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It's not controversial saying Pogba's tackle wasn't a red

I don’t envy you having to trawl through the detritus of the footballing great and good for this column, Martin. Some of the crap you have to read...sheesh. PPhillips, Southend.

When you wrote: ‘They don’t much care for the follow on down here, ever since Ricky Ponting enforced it and lost to India’, did you mean Steve Waugh instead of erroneously printing Ponting? Heretic Goan, Goa.

Halfwit reporting. Jonaj, Manchester.

Talking about this stuff isn't worth going to war over - sometimes disagreeing is the fun part 

Yeah, some of it’s crap, Mr Phillips, but there’s also some smart, well-informed people on here, who have opinions and express them in a way that never loses sight of the fact that much of this stuff isn’t really worth going to war over and we’re allowed to disagree. Sometimes that’s even the fun part. 

And then there are those like Jonaj, waiting to pounce on any small mistake with a dismissive over-reaction. So, yes Jonaj, it was Waugh who enforced the follow on against India in 2001, not Ponting. I got that wrong. Had it been a huge chunk of my Monday report from Adelaide and not pretty much an aside in 1,000 words I would probably have been searching for the precise details of the match and, in the process, noticed that my memory had failed me. 

It happens. On any number of occasions, writing a column, I will check a detail and discover the match I remember as 3-0 was actually 3-1 or that the year Tottenham last won a trophy was actually 2008. I see a lot of matches, I attend a lot of finals. Stuff becomes a blur. I can tell you every winner of the FA Cup from 1969 to the mid-1990s, but after that, when the trophy started to get shared out between the same four clubs most seasons, I’m sketchy. Since 1991, it’s gone to Arsenal eight times, Chelsea six times, Manchester United five times, Liverpool three times. Try putting that lot in order. 

Right now I’m out at the Ashes, still trying to keep abreast of everything at home, and then there is all the historical stuff – Tests from close to 17 years ago, that didn’t even involve England, for instance – that I have to attempt to keep stored, too. So, occasionally, mistakes occur. I don’t know why I recalled it as Ponting. Maybe because I’ve heard Ponting reference that declaration during his time as captaincy and in my mind it has become his decision. Thankfully, our outstanding cricket correspondent Paul Newman, spotted my error and got it changed in time for all print editions of the newspaper, and online by about 8.30pm on Monday night. So it was only wrong for an afternoon online. And that’s my fault. 

But my point is this: it was a little mistake, and quickly rectified. It makes me more human than halfwit, but this casual contempt, this rush to judge, this disproportionate take on what is important, is what the anonymity of social media has done to discourse in this country. Any error, any flaw, is seized on as if it is some colossal failing. And that, more than an opinion contrary to mine Mr Phillips, is what becomes extraordinarily tiresome. 

I was interested to see how strongly the guys on Match of the Day, Alan Shearer and Ian Wright in particular, felt about being accused of bias over their analysis of Manchester United’s win over Arsenal. It amused me that they were so offended because sports writers are accused of bias every day. It’s a default mechanism now, that fans think every opinion that does not flatter their club is biased. Praise Jose Mourinho – you’re biased. Say 13 straight wins might suggest Pep Guardiola knows something about football – you’re biased. If you think Tottenham have a better squad than Arsenal – biased. Think Arsenal better than Tottenham – biased. 

Later, we’ll hear from someone who thinks I should quit because I hold a different view of the Paul Pogba tackle to him, and others. I wish I could reply as Ian Wright did this week, but I like to keep it clean. So I’ll just say that as one of the country’s leading sports writers, and currently covering the Ashes, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is, ‘But Mart – do you know of any blinding Donna Summer cover versions, performed by obscure Australian indie bands from the nineties?’ And I always reply, ‘Of course I do, sport. And I even surprised Pete Lalor of The Australian with this one. And he dresses like he should be in a band.’ Good lad, Pete. Five points and more Aussie music madness up shortly.

Point one: whither Dele Alli?

Here's a thought: how about Alli was never that good in the first place? He’s a decent player, but in reality he’s had one good season where his club has won nothing. He hasn’t done it at international level, hasn’t done anything in the Champions League. He's just another overrated young English player. I’d love him to prove me wrong. IamTheWalrus, Burnage.

You don’t think that performance against Real Madrid proved you wrong, Walrus? That was in the Champions League.

Dele Alli, pictured on Champions League duty in midweek, has had a dip in form this season

Alli is world class: 84 Premier League games, 31 goals. Most strikers would be happy with that return. And, no, he isn't playing well right now, but he is 21 and was bought from League One for £5m less than three years ago. Let’s have some perspective If Gabriel Jesus or Kylian Mbappe went through 10 bad games would anyone question them? The Voice of Reason, England.

I think they would in similar circumstances to Alli, Voice. If Mbappe had been linked with a move to Real Madrid last season and had then lost all form, or Jesus was rumoured to be a target for Barcelona and the goals dried up, I think people would join the dots. I agree Alli is young and this dip is most likely temporary, but I think it is the timing, the juxtaposition of events, and the views of Mauricio Pochettino that have attracted attention, rather than it being a straightforward form issue.

Point two: about the pessimism that surrounds the England football team.

England fans aren’t pessimistic, they are realists. The pessimists are the journalists who will build the team up and knock them down twice as quickly. Redwhiteblue, Peterborough.

‘England's World Cup draw has seen an air of pessimism begin to lift,’ you said. Until the media start putting the boot in just before the start of the World Cup. Always the same, trying to sell papers by writing inflammatory reports. It’ll be the usual, out in the group stages due to media pressure. Jimbo70, Ireland.

And how is that the same? When England were eliminated at the World Cup group stage in 2014 it was the first time this had happened since 1950. In between, there had been 11 World Cups that England had qualified for, and each time made it out of the group. The last time they fell at the European Championship group stage was 2000 – so, again, three successful progressions since. So either media pressure isn’t what you think it is, Jim, or you really haven’t thought this through and are trotting out old cliches on a subject of which you know little. 

Luis Suarez didn’t score for Uruguay in 2014 because of media pressure; he scored because he gambled on Steven Gerrard not being able to make a header and his marker, Gary Cahill, did not. It is such a cop out, this idea of the media’s responsibility for England’s failings. The media have been playing down England’s chances in competition since at least 2010 and probably earlier, and the results have grown steadily worse. 

The 2006 World Cup was the last time I remember England setting off with feelings of optimism. Now it is all about managing expectations to alleviate pressure on the players, which I have always found a particularly dismal way to go. We say England have no chance, then they play as if they have no chance. It has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

I remain hopeful that one day we will alight on a manager who can harness the talent in this country and each time we appoint a new one, I am hoping it is him. I think Gareth Southgate has made some very positive inroads already and I really want him to succeed. I like Gareth and always have. I think he could be good for us. But will that stop me saying the team has played poorly if it has? No. And that’s all it is. We don’t build them up to knock them down. We write up the positives when we see them, and the negatives the same. 

So I thought the matches against Germany and Brazil recently contained some hopeful signs. But I didn’t write that in the hope that England would then lose and I could ride the backlash. I hope I watch improvement after improvement with England. I hope, one day, I see us win a tournament. I reported on the 2003 Rugby World Cup and the one England hosted in 2015, eliminated in the group stage; I know which experience I preferred. 

Mr Samuel needs to go and read the comments under his draw article. Pessimism is alive and thriving with regard to England's chances, even with Tunisia and Panama in the group. We only managed a goalless draw with Algeria in 2010, when a bird sat on the Algerian crossbar for about 15 minutes, completely undisturbed. In 2014, we could only draw 0-0 with Costa Rica, didn't win a match and finished bottom of the group with one point. Forgive us for not doing the twist with excitement. Bernie Bayou, Madrid.

As one of the country’s leading sports journalists, one of the questions I am most frequently asked is, ‘Mart – what makes you do the twist with excitement?’ And I always reply 'if England can pull out Panama and Tunisia in the World Cup draw, mate. And this. Because you’ll never get better than a good old disco stomp.’

Because, of course, going into a World Cup saying we have no chance is really going to help, isn't it? Maybe we won’t win but we can hope and England are certainly good enough to win it given a little luck. No injuries for a change would help a lot. ChaseWolf, Cannock.

Look, Chase, I’m not sure we are good enough to win it. I think there are quite a few stronger teams around the world right now. I’d hope for the quarter-finals where we are most likely to meet either Germany or Brazil, and then we’ve got our work cut out. What I have always believed, though, is football is meant to be fun for those who follow it. Not gung-ho, chuckle-headed, unthinking football. I’m up for tactics, and intelligence, and if a 0-0 draw is a good result, take it. But I don’t think there is any point in pessimism or settling for 16th at the expense of winning the cup. And I think being miserable about England all the time is utterly self-defeating, too. Again, I don’t mean foolish optimism; or burning the players in effigy because they’ve lost to Argentina. But just cheer up, have a go, see how far we get. I’m with you. How exactly does pessimism benefit us? We just get miserable about stuff that might not happen.

There have been some hopeful signs for England fans ahead of next summer's World Cup

Point three: about that tackle, and that red card. You know the one.

Not surprised Martin supports the Manchester United's frontman’s hack on another player. Watch it in real time or slow motion, that is a terrible tackle. The question is not whether he is dirty. It is whether it is a hack worthy of a red card. Next time, be more considerate towards other players and avoid hacking them down. Ren, Portland.

Two points. First, Paul Pogba is not a front man. Second, to hack something down it has to be up in the first place. Hector Bellerin wasn’t. I don’t know if it is football you do not understand, or language.

No player is in full control of his body when sprinting. In full sprint you are in the air barely touching the ground and hence no control of where you go in that split second. I can see why the decision against Pogba was given, but what was Bellerin doing with his leg extended behind him like that? That is an attempt to trip Pogba and the only reason he ends up standing on his leg. Medley17, London.

I don’t know if Bellerin was trying to trip Pogba or had just got into a poor position and stuck out a leg in a desperate attempt to prod the ball away, but I do think what happened has as much do to with Bellerin’s awkward challenge as any recklessness on Pogba’s part.

This Paul Pogba challenge earned him a red card and sparked another lively debate

The fact that everyone is discussing the challenge with conflicting opinions is enough to suggest it wasn’t a clear straight red. Jon, Manchester.

Agreed, Jon. I’m in Australia, so the matches kick off in the small hours of the morning. Some I see, some I don’t. When I heard Pogba had been dismissed, I immediately looked to see what he had done. At the time, there seemed a consensus that it was a deserved red card. But when I finally saw it, I wasn’t sure. I watched it several times after, on each occasion hoping to see the cut and dried case that others had witnessed. That moment never came. The more I looked, the more it seemed an accident, made worse by Bellerin’s position. That’s why I offered to write an article debating it. I knew what my colleague Graham Poll thought, because I had seen his views on television. Our Monday magazine is called The Verdict. It is driven by opinions and discussion. Knowing I didn’t agree with Graham I thought it would make an interesting point-counterpoint piece. Presenting two sides of an argument has been a newspaper staple for years. I think the reaction our pieces proves, as you say, Jon that it is not a black-and-white issue and many people disagree. I’m not saying I am right, because I have great respect for the thoughts of the other side, and the professionals on it– but I no longer feel I am out on a limb.

He lunged in recklessly, Martin. It doesn’t matter where he was supposed to put his foot. It was too late by that stage. I’ll send you a rule book for Christmas. Contegeous, United Kingdom.

I’d prefer cash.

Almost word for word, Martin Samuel has plagiarised what Andy Gray and David Platt said on this topic on beIN Sports. I encourage you guys to look it up. It’s not the first time Mr Samuel has waited a couple days to copy other people's view on a topic. Pathetic. Sebastian, London.

And so all those who thought he should be sent off have stolen their opinions from Rio Ferdinand, Alan Shearer or Ian Wright, yes? Or do they just agree? There are two options here: it’s a red card, or it’s not. Not much room for a grand variety of opinions, really. I did my best to present an entertaining case. Found the last time Pogba was sent off, reintroduced the tongue-in-cheek idea of an orange card, constructed an acrobat metaphor to explain Bellerin’s stance. Yet there is only so far one can go in originality when the options are black and white, meaning there are a hell of a lot of plagiarists out there if we use your criteria. 

Ex-players operate in electronic media, so their views are broadcast instantly. Mine are published in a daily newspaper on Monday, so first appear on Sunday night online at approximately 10pm. The game had been over more than 24 hours by then. Chances are, what I thought will already have been represented by someone, somewhere. Still, not everyone watches BT Sport or beIN Sports and they read newspapers and want to know what columnists think, so there is still a contribution to make. 

I notice political writers who think Brexit is an opportunity, or a hideous mistake, are still voicing their opinions, even though the subject has been debated close on two years now. If I was reporting on the Arsenal-Manchester United match live my thoughts would have been up within minutes of the final whistle, but that’s the nature of the industry. There may be some columnists who are still waiting for their go, even now. It all depends on the timing of your article, your publication day, and your brief at that event. Some will be in print quicker than others. 

Anyway, as I said earlier, having sought out the footage, from first view I didn’t think it was a foul. I am pleased David Platt shares this opinion, because I have great respect for him, but having the same take on an event is not the same as plagiarism.

This article actually shows how biased the Daily Mail is. All day long that's a red offence. Owen Smith, Hull.

Yes, I can see how having two conflicting arguments reflecting both sides would be proof of bias: in the eye of a not particularly smart person.

The challenge split opinion - but referee Andre Marriner felt it deserved a red card

I think Pogba could and should have made more effort to avoid the collision. However, I think we should also agree that Martin Samuel not seeing it the same way isn't proof of wrong-headedness. He just doesn't agree that Pogba had chance to take mitigating actions. That's not a totally unreasonable view, even if I think he’s wrong in this instance. Ian Lewis, Northampton.

Every now and then I put in one of these posts so we can all see what the world could be like, if we all just wind our necks in a little. And then there’s Andrew…

Martin Samuel, it’s time to quit your post. The nonsense you are writing these days is exactly that – nonsense. First the Thierry Henry saga and now your opinion on the Pogba red card are showing you have lost it. Pogba’s studs were up. It’s simple as that. When you slide in or jump in for a tackle you cannot have your studs showing as this is classed as malicious intent. If you then catch the player it is a foul and if you injure said player you are off. It doesn’t matter if Pogba hasn’t received a red card since 2013. Next time the police catch me speeding I’ll ask them to let me off as the last time I was speeding was all the way back in 2013. I wonder what they will say. Andrew Forbes, Paphos.

I don’t know! But they’ll say it! With lots of poorly inserted! Exclamation marks! If you are reporting! The incident! In the style of a! Six year old! Don’t worry! I took them all out! To make your post! Easier to read! Anyway, this is the poster I referred to earlier, who thinks I should resign for writing two articles with which he disagreed. He must be a riveting conversationalist if he has a hissy fit each time his view is challenged. 

Anyway, Andrew, to explain, I didn’t point out Pogba’s relatively unblemished disciplinary record to argue he should never have a red card, but in response to those who were insinuating he is a dirty player. He isn’t. And if you advanced that argument to get off a speeding charge, what I hope the policeman would say is, ‘Yes, sir, I am a regular reader of Five Points on Mailonline, too, and you completely misinterpreted that gentleman’s argument, and over-reacted hugely to what was basically a simple difference of opinion, no more. Just for that I’m going to nick you for that bald tyre as well and attach these jump leads to your knackers.’ But that probably won’t happen. Although I do have friends in the Paphos constabulary, after a recent holiday there, so I’d watch it, if I were you.

Martin Samuel isn’t biased. He is however being controversial on purpose, in order to generate clicks on what would otherwise be an open and shut case. Johnny B, Exeter.

No, I wasn’t being controversial on purpose. In fact, I don’t see arguing against the red card as controversial in the least because it’s what I genuinely think. I never sit down to have a controversial opinion. I have an opinion, that you choose to see as controversial. But I don’t.

Manchester United are not appealing the red card which suggests they feel it was justified. Retep Snave, Banbury.

No, I’d say it suggests they think they have no chance of the referee changing his mind, because he’s had a lot of professional support. I wouldn’t appeal it either and my view hasn’t changed.

Point four: sometimes it is best to say nothing.

If a reporter asked Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn about changing managers if Russia proved a disaster, what answer could he give that wouldn’t result in negative headlines? If he answered differently, he could end up with the headline, ‘FA chief fails to back England manager.’ MooleyMoo, New Zealand.

How about Glenn says nothing at all about Gareth Southgate, Mooley. What headline can be made out of nothing – or the simple statement that they backed Southgate with a four-year contract, and so do not feel the need to comment beyond that. I hate being a journalist who advocates brushing off the press but, too often, the FA feel the need to share on managers when it would be better to let their actions speak. Talking about Southgate being manager in 2022, implies that Southgate himself would wish to stay on even if having a dismal time. I’m not sure of that. Roy Hodgson didn’t, after losing to Iceland – and maybe he would have reached a different decision after Brazil, had the FA not been so keen to endorse his position, regardless of results.

Point five: a small point of order.

Martin, many thanks for sharing the music clips. I enjoyed the sleepy mixtape selection compiled by The Avalanches. However, just a minor note that the music in that is not actually composed by The Avalanches – it’s a medley of French, American, and Brazilian music. For a better example of Australian music, I would have suggested the Frontier Psychiatrist video, also by The Avalanches. ModSquad, Manchester.

And also something of a compilation considering that Frontier Psychiatrist alone includes comedy routines by Wayne and Shuster, orchestral pieces by Maurice Jarre and the Halle Orchestra, Harvey Mandel’s Wade In The Water, the Enoch Light Singers, some Eddie Bo, Dexter Wansel and a load of spoken word samples. Right, here’s what happened last week. As always, I decide on the music, then search for the link. My colleague Brian does the rest. So last week, your reading was meant to be accompanied by the extended album dub of Kenneth Bager’s Fragment Seven-Les Fleurs, and the marvellous Saturday Night Inside Out by The Avalanches, which closes their last album, Wildflower. But sometimes there is a problem when I’m working abroad, so what plays where I am, isn’t licensed in the UK and the link is dead. And I’ve got no way of knowing that, until Brian tells me. So, Kenneth Bager was replaced by Pharoah Sanders’ beautiful Heart Is A Melody Of Time, which was straightforward enough, but the bad news on The Avalanches came late when the column was already up. So, a bit of panic. We thought we’d have the same issue with all the other tracks on, Wildflower, which is when I remembered their excellent Sleepy Bedtime mix. I didn’t think the copy needed changing, so apologies if it gave the impression the music was original, and not a mix. For those that listened to it, if you guessed who made the surreal last song on the piece about the magic radio, give yourself a cookie. And for those who didn’t: here’s a rather obvious clue. Until next time.