GRAEME SOUNESS: Kane is a fine player but goes down far too readily

GRAEME SOUNESS: Seeing England’s captain embarrass himself by cheating reminds us we’ve lost what made our game so special – Harry Kane is a very fine player but goes down far too readily and exaggerated the incident with Abdoulaye Doucoure

  • Harry Kane exaggerated his clash with Abdoulaye Doucoure enormously
  • The term simulation shows how our game has changed enormously these days
  • Going back a number of years, players didn’t want to show they had been hurt 

I was recently having dinner with a friend of mine and two Dutch guys he knows, when I was reminded of a way our game has changed and something it’s lost. Halfway through our meal, one of the Dutch pair asked me: ‘What happened to the English game?’ and of course I asked him what he meant.

‘Well, everyone throws themselves to the ground now, don’t they?’ he said. ‘You’d think they’d been cut in half.’

I’d never met these people before but it was clear to me that they had always loved what makes English football distinctive. I was reminded of our conversation this week when I saw Harry Kane going down like he’d been hit by a train, rather than a push in his face, from Abdoulaye Doucoure, at Goodison Park.

Let’s get it right. When you lift your hands in football now, you’ve a got a real chance of getting sent off. But Harry exaggerated the incident enormously and however much he might claim he wasn’t trying to deceive the referee into getting a fellow professional sent off, his conduct was more embarrassing for himself than anything else.

We are talking about the captain of England. That role carries enormous responsibility to lead by example and set a standard.

Abdoulaye Doucoure of Everton raised his hand to the face of Tottenham striker Harry Kane

Kane though appeared to overreact as he went down to the ground holding his face

The incident resulted in the referee showing a red card to Doucoure on Monday night

This is how our game has changed dramatically. Going back a number of years, players didn’t want to show they had been hurt. It was a matter of professional pride that they didn’t want to show a weakness to an opponent, however much pain they were in.

Now it’s the exact opposite. Players want to go down and hopefully get someone booked. Harry Kane is a very fine player but I have to say he does this far too readily.

Part of the problem is the way we now dress this conduct up. ‘Simulation’ is the word commentators and pundits use. Well, let’s look that word up in the dictionary. Mine says simulation is ‘the action of pretending; deception.’ So let’s start using the proper vocabulary, shall we? Let’s start saying: ‘He deceived the referee.’ That suddenly doesn’t sound very good any more, does it?

There’s other fancy terminology that people are using about this unpleasant side of our game. I was in a TV studio with Micah Richards when he said: ‘He’s bought a foul.’

I asked: ‘What does that mean, then? “Buying a foul.” You mean, “He cheats?” ’

I think that one related to Jack Grealish. I was — by the way — really impressed with Jack against Liverpool last weekend. It wasn’t what he did with the ball, but without it, that impressed me and he looks like he’s turned a corner. But Jack is another one who is full of those acts of deception.

Jack Grealish is another England international who can also benefit from gamesmanship

Largely empty stadiums during Covid helped expose players that were overreacting

I hear excuses for them all the time. ‘Everyone else does it.’ Or: ‘It’s part of the game.’ Or: ‘Winners find any competitive advantage.’ What unadulterated rubbish. Trying to cheat a foul from the referee is bad enough — but actually trying to get a fellow pro booked or sent off the field? How despicable is that?

The cheating was exposed for what it actually is during Covid, because there were no people in the stadiums. To a man, players screamed and all their team-mates raised their hands as if there had been an act of GBH. But crowds drown out the squealing. Take my word for it: when you are a player on the pitch, you know when a really serious tackle has gone in.

Graeme Souness writes for Sportsmail

We are British. We’ve always been different in our football. We’ve always felt that our sport adheres to a certain code. What was that old term? ‘It’s not cricket.’ It meant we don’t transgress a code about decency and fairness. If you surveyed a group of fans, I think 100 per cent would feel exactly the same.

I think the Premier League should be demanding that this behaviour is dealt with and putting referees on notice to stamp it out, before the entire identity of our game is destroyed. Our league was once the envy of the world but because of this blight — this deceit — it is losing its uniqueness.

When I dealt with the subject in the book I wrote five years ago, the chapter was titled ‘Handle with Care’ — because I was concerned that we risked stripping away something core to our game. The sight of Harry Kane crashing to the turf the other night suggests that we’re still doing far too little to deal with the problem.

No shame in being sacked, how you deal with it is key

You won’t find me voicing anger about the fact that 12 Premier League managers have lost their jobs this season. 

There’s a trade-off. Managers get paid incredible amounts of money today to do the job and they’re scrutinised like never before.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t look at some of these young guys and feel a great deal of empathy for them. 

A run of 10 bad games is all it takes these days. Ten games could be six weeks. Just one bad cycle and you lose your job. That’s what these young guys live with.

They will go to bed every night thinking about that and if they are anything like I was as a manager, they will retreat within themselves when things aren’t going right. I would go quiet around the house and start to close down. 

When it’s going well, you’re an open book. You’re everyone’s friend. When it’s not, you retreat. You start becoming suspicious. You say very little. 

 Ralph Hasenhuttl (left) and Patrick Vieira (right) are among 12 managers sacked this season

Brendan Rodgers (left) and Graham Potter (right) have also been axed – but it is about how all of these discarded Premier League managers respond when they return to the dugout

As a manager, I took a lot of wisdom from someone older than me from outside of the game: a guy called Gordon Brooks, who was an accountant I’d got to know from my time at Middlesbrough. He had a broader perspective and offered up advice which was generally spot on over the years. I remember him once telling me over dinner: ‘You know, not everyone could do your job?’

At the time, that hadn’t registered with me at all. You forget the skills you do have when everyone’s questioning you. Speaking to someone from the outside who’d been through the mill and succeeded in life did help. 

But if I was advising a young manager who’d lost his job, I would be saying that there’s no shame attached to not being successful at one club, these days.

After all, disappointments in life – and how you deal with them – determine what kind of individual you become.

With a bit of luck, Frank will keep Chelsea job 

I’ve always felt you need your fair share of luck in management and I do think the stars have aligned for Frank Lampard at Chelsea.

He’s arriving back at the club at an incredibly good time, because slowly but surely the new buys there are starting to grasp the nettle and show what is needed to succeed at a top Premier League side. 

Their football is good enough to win games. The team lacks only one key ingredient – a centre forward.

Frank Lampard has returned to take over at Chelsea as interim boss until the end of the season

I think Frank will get this group winning football matches again. In his previous incarnation as Chelsea manager he got a punch on the nose and he will be richer from that experience.

Foreign managers are always in fashion. The latest is Julian Nagelsmann. But it’s more than possible that Frank will improve results at the club and if that happens, he would certainly deserve the chance to manage there permanently. 

Personally, I would love to see that and it would also be very good to see a British manager in one of our top jobs. 

We all know what Napoleon said about wanting ‘lucky generals’. I believe this is a very good appointment.

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