Stop praising Costa - he's a coward, says Neil Humphreys
Idiotic praise for 'tough' striker is getting ridiculous
Even by his lofty standards, Harry Redknapp dipped heavily into the big book of football cliches yesterday.
The former manager called Diego Costa a "proper" striker, a rarity who dishes it out.
He's a handful. He gets in the way. He knocks people over. He stamps on people. He's a winner.
He's a throwback to that glorious bygone era drenched in sepia, a time when boots were made for kicking people, maiming was normal and cold-blooded murder had to be committed to earn a harsh yellow card.
Redknapp hasn't been alone in his ludicrous praise for an unrepentant brute, who has deservedly been charged by the English Football Association.
Costa now faces a three-match ban for violent conduct, after slapping Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny and provoking a fight with Gabriel Paulista, earning the latter a red card.
Whatever the outcome of the hearing, the support for the Spaniard has been no less unsavoury than his antics against Arsenal.
He's not a street fighter, but a coward and Redknapp, among others, has confused genuine toughness with a tantrum.
Nobby Stiles and Bryan Robson were tough. Liverpool's midfields were carved from granite. Patrick Vieira ran through the human wall of Roy Keane before both men switched roles and went at it again.
In the modern era, Paul Pogba, Sergio Busquets and Nemanja Matic are hard men.
Their ball-winning elegance softens the hard edges, but do not confuse genteel with gentle. They are the complete package. Steel lies beneath the silk.
They play the ball. Occasionally they play the man. But they do not play the referee. That's cheating.
And that's why the English FA must punish the errant Spaniard for his incorrigible behaviour.
In January, the Chelsea striker admitted he happily walks the line of fair play, often skirting the fringes of outright contempt for the game.
Despite a three-match ban for stamping on Emre Can in the League Cup semi-final, he expressed a reluctance to temper his approach.
He refuses to step back from the dark arts that govern his performance.
His "win at all costs" mentality undoubtedly makes him the bane of every back four in the English Premier League (though, interestingly, not the Champions League, where seasoned defenders are cute enough to put such petulance to bed).
And Redknapp said Costa was the kind of elbows-leading striker that every manager dreams of signing. Jose Mourinho said he was Man of the Match against Arsenal.
But their unsubtle message is a dangerous one. Nasty guys finish first. Cheats prosper. If you can't dance with the stars on the big night, dupe the judges instead.
West Ham legend Billy Bonds, the definitive hard man of his generation, once said that Vinnie Jones was never an authentic tough guy.
The Wimbledon midfielder pulled hair, poked eyes, screamed abuse and grabbed Gazza's wedding tackle, but he could be managed. He could be ignored.
Against Arsenal, Costa looked a lot like Jones, prodding, poking, irritating and annoying without really scaring anyone.
Rather than evoke memories of the game's iron men, Costa was more Tony Stark, a wealthy, whining brat running towards a uniform at the first sign of trouble.
Of course, Arsene Wenger's endless criticism of the Chelsea striker hardly help.
The more he bleats, the more he risks draining public goodwill, particularly after another mediocre performance puts tremendous pressure on Arsenal's League Cup tie with Tottenham tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
There may even be a sense that Arsenal could use a dollop of Costa's devilishness to supplement that brittle backbone, but there's a fine line between being a handful on the pitch and being harmful to the game.
And Costa crossed it at Stamford Bridge, prompting even teammate Kurt Zouma to use the word "cheated" in his analysis.
The youngster swiftly clarified his comments, but his subconscious had said all that needed to be said.
Costa secured the points, but spoiled the contest. His actions sullied the occasion.
If the game is to retain at least a facade of honesty and integrity, then Redknapp and the cliche-riddled pundits of yesteryear must be wrong.
To condone Costa is to effectively champion cheating and contradict the very definition of a street fighter.
Fighters fight. Only cowards run to the referee.
"Costa is a complete handful: aggressive and, if someone gets in his way, he is going to knock them around as much as he can. He is a street-fighter. He is enthusiastic and sparks off everything from the front."
- Former Spurs and QPR manager Harry Redknapp
"I would rather have Diego Costa in my team than against me. I wouldn’t want to temper his aggression too much, because I am a big fan of the way he plays. But he perhaps needs to be a bit smarter now, because refs will have clocked him and have no sympathy."
- Former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer (above)
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