‘Fangs, but no thanks Joss’ is likely call now

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - Chris Dunlavy

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.


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