Theo ‘fesses up
Theo Walcott’s admission that he dived to try and win a penalty will sadly take the shine off Arsenal’s heroic draw against financially crippled Championship side Leeds United. For us, Theo’s post-match interview was as unnecessary as waxing your pecs – sure you get something off your chest, but your left with a stinging sense of regret for days and your mates think you’ve been a bit of a muppet.
Walcott’s dark confession:
“I want to apologise to the managers because I actually dived. I was trying to win the penalty.
“I said to one of their players ‘would you have done it?’ and he said he probably would have.
“I am not the sort of player to do it, but I own up to it and apologise. It is something I don’t want to see in my game.”
Hmm, perhaps if you didn’t do it you would be less likely to see it in your game.
Walcott continued: “I have heard some players say ‘if there is a slight touch, go down’ and it can work both ways.”
“It was one of those things. I am not happy with myself for doing that, but I am happy that we got the draw.”
“I had a little joke with the referee afterwards saying ‘that was my first dive, can you tell?’
“I don’t have to own up to it and I can’t speak for other players, but I have just expressed how I feel. I hope people respect that.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Walcott along with a host of Premier league players are prone to a Tom Daley impression now and again. To be frank, we are more interested in his bamboozling decision to come clean in an interview. It’s likely to be a divisive debate, but we can think of at least five reasons why Theo’s on-air gesture was unnecessary, not to be applauded and just plain foolish:
1. Some will pat Theo on the back for his perceived honesty but the forward was apologising for an incident in the box that wasn’t actually given. Would he have admitted the misdemeanour to the ref had the penalty been given? His flailing arms appealing for the pen suggest not. If the penalty had been scored and thereby had a huge impact on the final result, would he still have have fronted up after the match? We also think not, and that takes away a big chunk of the credit he may receive for being ‘honest’.
2. Every Premier League referee – whether they intend to or not – will now have a sense of doubt every time Walcott goes down in the box now; a sense of suspicion that would not have been there before the interview. A few seasons back Andy Johnson was roundly berated for perceived dives for Everton. Although Johnson never admitted to such acts, he went on to endure a torrid few months where strong challenges inexplicably went unchecked by the officials. It would be a shame if the same happened to a fast, positive and skilful player Walcott – although he would only have himself to blame.
3. Also in the interview, Walcott appears to play down and trivialise the issue, revealing that he ‘had a little joke with the referee afterwards saying ‘that was my first dive, can you tell?’ That’s a bit like confessing infidelity to your wife, patting her on the backside and saying, ‘’Cheer up sweet cheeks, I only slept with her once’’. Okay, it’s not quite like that but the point stands. If your going to admit a mistake, let’s tone down the sense of humour and stir in another heaped teaspoon of remorse please.
4. By all means ‘express how you feel’ and apologise to the managers. Just take a few sidesteps from that interviewer and take a few paces down the corridor to the changing rooms and tell all to Arsene Wenger and Simon Grayson. We are sure they would appreciate that more than the impersonal and wholly unnecessary manner of hearing it boomed out by Jeff Stelling on the box.
5. This warts and all approach sets a tricky precedent: will he have to publicly apologise the next time he dives? Imagine if that was the case for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo – he’d soon be racking up more camera time than Adrian Chiles.
The 21-year-old is fortunate that his humble and hardworking persona on-and-off the pitch has earned him a significant amount of goodwill among football fans. That will limit the criticism that Walcott will face and is one of the main reasons it rankles with us to have it spelled out so explicitly that he has joined the diving club.
It’s hard to feel any malice towards Walcott’s comments, just pure confusion. It was the interview as much as the simulation that will have alienated him from fans, team-mates, fellow-professionals and general admirers. The concept of confessing deception should indeed be commended – but the dramatic method and aloof tone that Walcott chose to do so with makes it a hard apology to stomach.
The audio of Walcott’s interview is in the video below: