going a little bit too far, and people are getting wound up.

Now, what Nathan did wasn't just that. It was also a total and utter lack of respect for the opposition as well and that is why it all went off. I know Nathan and he isn't a bad lad. Obviously he has an awful lot to learn - it was complete stupidity on his part.

To be fair, I looked at him and, as he was confronted, it was almost as though he didn't know what he was doing, it was this look of bemusement as if to say 'why are you reacting like that?' He had just got carried away with himself. It was absolutely ridiculous, and after the week we have had, the timing of it just beggared belief.

If you score a goal of course you should run up to your own fans. At the end of the day if that incites the opposing fans then tough. But you don't run to the opposing fans.

Rochdale v Bury

Rochdale 3-0 Bury (UK users only)

There was another similar incident at the weekend too, involving a lad called Tom Kennedy during the Rochdale-Bury match. Kennedy scores a penalty, which was a contentious decision at best, to put Rochdale 3-0 up against his former club.

There are a lot of Bury fans at the game, all down one side of the ground and they almost came on the pitch when the penalty was given. But after scoring, Kennedy cocks his ear and starts running towards the Bury fans. He runs all the way down the side of the ground where all the Bury fans are, taunting them.

Someone gets on the pitch and there were others trying to get on the pitch to get at him. He nearly incites a riot, and it is absolute madness - all because he hasn't gauged the mood of the game. It's a local derby, they are 3-0 up and he is taking the mick.

How do you punish a player for that? I'm not sure you can give either of them a three-game ban for being brain dead or stupid so I think the club should deal with it and fine them the maximum they can, as well as giving them a one-game ban as a rap on the knuckles and a warning to others.

There shouldn't be any sanction for the clubs though.

I'm a Sheffield Wednesday fan, and I disagree with Brian Laws' decision to transfer list Francis Jeffers following his red card against Walsall last week for head-butting. I agree what he did was inexcusable but does that justify transferring one of your best strikers? Could he not have made him train with the reserves and fined him a months wages? Considering most players who do this don't get transferred, what is your opinion on this?
Alex, England

I thought it was very harsh and there was provocation as well. It wasn't just him - You don't walk away with blood all over your face unless something has happened.

Port Vale v Sheffield Wednesday

Port Vale 2-0 Sheffield Wednesday (UK users only)

And for me, if you don't allow someone under pressure the room to make a mistake it is setting a dangerous precedent because if you do it for him then you'll be doing it for everybody who reacts in that way.

You can be sure over the course of a season there will be one or two others in your squad who perhaps will take the law into their own hands somewhat.

Hi Steve, I was shocked at the violence during last week's Carling Cup game between West Ham and Millwall at Upton Park, I thought a good solution would be to dock the clubs points and this might make people think twice before causing trouble like that again. What do you reckon?
John Cullum, England

No, the punishment has to be handed to the people who caused the trouble, not the clubs. They have got to be caught and, if needs be, put in jail to stop them.

West Ham United v Millwall

West Ham United 3-1 Millwall (aet)

And that will stop this sort of thing, regardless of what anyone says, because it is helping to stop it. People do not want to go inside for fighting at a football game. At the moment they have to consider whether it is worth fighting and possibly going in jail over it? No.

As far as the clubs are concerned, there might have been an under-estimation from them and the police but that is all they are guilty of, nothing more than that.

If you start docking clubs points after incidents like this then, potentially, you could get people thinking they are having an effect and deliberately trying to get a certain team in trouble if all kicks off. It's just not feasible.

The FA's Adrian Bevington

Report - FA to probe violence at Upton Park

I've been at Millwall and I know what work they do in the community. They can't do anymore and West Ham are the same, what else can you ask these clubs to do?

I went to the last West Ham-Millwall game in April 2005 and there were four arrests. It went off quiet as you like.

Obviously people were more intent on causing trouble this time. But they kept getting on the pitch so there clearly weren't enough police in the ground, and I think that was the biggest problem - those sort of people are not going to be stopped by stewards.

The fans at my club, Lincoln City, have got their wish with Peter Jackson being sacked after they called for his head. I believe sacking your manager before the first 10 games are up is suicidal, especially with our budget! But what are your thoughts on early sackings?
Jack Mulhall, Lincoln

I'm with Jack on this one. I think you can be top of the table on luck after five games or bottom after being unlucky for the first five games - we've seen it time and time again.

If the manager has just come in and he's had a bad start after 10 games then of course you shouldn't sack him, he's got to be given time to do what he's got to do.

But, if the manager has been there for three or four years and it's been a constant struggle - and I'm thinking of Simon Davey, who has just left Barnsley here - and it looks like going to be another struggle, then you've got to take into consideration exactly where you are going with that club.

You've also got to think about, and I've said this time and time again, where should Lincoln finish. Where should they be? Unfortunately for Peter Jackson they have done well in recent years, and have always been knocking on the door of the play-offs which raises expectations.

Now, if we knew their budget, we could make a judgement call about where they should be, and compare that to where they are. It might be easier to see whether they were right to sack Jackson then.

But it's very difficult. At that level, you could have your best two players out for the first five games of the season and not win a game. So, if you are going to sack someone at this stage then you have to look and see what are your reasons for sacking someone - and they have to be very good.

With Davey leaving Barnsley, they struggled during the whole of last season, and you can almost understand it when there has been a carry-on from the end of last season.

Maybe in that scenario the manager has been fortunate to keep their job in the first place, and given another 10 games to show why he should stay. It is a little bit like, as a player, when you play badly in the first half and the manager says 'I'll give you another 10 minutes and if you don't improve you're off'. It's the same scenario.

Steve, In your experience, what does it feel like to go top of your league so early? Do you and your team-mates feel invincible, or there to be shot down?
Bill, Broxbourne

Do you feel invincible because you're top? No, absolutely not. It's more about performances than points at this stage of the season and, as far as confidence goes, the league table won't make a difference to a player's self-belief. We talk about Christmas being the gauge and it's true.

Highlights - Blackpool 3-0 Coventry

Highlights - Blackpool 3-0 Coventry

It doesn't even matter where you are in the table at the moment. I mean look at Coventry City, who won their first two games in the Championship and now they are getting beaten all over the place.

As a player, you know whether you have got a good side and whether you have got enough quality or not. So no, the table means absolutely nothing. You'll take more out of your team's performances than you will their results at this stage.

I support Blackpool, who arguably had the result of the round in the League Cup last week. How much do you think these upsets matter (for both clubs)? My view is that the confidence boost gained is almost as big as the victory itself.
Robert Whittaker, London

It was a fantastic result and it probably had as big a negative effect on Wigan as it did a positive one on Blackpool - they came out of that game and won their next one 3-0.

My belief is that you can't win too many games - I've never understood when people say how it is better to be out of the Carling Cup because it's a distraction and your league form will suffer, well that not only sounds like rubbish but it is statistically rubbish as well. The stats are, if you stay in the Carling Cup, then your league form improves.

Blackpool v Wigan

Highlights - Blackpool 4-1 Wigan Athletic

It was a brilliant result for Blackpool. I've never met a player who hasn't liked working under their manager Ian Holloway, which is quite unusual. You get the feeling as well that it is his type of club - he is used to working where he has not got a lot of money to spend and has to make the best of what he's got, and he does very well in those situations.

Roy Keane says he needs more horse-power in the Ipswich engine room but so far our midfield has largely been as dead as a donkey. What does Keane need to do to turn things around? There seem to be plenty of Sunderland rejects on his shopping list but what Town really need is a 20-goal-a-season striker.
Frank Weston, The Netherlands

Well, Carlos Edwards and Grant Leadbitter are both decent players. They will help.

But I think it is ridiculous that Ipswich are where they are at when you think about how much money has been spent at that club. If you spend as much as they have, then, normally, an extra player or two is all you need.

I've seen them two or three times and they don't look two or three players away, they look a bit further than that.

Whether it is a 20-goal a season man, a midfielder or whatever, there are certain players that do make a difference. Clearly Ipswich need one of those

It looks like there's a little bit more work to be done than we first thought and certainly a lot more work to be done than there should be when you think about the money that has been spent there.

I think even Roy Keane is surprised about how much work needs doing. At this stage they should be knocking on the top six but they don't look like it. Maybe they will have to set their sights a bit lower for this season at least.

Frank is right about a 20-goal man. We spoke about Michael Chopra at Cardiff the other week and he is one of those. Whether it is a 20-goal a season man, a midfielder or whatever, there are certain players that do make a difference. Clearly Ipswich need one of those.

Hi Steve, just wanted your opinion on how you think Swansea will do this year? I ask this because so far since the start of the season all I have heard are pundits writing us off and saying they reckon we will struggle, yet they always seem to miss or evade the fact that we have almost 11 first team players out either injured or suspended! Also I wanted to know how highly you rate Ferrie Bodde because I personally feel that, when fully fit, he is the best midfielder in the Championship by quite a margin!?


Leigh, Wales

I was one of those pundits - Swansea couldn't have had a worse summer with their manager Roberto Martinez going to Wigan and coming back for their best players. I said they would be the one team I thought wouldn't replicate what they did last year.

Bodde is a good player and it is a boost that they have held on to him but I don't see how, losing the goals they have lost with Jason Scotland and Jordi Gomez going, they can do as well as they did.

Paulo Sousa
Sousa replaced Roberto Martinez as Swansea boss this summer

Of course they are going to miss Scotland because of the way that they played, which was 4-5-1 with just him up front.

There aren't too many players who can do that job play that way and play that system. And Gomez in midfield was the perfect lad to get on the ball and get you playing. He didn't want to do anything defensively but that didn't matter. He got 12 goals, Scotland got over 20 - we're talking about 30-35 goals out of your team and you can't easily replace that.

Paulo Sousa has come across well since going there but we still don't know if he can manage. Certainly from his time at QPR there were more questions than answers. I watched them a couple of times and they were playing a 4-5-1 system but they were missing out the midfield. With 4-5-1 the whole idea is to play through the midfield.

They are almost starting from scratch. There is still enough quality there and I don't think they are going to get relegated but, if you lose your best two players, certainly from an offensive perspective, it is going to be very tough. They are definitely not going to carry on where they left off last season.

What are your views on the team finishing bottom of the Premier League receiving £30m? This is in effect rewarding clubs for utter failure. Also what chance does that give to a club like Peterborough coming up from League One having to compete against budgets like that? The same thing happened to my team Southend United when they made it to the Championship. Eventually you will just have the same teams in the top two divisions as no one else will be able to afford getting promoted. A crazy situation!
Andy, London

I hate parachute payments! It is £24m that relegated teams get - £12m per year - and I 100% agree, rewarding failure absolutely shouldn't happen.

How does it affect teams coming up from League One. Well, Peterborough are not so bad because they've got a few bob but the smaller clubs have absolutely no chance. I've been saying for two or three years now that you are going to get a Premier League within the Championship soon.

It hasn't happened yet but it will. The only reason we haven't seen it until now is that clubs have been managing themselves so poorly in the Premier League that they need that money just to pay off their debts when they go down.

Why should you get £12m for getting relegated with another £12m to follow? If you can't run your affairs to take into consideration relegation, then tough.

But, eventually, there will be relegated clubs coming into the Championship in good financial nick and the £12m gives them the impetus to go straight back up. I think it is utterly unfair.

Why should you get £12m for getting relegated with another £12m to follow? If you can't run your affairs to take into consideration relegation, then tough.

Get rid of them. They cause a completely unlevel playing field.

Steve Claridge was talking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan



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see also
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