What punishment would fit this football ‘crime’?

WHAT PUNISHMENT? A red card for Lee Williamson for this particular 'crime'  simply did not feel right
WHAT PUNISHMENT? A red card for Lee Williamson for this particular 'crime' simply did not feel right
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My colleague Chris Boden, along, with just about every other Clarets fan on the planet, was left fuming by the events of the big derby day at Turf Moor.

On this occasion it was not so much that supporters of the jesters from the town down the road can carry on bleating about the fact that we have not beat them since the year Mrs Thatcher came to power.

It was also not about Burnley’s inability to hold on to the lead that matters more than just about any other in world football ... if you suffer from the same sort of East Lancashire Football Myopia that has afflicted me for more than four decades.

No, on this occasion it was all about Lee Williamson and his red card in stoppage time.

It was a straight red. No more, no less.

The current intepretations of the laws of the game sent the substitute off to a standing ovation from those fans dressed in shirts that make them look like extras from a film about life in a northern circus.

Williamson actually touched Danny Ings more often than the ball in his 105 seconds on the pitch.

He accepted the inevitable red card, wasted a few precious moments in his departure and trudged off the pitch.

His punishment? No place on the bench for the game against Leicester City on Tuesday night.

And that makes me believe, as I always have, that Chris Boden was right to query if the punishment fits the crime.

A professional foul of this nature needs a sterner punishment.

In the days of Jimmy Mullen’s Claret and Blue Army, we enjoyed an unforgetttable night at Anfield in the FA Cup.

With time drifting away Neil Ruddock trashed Liam Robinson and denied the Burnley striker a run on goal.

Job done.

Now you could argue that Liam, a thoroughly likeable player with a massive heart and a never-ending desire to run through brick walls while chasing the Claret and Blue cause, might not have scored against England international keeper David James.

But it would have been nice for him to have had the chance and a free kick 30-odd yards out, and Ruddock sitting out some games against someone else, were nothing like the reward the ever-alert Robinson deserved for latching on to a poor back pass from Rob Jones.

The derby date at Turf Moor was a completely different set of circumstances.

Ings turned Williamson and had him done for pace.

Williamson obviously has a liking for the Burnley striker judging by the quality of the cuddle he gave him.

Given the chance, Ings would have relished the run at goal and would at least have made Blackburn keeper Jake Kean do some work.

But he was denied that chance in a way that is as clear a bending of the rules as you could possibly see.

Williamson “took one for the team”, of that there is no doubt.

But, I’ll say it again, the punishment just did not fit the crime.

And something needs to be done about it.

Otherwise, every manager might as well keep one of his substitutions up his sleeve, have a bit part player on the bench and then, in stoppage time, send them out with instructions to do whatever they must to stop the opposition from ramming home their advantage.

But what could be done?

There have been several suggestions and they are all, a bit like a penalty shoot out, flawed in one way or another.

I have considered them all and have a few favourites.

Firstly, why not just take a leaf out of rugby’s book. There a referee who can see too many spoiling tactics preventing an attacking side from scoring is empowered to award a penalty try and a conversion attempt from under the posts.

That seven-point swing can be huge in rugby union. And that is why you probably don’t see it too often.

A penalty goal awarded in such circumstances might drive statiticians mad and do lttle for end-of-season DVD sales, but it might put a stop to events like we all endured just 10 days ago.

Or you could mimic another sport and offer the attacking team the equivalent of international one-day cricket’s free hit.

In this situation, a free kick would be awarded wherever the offence took place and the fouled player, or a team-mate, could then have a shot at an open goal.

Again, it might be a suitable deterrent and let attacking players stand a better chance of doing what they are paid to do - attack goal.

You could also simply take play straight to the penalty spot, which itself should be enough to stop the professional foul being used.

Or you could, and I think this is my favourite, take a lead out of the “Gladiators” book.

No, I’m not talking about settling the issue with either “Pugilsticks” or “Hanging Tough”.

But what I am suggesting is that the referee despatch the defending goalkeeper to the corner flag and have the attacking player at the scene of the crime.

The attacker would get a five-second start to bear down on goal, after which the goalkeeper could leg it towards the otherwise empty net and try to stop his opponent scoring.

Roughly transposed to the other Saturday it would go something lihe this and the referee would say: “Danny, lovely boy, you will go on my first whistle. Goalie, whoever you may be, you will go on my second whistle.”

I don’t know about you, but I know who I would be backing on those particular circumstances.