Saturday, 22nd December 2001
This Viewpoint was ready for uploading on the 19th of December. However due to a breakdown of the BT Internet service e-mails that were sent could not be recovered or forwarded for the past 3 days or so.
Enough Is Enough!
Leeds FC's Own Goal
Enough is enough! The media destructive force that is determined to target, and destroy, the two Leeds FC footballers Lee Bowyer and Jonathon Woodgate is becoming a vendetta of attrition.
The character assassination of young Bowyer and Woodgate has reached such a screaming pitch that sympathy is now swinging towards the two Leeds players.
The reason for this is that Bowyer and Woodgate were charged with causing grievous bodily harm to Sarfraz Najeib and a jury found both young men were not guilty. For those who were disappointed that the two footballers were found to be innocent let me explain that the verdict of the jury means that they DID NOT COMMIT THE CRIME!
However the reaction by the media makes it difficult to believe that these two outstanding footballers are not two demented muggers that had badly abused, robbed and seriously hurt an aged frail old lady.
To describe Bowyer and Woodward by using every word that means extremely stupid would be in order. If only because by being in a nightclub, at a late hour drinking destructive booze is disgraceful and extremely irresponsible. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
To call them professional footballers can only mean that they are paid money to play football. In no way does it mean that they always behave in a professional manner outside of their privileged way of earning a living.
However they are human beings with human frailties. They are also reasonably fit young men who earn a startling amount of money each week for earning even larger amounts of money for their club Leeds FC, entertaining the Leeds fans, and football fans in general. Sometimes the gift of having a special talent comes with a flawed character. Boy Scouts often make lousy footballers, and none play for any English Premier league team.
THE KEANE THROWAWAY INSULT
In a special Panorama programme on TV Fergal Keane did a character assassination on Bowyer and Woodward. Fergal Keane was not content to use a scalpel to open old wounds he opted instead for the Gatling gun and machine-gunned the two Leeds players until there was only scorched earth left.
However he did mention, in the form of a throwaway piece of information that the first insult came from the direction of the badly injured Sarfraz Najeib, his brother and their friends. Presumably, this is true, yet has been so played-down that very few people know this, and often loudmouths have cause to regret their insolence.
I was not present when the assault on Najeib took place but the amount of injuries sustained by him was excessive and unnecessary. For causing these injuries a member of the Woodgate and Bowyer party received six years imprisonment.
It will serve no purpose for me to comment on whether this was excessive punishment or not, but I will say that I do not know of one, from many, many cases, where a mugger who had brutally attacked a frail elderly person was given six years imprisonment.
THE CURMUDGEON JUDGE MOVES THE GOALPOSTS
The Judge that passed this sentence Mr Justice Henriques proved to be a curmudgeon. In his best legal voice he refused the application for costs by the innocent Bowyer because according to the 'learned' Judge the footballer had allegedly told lies to the police in the early stages of the investigation.
Your Honour please correct me if I am wrong but I was not aware that Bowyer was charged with telling lies. I was under the correct impression that he was charged with causing GBH, and the jury said he was innocent.
This decision of Judge Henriques is an intrusion on the verdict of the jury, and totally unwarranted.
If they made telling lies during the investigation of a criminal matter an unlawful act then the police would have their ranks so depleted that it would it would be a ghost force, and many main prosecution witnesses would become defendants.
In the Panorama programme the badly beaten Safras Narjeib was seen to have made an excellent recovery from his injuries, and it was good to see his return to good health. No doubt he will qualify for a large compensation payment by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.
The decision by Leeds FC to place Bowyer on the transfer list because he refuses to accept their double jeopardy fine of eight weeks loss of wages is a league or cup losing own goal. I believe the stand by Bowyer is correct. He was found not guilty therefore he should be only be punished for breaching the misdemeanour of breaking the club rules by drinking too much alcohol.
If this club rule became an F.A. order then there would be chaos in football, and some major names with soccer talent would be in the doghouse, and it could mean that some of the most famous of club chairmen, managers and players would be regularly breaking F.A. rules.
To take it to an extreme position it could also mean that some football icons would forever be on a no-wages punishment, and the transfer lists of all league clubs would be overcrowded. It must be the dream that every foreign football chairman fantasises about.
SHUT THE STABLE DOOR BEFORE ......
Leeds FC sells football, and merchandise that is related to the success of their manager and players on a football pitch. The club has no qualifications for setting-up as a rival to the Salvation Army. Therefore their high-stance posturing like aggrieved social workers was ill defined.
In the real world footballers, like many others in celebrity employment, are often guilty of very foolish behaviour. None is expected to be a Mastermind of Britain. I would also state unequivocally that whoever threw the first insult at the people with Woodgate and Bowyer is also no candidate for the title of Mastermind.
If the Leeds FC insist that their footballers conduct themselves in a manner off the pitch that every sensible parent wishes their offspring to behave, then they should take pre-remedial steps, not post-hand-wringing like freaked-out eccentric headmasters.
A friend of mine who sponsored a young talented English boxer that was a magnet for trouble in establishments that sell alcohol, in conjunction with the young fighter's trainer, set-up a spy network with friends who were regulars in all the nightspots, and pubs, in the young boxers local area - and elsewhere. Everyone in the plot was only too willing to save the young fighter from himself, and being decent people they wanted to keep him out of trouble.
When after a night-out of boozing the young fighter reported for training, the trainer, who is also a good friend of mine, knew exactly where he had been the night previous, and gave him chapter and verse on his stupid behaviour. He then ordered him home.
The young fighter was so incensed at the close monitoring of his reckless, and dangerous, behaviour that he accused my friends of having more spies than the KGB.
Football clubs should follow this example and set-up a situation that whenever there is a club footballer behaving badly, or in the wrong company, the manager of the club or his representative should receive a telephone call. A visit should then immediately be made to the club, and time should be called. If the player refuses to obey this order then the club would be in order in taking disciplinary action that fits the 'crime.'
WHEN WISDOM RULED
As a former excellent Arsenal player David O'Leary has always had my respect, and I am pleased to see him successful as a manager. However, I am of the opinion that he could have been more positive in public support of his players.
David is often reported as being critical of Sir Alex Ferguson. I believe Sir Alex would have acted very differently. When very heavy pressure was placed on the shoulders of Chelsea chairman Ken Bates and Gianlucca Vialli, the then manager, to hound the Chelsea coach, Graham Rix out of football for having consensual sex with a girl one week before sex with the girl would have been legal, chairman Bates and manager Vialli stood firm, and earned my respect.
The fairness of Ken Bates and Gianlucca Vialli never ended there. When Graham Rix came out of prison his coaching job with Chelsea was available to him. This was the action of men-of-the-world.
Leeds FC chairman Peter Rigsdale should have telephoned Ken Bates and sought the counsel of the 'old grey fox' Bates. Peter Rigsdale would be a wiser, and better person had he done this.
Led by Peter Rigsdale, Leeds FC showed weakness, and the media exploited this weakness. Ken Bates showed strength, and the media carefully measured their criticisms of the Chelsea decision to support Graham Rix.
Without in any way condoning the injuries to Najeib, Sir Alex Ferguson and Ken Bates would have stood behind their players and, as the verdicts by the jury clearly indicated, they would have been right.
During the course of the two trials, oh, yes the jury could not agree at the first trial, which always indicates serious doubt, Bowyer and Woodgate were forced to endure the trauma and stress of two trials while suffering the loss of that bastion of justice, which is that a defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise.
The Leeds FC chairman, the manager, every official, players and supporters should have, in my view, hammered this point home at every opportunity. It is a right to which every person accused of a crime is entitled.
TWO IDEAL SACRIFICIAL LAMBS
The heads of Bowyer and Woodgate were badly wanted for politically correct reasons. These two high profile football stars were the ideal sacrificial lambs to appease those who are forever seeking, without any justification, to prove that racial discrimination is running riot.
Fortunately, 12 good and true people decided that were not prepared to go along for the ride, and decided that justice had to be seen to be done, and acquitted both footballers of GBH.
The fact that the first jury could not agree on their guilt, and the second jury found them not guilty reinforces the value of presumption of innocence must apply to all people accused of a criminal offence until they are found to be guilty.
Woodgate was found guilty of causing an affray and was sentenced to 100 hours community service.
Now if anyone has cause for a complaint with regard to this sentence then it has to be me. When I was found guilty of causing an affray I was sentenced to five years, and please believe me when I tell you that I was only defending myself after being shot, and had other serious injuries including a broken leg that was hanging off.
My injuries were far more serious than those suffered by the young Safras Najeib, bad as his injuries were. Nevertheless, I was charged with being involved in an affray.
The very best way for Bowyer and Woodgate to hit back at their baiters would be to focus entirely upon their football careers, and improve their game to an extent that no club could afford to dispense with their services.
If they do this then when they come to London, or if I see them in Leeds, I would be the first to buy them a cup of cappuccino or whatever they wish that is non-alcoholic. Of course, it will probably be after Arsenal had beaten them but that has to be expected, and won't be a surprise.
Seriously, you owe it to yourselves, your family, your team mates that stood tall with you, the Leeds FC loyal supporters, and any other that stood by both of you, and of whom I am unaware.
The demon drink is disastrous for all sportsmen, and anyone else that exceeds moderate use.
A large number of of Leeds FC supporters, many of whom will be starry-eyed youngsters, must be gutted that two of their idols are being used like skittles in a bolwing alley.
If only to spare these kids more heartache Lee Bowyer and Jonathon Woodgate have a duty to behave reasonably in the future, and appreciate how fortunate they are to be blessed with a talent that allows them to follow as a career an envious leisure pursuit, and at the same time make themselves rich men.
To waste such a dream career opportunity would be the act of a lunatic. Neither Lee Bowyer nor Jonathon Woodgate is a lunatic; that is unless by repeating insane behaviour they certify themselves.
DUBERRY IS LABELLED FOR LIFE
I have not so far mentioned Michael Duberry the Leeds FC footballer who, to save himself, selfishly pointed the finger in court at his once best friend Jonathon Woodgate, the player that went out of his way to welcome Duberry to Leeds FC when Chelsea decide to get rid of him.
This thoughtful and decent action by Woodgate proves there is good in this young man that needs to be further developed. It also proved beyond all reasonable doubt that he is no racist. In fact it proved he was the exact opposite, and good for him.
I dread to think of that which the race relations industry would have made of it had Woodgate been involved in an earlier tiff with Duberry.
Duberry is now complaining that:
If this is all true, and I am assured it is, why has Duberry not been put on the transfer list or sold by Leeds? For any football club to retain any player that the fans don't want, and for whom his team mates have lost respect, and 'sent to Coventry', has to be a cause for unrest, and bad for team morale.
This is another instance of lack of conviction by Leeds FC. They obviously have no stomach for a fight with the hounds of the politically correct, and their supporters.
Whatever did Duberry expect when he decided to denounce his best friend merely because he never had the 'bottle' to do anything else - Valentine and Christmas cards?
"I am worried that the label of being a 'grass' will remain with me throughout the rest of my career," whined the cowardly 'Judas.'
Worry not, my finger pointing denouncer. You don't have to worry about the rest of your career (what career?), you will now be known as a 'grass' until you die. Surely you realised this when you decided to throw your friend to the wolves? If you didn't then you should not head any more footballs, and have an early MRI brain scan.
The overwhelming majority of Leeds supporters want Woodgate and Bowyer to remain Leeds FC players. This is a very sensible judgement.
LET LAWYERS BACK THEIR OPINION WITH THEIR OWN MONEY
I am pleased that Safras Najeib was not charged with being part of the affray. However this is a decision that many may consider is unusual. An affray charge usually means that all parties, injured or not, to the disturbance are charged with causing the affray.
That is because affray means a riot or fighting taking place in a public place. It always takes at least two to make a fight. Anything else is an assault or GBH. It would do Woodgate no harm to mention this point of law to his legal team.
Lawyers acting for Safras Najeib have advised him to sue Leeds FC, and the two players for compensation. No doubt he will have the benefit of legal aid. Leeds FC and the two players will have to pay their own legal expenses.
Is this fair? I think not. I agree with boxing promoter Frank Warren who has said that lawyers that institute a court action funded by legal aid should be responsible for the costs of the defendant should the case of their client fail.
Frank has been the victim of more than one vexatious High Court action that he had to defend. However when he, and other people who do not qualify for legal aid, win, they lose because they have to pay their own hefty legal bill.
This means that as the accuser has no means, the winner becomes a loser because their accuser is able to toss a coin and bet, with taxpayers money, that head_they win, tail_the defendant loses.
By any standards that is a denial of justice.