Nuno On The Pitch: Some Thoughts

Ecstatic Dashes Are Nothing New

Gary Pierce at Wembley in 1974 after being given the Bill McGarry treatment.

Some dramatic and very late news is coming through……David Pleat is facing a charge of disrespect for running on to the Maine Road pitch in celebration of Luton’s dramatic escape from top-flight relegation in 1983.

And Bill McGarry has been cited for not showing any class after daring to race on to the Wembley playing area in pursuit of his heroic birthday-boy goalkeeper at the end of the 1974 League Cup final.

The game’s authorities are taking a stance and insisting the duo should instead have stayed on their side of the touchline and shaken the hand of the dejected rival manager.

So, never mind the apparent amusement of John Motson, those wonderful BBC images of the legendary Luton boss making a hilarious beeline in his beige suit to congratulate his skipper Brian Horton the moment the final whistle sounded on the 1-0 win against Manchester City will presumably now be held up as an example of how those in the technical area should not behave.

And McGarry, his brown sheepskin jacket opened to allow him to rush past Ron Saunders and move more freely towards Gary Pierce, who he then hugged before and after a vigorous shaking of hands, was evidently out of step also, although commentator Brian Moore summed up the memorable footage by telling enthralled ITV viewers: “That shows all the emotion of winning a cup final.”

It’s now Friday – the day of the week on which a certain Sky Bet Championship head coach has taken, several decades on, to running on the pitch in this epic promotion battle.

So would you and would football fans at large rather Nuno Espirito Santo had bottled up his emotions after seeing a nine-man team hang on to prevail away to a promotion rival in a fixture Wolves hadn’t won since 1951?

Would we really have preferred him to respond to all that stoppage-time penalty drama in the gathering of three more points at Cardiff by leaving his players to celebrate on the pitch while he found out Neil Warnock to tell him whether he preferred a drop of red or white with his post-match sarnies?

Talk of wine brings us inevitably to the sour grapes the Cardiff boss was spitting out when he refused to accept the hand of apology long after the Sky panel had embraced the Portuguese’s exuberance as what football is all about in these tense final weeks of a season.

I am not a Warnock hater and believe the game will be worse for the day he finally announces his retirement. He has done a brilliant job over the years, never more so than on a very modest budget in South Wales. Most importantly, he is box office and football needs personalities.

But his pronouncements about ‘lack of class’ were as laughable as both that jig of Pleat’s all of 35 years ago and the bemusement some Wolves players felt as McGarry hurried past them to embrace his reserve keeper.

Don Goodman is a balanced enough individual to know what is right and wrong on and off the pitch and I thought little of his on-air comment at Middlesbrough two weeks ago that Nuno should have stuck to protocol and greeted the beaten Tony Pulis before seeking out his players. It certainly didn’t grate.

But, as a Wolves-supporting friend argued yesterday, a manager EITHER runs on the pitch at the final whistle to let down what is left of his hair or he does the solemn hand-shaking bit. It is difficult to do both. The moment is lost.

Nuno would disappoint me if he consistently and repeatedly shunned the post-match formalities but he himself has recognised that he must keep his delight in check and observe the English way. He knows he needs to be sporting.

It would surely be more disappointing still, though, if he always remained Mr Cool. The game’s decision-makers have sanitised the pre-match rituals…..we don’t need them doing it at the end as well.

Nuno, pictured for the Wolves match-day programme in one of his calmer moods.

Amid the talk of John Richards’s sweetly-struck Wembley winner, Kenny Hibbitt’s opener, the Doog’s virtual swansong and any number of other colossal performances, McGarry was not vilified by the Manchester City camp, to my knowledge, for any lack of sportsmanship.

Never a word of criticism, as far as I am aware, was aimed at Pleat for failing to seek out his counterpart, John Benson, at Maine Road either.

Nuno should not be criticised for living it up now after those two crucial away victories, the like of which so few of us have ever known. Football would be a duller game without such actions and talking points.



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