‘Fangs, but no thanks Joss’ is likely call now
WHEN you’re as talented as Luis Suarez, most clubs will overlook the occasional bout of savagery. Barcelona proved that by forking out £65m for a player who has – so far – chomped his way to bans totalling an entire season.
When you’re Joss Labadie, a jobbing midfielder for Dagenham at the arse end of League Two, people are unlikely to be so tolerant. Which is why, after a second allegation of biting in the space of 13 months, the 24-year-old is almost certainly facing a fight to save his career.
Labadie, then playing for Torquay, served a ten-game ban for sinking his teeth into Chesterfield’s Ollie Banks in January last year.
Now he is back under the spotlight after a seemingly innocuous tangle with Ronnie Henry left the Stevenage defender with a tooth-shaped wound to his hand.
“Ronnie’s in a state of shock,” said Stevenage boss Graham Westley after the Daggers’ 1-0 away win last weekend. “He’s in the treatment room and he’s suffered quite a nasty injury. He’s horrified by what’s gone on because it’s a football match and he’s nearly lost his finger.”
A linesman saw the damage. So did police, who took statements from witnesses and waited outside the dressing room to interview Labadie. Even if Westley was exaggerating, the evidence appears damning.
And if a first offence carried ten games, what sanction a second? Fifteen? Twenty? FIFA hit Suarez for four months after his snack-attack on the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini during last summer’s World Cup.
Much like spitting, the appropriateness of the punishment is debatable.Yes, it’s violent.Yes, it’s disgusting. But whichever way you skin it, I’d much rather be bitten or spat upon than suffer a deliberately dangerous challenge. Nobody’s livelihood was ever ended by a bite.
And however much players wax puritanical about principles, I bet they’d agree if handed a straight choice. Would Alfe Inge Haaland have swapped Roy Keane’s knee-shatterer for a cut finger? In a heartbeat.
Nevertheless, rules is rules. And for Labadie, that is bad news. Because Barcelona can afford to take a risk, even one that costs £65m. Clubs in League Two cannot afford to lose 65p.
When he bit Banks, Labadie was just three weeks into a permanent contract with Torquay, a club lodged at the bottom of League Two and well beyond the bottom of the barrel when it came to cash.
His actions not only left the Gulls a man short, it saddled them with a salary that precluded buying a replacement. They eventually went down.
Though unlikely to suffer a similar fate, Dagenham run on wafer-thin margins and can illafford players who don’t play.
Should they get shot of him in the summer, who will rescue Labadie this time? Biting is not a rational act. It is not born of considered thought. It is a primitive reaction to emotional stress.
As Dr Thomas Fawcett, a sports psychologist at the university of Salford said after Suarez bit Branislav Ivanovic: “It’s in the man – I would think that in five years’ time if there was a certain nerve hit or chord rung with Suarez in a different situation he would react in the same way.” And he did, of course.
The evidence suggests Labadie has those same chords and nerves. But while Suarez is box office, the Daggers man is bargain basement. And for League Two sides short on cash, that basement is full of players less talented but more reliable who won’t disappear for half a season.
A FRESH TAKE ON FOOTBALL