It has been a busy few days for Crystal Palace’s Jason Puncheon. On Saturday afternoon, he was in the thick of the action for Palace at White Hart Lane as the visitors laboured towards little end result and a defeat which helped to steady Tim Sherwood’s Tottenham Hotspur ship following their defeat at Arsenal a week previously in the FA Cup, whilst yesterday morning he was making even bigger headlines with what has come to be recognised as a ‘Twitter rant’ on the subject of his previous manager, Neil Warnock.
Saturday afternoon’s misadventure was a prime example of how luck can cease to shine on anybody that is rooted to the bottom of a league table. It occasionally feels as if there is no such thing as a comfortable win for Tottenham Hotspur, a team of many talents but who also seem plenty capable of forgetting who each other are as soon as they step onto a football pitch. Spurs are, on their day, plenty capable of beating just about any other team in the Premier League, but they are also capable of contriving to find a way to be able to turn the most routine looking of fixtures into a wicket as sticky as anything the England cricket team came across in Australia during their recent calamitous Ashes series.
The teams had been playing for just eight minutes when a challenge for the ball from Moussa Dembele on Marouane Chamakh that might quite liberally be described as ‘ill thought out’ won the visitors a penalty. Puncheon stepped up, took his shot, and, sliced the ball into the stand behind the goal in the manner of a drunken golfer trying to recreate a hole in one in one after a day spent in the clubhouse celebrating it. The score stayed goalless, Spurs regained their composure and the home team went on to win the match with a little to spare. Palace, meanwhile, stay at the foot of the Premier League table and manager Tony Pulis could well be forgiven for cursing his luck.
Not only are Spurs precisely the sort of team that could fall behind early on in a league match against the division’s bottom club and spend the remainder of it huffing and puffing to little effect, but Palace are hardly a team that can afford to be skying penalty kicks half way to Seven Sisters station on a Saturday afternoon at the moment. With just thirteen league goals all season, they are the division’s lowest scorers. Puncheon himself might also be excused for feeling a little red-faced. A quick Google search for ‘Jason Puncheon penalty’ brings up a plethora of headlines offering variations on the the theme of saying “Was Jason Puncheon’s penalty miss the worst of all time?”, and as anybody with a cursory understanding of the modern media knows, the days of today’s newspapers being tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers are long gone. The internet has a long, long memory.
It would have been understandable had Puncheon wanted to keep a low profile for the next few days, but yesterday morning he was on the front foot, levelling an extraordinary series of allegations at former manager Neil Warnock via the noted communication method for blowhards and people with a lot to say but not much time to decide whether it’s wise to express themselves, Twitter. Now, we’re not going to repeat them here (other news outlets have but the 200% legal advisors live on gruel and rain water as it is, and there’s little chance of that changing in the foreseeable future), but we it should suffice to say that they were exactly the sort of allegation that would be likely to make libel lawyer purr like a happy walrus.
it wasn’t very long, however, before said tweets – quite possibly after a frantic call from an agent who saw his own life flashing before his very eyes – were deleted but, as many have found out before, once a cat is out of a bag it can be extremely cram it back in again, and before very long screen grabs of Puncheon’s minutes of madness were circulating instead. It only took until lunchtime before Warnock had been contacted by the press and had stated that his legal advisors would, fairly unsurprisingly, be looking into the matter. The laws on libel may have changed recently to place a slightly higher burden of proof on claimants, but it wouldn’t be difficult for anybody that had seen Puncheon’s tweets to understand how a constructive legal case could be built.
As to the veracity of the allegations made, well, it would obviously be improper to comment on that. We can only suffice to say that in such a situation there are four conceivable reasons for a player to make such allegations publicly – he’s either telling the truth, lying, has misinterpreted something that somebody has told him, or has misinterpreted previous dealings with his former manager. This, however, is hardly even really the important matter at hand. If such allegations are to be made in public by anybody – and especially in an environment in which they will be seen by thousands upon thousands of people – they need to be substantiable. This is a lesson that Jason Puncheon may well learn to his cost.
Still, though, the player has at least given us considerable entertainment over the last few days. In an era during which there is a tendency for professional footballers to be lauded as untouchable demi-gods, it is instructive to be reminded that they are just as fallible as the rest of us, though it seems doubtful that either Jason Puncheon or Neil Warnock would agree with this statement, albeit for highly differing reasons.
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